March 22, 2022

Boulderstrewn, a Sears Verona with a Booby-Trapped Wine Cellar

Boulderstrewn house in Homewood Illinois
2114 Cedar Rd., Homewood. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Verona from 1923.

The Sears Verona is a Modern Dutch Revival that Sears sold from 1918 to 1928. The early Veronas (1918-1923) had a bay window on the second floor. 

The Verona's floor plan is traditional, with a formal reception hall, large rooms, and bay windows.  Sears said in its catalog that the Verona was "built many times in exclusive suburbs of New York, Chicago, Washington, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and other large cities. This proves it is no experiment."

The Verona came with an enclosed back porch on the first floor and a second floor balcony on top of the porch. Today both levels have been enclosed. The enclosed back porch is another distinguishing feature of the Sears Verona. Photo from

Today, the Verona in Homewood is an airbnb owned by Peter, a Sears Homes of Chicagoland reader. Let's take a look inside! Unless otherwise noted, all photos are publicly available on airbnb.


The huge living room is about 13'x26'. 



Photo from Realtor site. 

The sunny eat-in area is in the enclosed porch.

There are stairs all over the second floor of the Verona. There are four bedrooms and a bathroom at the front of the house. 

A representative bedroom in the Verona. The house still has its original doors.


Another bedroom, but this one has the Sears "triple unit clothes closet".

The second-floor bathroom has a bay window as well.

J. Harlen Bretz built the Sears Verona in Homewood in 1921. He died in the home at age 98. Bretz was a world-renowned geologist at University of Chicago, where he also received his PhD.
J. Harlen Bretz.

Bretz named his property "Boulderstrewn" because of all the rocks and minerals he placed in the gardens. 
Bretz had quite a rock collection in the yard, although he donated the bulk of his extensive collection to Albion College upon his death. Photo from

Photo from

Bretz hosted many parties at Boulderstrewn for University of Chicago students and also students from his alma mater, Albion College. 

Bretz and Albion College students at Boulderstrewn in 1977.


Bretz would make party guests find his secret wine cellar. He would hand the guests a set of keys and challenged them to get inside the trick door. The door to the wine cellar was made of heavy iron grill, and to open it, you had to insert the keys in a certain sequence.  

According to the book An Airplane Was My Burro: The Memoirs of a Venturesome Geologist, Bretz booby-trapped some of the holes in the door. "The wrong holes could ring a bell, set off a blank cartridge pistol, give an electric shock, or even trigger a horse laugh." 

Students exploring Bretz's basement.


Bretz Drive in Homewood is named in his honor.



SearsHouseSeeker said...

Wow, that is really interesting! Great work, Lara!

Architectural Observer said...

The Verona appears to be one of the more comfortable Dutch Colonial Revival plans to emerge from its era and the interesting history of this one makes it even more appealing! Who wouldn't want a secret wine cellar with a booby-trapped door? It's good to see that this is nicely maintained today.

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