February 19, 2019

The One and Only Sears Letona in Illinois

Sears Roebuck sold the Letona (a.k.a. No. 192) from 1911 to 1918. Early model Sears houses are uncommon, but the Letona is exceedingly rare. There are four known to exist in the United States, and only one in Illinois--Aurora, to be specific.
604 Concord, Aurora. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Letona.

The Letona had a decent-sized living room and an open staircase. The pantry was a luxe feature not normally seen in houses of this price range. There were two bedrooms upstairs, each with what appears to be a walk-in closet.

In 1914, Charles H. and Leuanna Stiles paid $1200 for the Letona. Charles was a bricklayer. They lived in the house until 1923.

Former owners report the existence of stamped lumber in the house.

The Letona was built in other cities, but are the houses still standing? The ones in Aurora (obviously!) and Gibsonburg, OH have been located.

February 5, 2019

The Overlooked Sears Parkridge

The definitive guidebook for Sears houses is Houses by Mail by Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl. Published in 1986, the book features over 400 of the Sears house models, arranged by roof type.

At the time, Stevenson and Jandl did not have every Sears Modern Homes catalog at their disposal; therefore, they missed a few models that were sold for only a couple years.

One of those models not included in Houses by Mail is the Sears Parkridge, sold from 1929 to 1931. 

Sears Parkridge from the 1930 Modern Homes catalog.

We have several Parkridges in the Chicago area; following are some of them.

Tinley Park
17538 Ridgeland Rd., Tinley Park. It's like a dollhouse! This is an authenticated Parkridge; Sears Roebuck held the title in 1939 after a foreclosure. Capture from Google Streetview.


The house still has the original Sears front door.

670 Bluff City, Elgin. This Parkridge was built in 1929 for Harold Rohles for $4500. The owners have the blueprints, all original correspondence with Sears Roebuck, and the assembly instructions. (Sears would flip the floor plan for no additional cost.) Photo from Elginbungalows.com.

510 Gertrude, Elgin. The house was built in 1929 for Harry and Maude Strong for a cost of $5,000. Many people in Elgin had heard this house was from Sears Roebuck even before Houses by Mail came out. I wonder what they thought when the house was not in the book!  Photo from Elginbungalows.com.

Whiting, IN

2121 Wespark Ave., Whiting, IN. This Parkridge is authenticated with a mortgage record from Sears Roebuck. Almost every Sears model was available with face brick as an exterior. Capture from Google Streetview.

January 22, 2019

A Stately Sears No. 123 in Brookfield

A couple years ago, I had a goal of predominantly featuring old (1908-1913) Sears houses on this site. However, the early model Sears homes are tough to come by in the Chicago area.

Part of the reason is that Sears Roebuck simply didn't sell as many kit houses in that time period, as the Modern Homes business was still getting off the ground. Additionally, Sears did not offer mortgages before 1911, which complicated purchases for customers since they needed to pay cash for a house or find financing from a local bank. 

I think another reason we rarely see old Sears models is that houses built from 1908-1913 in the older suburbs tended to be located in areas that were part of of suburban downtown redevelopment efforts and were consequently razed. And, as a matter of course, many houses over 100 years old in residential areas tend to be demolished and replaced by McMansions or new construction.

I've found pre-1914 Sears houses in places like the Norwood Park neighborhood of Chicago, Glencoe, Des Plaines, Woodstock, and now, Brookfield.

4160 Raymond Ave., Brookfield. Capture from Google Streetview.

No. 123 from the 1914 Modern Homes catalog.

In the early days, Sears didn't have names for their houses--they had numbers. I was looking for a house in Brookfield, and inadvertently stumbled across this stunning No. 123.

That's a "fancy" leaded glass window in the living room, according to the catalog. The house came standard with cypress siding and cedar shingles. Capture from Google Streetview.

The No. 123 was not the most expensive house Sears was selling at the time, but it was definitely one of the more expensive models. The house featured two staircases, a large reception hall, and a large kitchen and pantry. Sears advised that the first floor bedroom could also be used as a library.

Four bedrooms on the second floor and a bathroom. No outhouse needed!

This No. 123 in Brookfield was one of the first Sears houses sold in the Chicago area. It is located in the Congress Park area of town. 

Henry and Nellie Zwergel purchased it in 1909. Sears said that the price of the house was $1,073, and if you hired a contractor to build it, the cost would be $2,578. Henry was a retired "day laborer", but apparently he had some bucks.

Henry died in 1910, and Nellie died in 1919. However, four of their adult children continued to live in the house. Three of them passed away in 1949. The fourth, Gertrude 
Zwergel, sold the house in 1951, and she died a few years afterwards. So the Zwergel family owned the house for 42 years altogether.

The family who purchased the home from the Zwergels still own the house to this day (2019)! This must be one special house. According to the current owner, the house inside looks largely as it did when it was built.

There is one other No. 123 in Illinois, and it is in Joliet. Author Rebecca Hunter located this one.

617 Buell, Joliet. Capture from Google Streetview.

The No. 123 in Joliet was built around 1916. The original owners were retirees Charles and Ida Schmuhl. 

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