Do you live in a Sears Home? Learn how to identify a Sears home! We want to hear from You! Mark.Griffith@migonline.com
For more than 10 years, Rose Thornton has traveled throughout the country, seeking and finding Sears Homes. In that time, she’s written countless newspaper and magazine articles, in addition to several books.
Rose is the author of The Houses That Sears Built (2002,) Finding the Houses That Sears Built (2004) and she’s the co-author of California’s Kit Homes (2004) and Montgomery Wards Mail-Order Homes (2010). Rose’s newest book – The Sears Homes of Illinois – was published in December 2010.
Rose has traveled to 24 states to give 200 lectures on Sears Homes, from Bungalow Heaven in Los Angeles to The Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She has addressed a wide variety of audiences from architectural preservationists in Boston, St. Louis and Chicago to kit home enthusiasts in small towns across America.
Rose has appeared on PBS (History Detectives), A&E (Biography), CBS (Sunday Morning News) and her book was featured in its own category on Jeopardy. She is considered the country’s #1 authority on kit homes. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Old House Journal, American Bungalow, Blue Ridge Country and about 100 other publications. Twice in the last three years, the story of her unique career was picked up by the AP and in May 2009, she was interviewed on BBC Radio.
Do you live in a Sears Home? We want to hear from You! Mark.Griffith@migonline.com
The number one question I’m asked again and again – How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?
First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!
The nine easy signs follow:
1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.
2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).
3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”
4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.
5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.
6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.
7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.
8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).
9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.
Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction
The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.
See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, “2089” and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089
Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.
Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.
“The Sears Homes of Illinois” has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.
Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears “Honor Bilt” blueprints.
Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.
Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a “fireproof” product that was much like modern sheetrock.
About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.
Close-up of the columns.
And in the flesh…
Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.
Sears “Mitchell” in Elgin, Illinois.
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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!
Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!
And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.
Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.
And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.
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