Hey there, my few and faithful followers. What a year this is turning out to be, huh? I know you all have a story to tell about how your lives have been affected by the events that have occurred in 2020. I do, too, but one thing I didn’t expect to happen was that my interest in this crazy hobby of mine would pretty much disappear during the worst of the pandemic. I guess I got UNcomfortably numb. I spent very little time on my usual Sears House internet searching in March, April, and May. It wasn’t until June, on days when the sun was shining here in Ohio, that I finally got the urge to get out and about and look for houses. But………nah………I guess I’m not ready for that yet.
Fortunately, about that same time, I stumbled on some mortgage records for a County in Western Pennsylvania, and have been spending my evenings working through those. It’s not the perfect thing for me, because I really LOVE to go out and see the houses “for real” if I can, but the project has renewed my interest in getting back to work on finding more houses here in Ohio.
Another thing that I’ve been thinking about the last couple of weeks, is that something I love about Springfield, Ohio is how we promote our wonderful architecture and history every Summer with a series of walking and bike tours. I have been putting together tours for that series for several? years now, and expected to be guiding one this year, after taking last Summer off. Yeah…….well…….that isn’t happening either. No Summer Series for 2020.
So after thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided to use this blog to share some information that you would usually hear about Sears Houses and Springfield history on one of my tours.
I’m going to start with Garden Acres, a tour I researched, wrote, and guided back in 2012. We repeated the tour in 2014 and 2017, and probably would have this year as well. This will definitely be the short version of the tour. It takes about 75 minutes for a group to walk it while I talk, and talk, and talk……………
First, a bit of history about Garden Acres.
The plat for Garden Acres No 1 was recorded on Aug 26, 1925, for the James-Bauer Realty Co.
The James- Bauer Realty Co. started out as a partnership between two local men, J Warren James and Walter B Bauer in 1914, then was incorporated in 1916. James-Bauer was the developer of other neighborhoods in Springfield – Glen Terrace in 1917, Beautiful Broadmoor in 1922, then Garden Acres, and Sunnyland in 1929.
James- Bauer brought in a landscape architect from Cleveland, Louis Brandt, to assist with the planning for Beautiful Broadmoor and Garden Acres.
Garden Acres was the first suburb on the east side of Springfield, being 3 miles outside the city limits on The National Road.
The plat was designed to feel like a city neighborhood with small lots, paved streets, electric lights and a private water system. The plat contained 133 lots. There was to be a 100 foot wide park along the front of the neighborhood to buffer it from The National Road, and a Community Center and another park at the rear. One street was planned as a boulevard for added interest.
According to newspaper notices and early advertisements, 1/3 of the lots were to be sold at “Pre-Development” prices.
Lot sales continued in 1926 as the utilities and roads were completed, and by April of 1927, The James- Bauer Realty Co. was ready for Garden Acres to “grow”.
How did they get the neighborhood started? They “seeded” it with nine house kits purchased from Sears- Roebuck. All nine houses were mortgaged through Sears using their liberal financing plan, and the documents are on file at the Clark County Recorders Office.
The first house we stop at on the walking tour is a Sears Clyde. At this time, I go into a lot of details about what a Sears House actually is, how the sales end of things work, what you got with the kit and what you didn’t get, and talk a bit about the architectural features of the house. Since this is the short version, you aren’t getting all that. I will follow the short version for the rest of the houses as well. If you want more information on a particular house, leave a comment, or send me a message.
This Sears Clyde was mortgaged in the amount of $4100 in June of 1927. It is the larger of the two floor plans offered by Sears in 1927. The house was mortgaged to James S Reed. He was a carpenter by trade, and never lived in the house. That means he either built it for re-sale, or he worked in the building end of things for the James-Bauer Realty Co. I’m still trying to track down some additional information on him.
Down the street a bit is a Gladstone model.
This Sears Gladstone was mortgaged in the amount of $3950 in Oct of 1927. I have been inside this house and did see some of the markings that Sears used on their framing lumber to identify the pieces.
The house was mortgaged by Harold Goodrich, who was the sales manager for The James-Bauer Realty Co. Goodrich never lived in the house.
Harold Goodrich was born in Kent, Ohio, and moved to Springfield around 1920. He became a real estate agent and spent the next 50 or so years involved in real estate in the community. We know he worked for James-Bauer in 1927 because he was often quoted in newspaper articles about the opening and development progress of Garden Acres.
Next stop is a Sear Somers.
This Sears Somers was mortgaged in the amount of $3550 in Sept of 1927. This house was mortgaged by the first residents, Harvey and Nellie Gibson. Harvey was listed as a Pressman for a publishing company in the 1930 Census, so we can assume he worked for Crowell-Collier.
I’ve been inside this house as well, and while we didn’t find any stenciled lumber, we did find numerous train mailing labels while looking at the underside of the flooring from the basement. The labels would have been attached to the bundles of lumber when it was shipped from the Sears lumber yard. The buyer of record on the mailing labels was Harvey L Gibson, 1614 Morgan St., Springfield.
The other six Sears Houses in Garden Acres are a block over, so at this point, we backtrack to Redwood Boulevard where I talk a little bit about Louis Brandt, the landscape architect who assisted with the design of the neighborhood.
Then we go around the corner to see a Sears Walton.
This Sears Walton was built reversed from the catalog illustration, an option Sears offered on most of their designs. The house was mortgaged in the amount of $5400 making it the most expensive of the nine models built in Garden Acres. The names on the mortgage were John and Gertrude Myrtle Herzog. There is no evidence they ever lived in the house. John was listed in the 1920 Census as an electrician, so this could be another case of the mortgage being written to an employee of James-Bauer Realty, but I can’t confirm that at this time.
The owner of this home has found stenciled lumber and mailing labels on the back of trim boards.
Then we turn around for two Sears Hampton models, side by side.
The Hampton model was popular in Springfield, as I located two others, also from mortgage records.
The house at 241 Larchmont Rd was mortgaged on July 9, 1927 for $3500 to Grover C Miller, who was a carpenter and there is no evidence he ever lived in the house. Probably another employee of James-Bauer.
The house at 305 Larchmont was mortgaged 10 days later in the amount of $3900 to Rueben and Susan Burchnell. There is no evidence they ever lived in the house, either. Rueben was a fireman and lived at various locations in Springfield between 1927 and 1940. Another mystery couple like the Herzogs.
Down the block a bit is a Sears Starlight.
This Sears Starlight was mortgaged in the amount of $3600 to Walter B Bauer, one of the partners in the James-Bauer Realty Co., and he never lived in the house.
Walter B Bauer was quite an entrepreneur. He was a Springfield native, and a graduate of Springfield High. He put himself through business school, and worked various odd jobs before getting a patent on a vacuum cleaner that he designed. He moved to Elyria after contracting with a company there to produce the vacuum, then enrolled in real estate classes at Western Reserve University. When he returned to Springfield he went into partnership with J Warren James in the real estate business.
Next stop is a Sears Cornell.
This Sears Cornell was mortgaged in the amount of $3600 in April of 1927 to Elvin and Ruth Hess. Elvin was a service manager at Robbins & Myers, but his wife Ruth also worked. She was the secretary for the James-Bauer Realty Co. Elvin and Ruth never lived in the house.
This house, we know, was built as a model home by the James-Bauer Realty Co as it was advertised in the newspaper.
The last stop on the walking tour is a Sears Hamilton. The Hamilton model is an expanded version of the Sears Starlight.
This Sears Hamilton was also built reversed from the catalog offering. This house was mortgaged for $4400, also to Harold S Goodrich, the sales manager for James-Bauer.
We may never know why the James-Bauer Realty Co chose Sears kit houses to get the neighborhood started, and we don’t know why they did the financing the way the did. Sears required you own your lot free and clear in order to get a mortgage through them, and while the lots were owned by James-Bauer, maybe they had a mortgage of their own through a local bank.
We do know that Garden Acres was not a successful venture for James- Bauer. In the 1930 Census, there were only 8 residents listed for the plat, so that means most of these house were vacant. Sears eventually foreclosed on 6 of the 9 houses between Dec of 1929 and July of 1932.
A few houses were constructed in Garden Acres in the late 1930’s and a couple in 1941, but it wasn’t until after WWII that the neighborhood development was completed by a different developer.
I do have a personal connection to Garden Acres, besides my love of these Sears Houses. In 1951, the Springfield Township Trustees approved the building of a Fire Station along the National Road to protect this area and the houses I have come to love.
Thanks to you all for following along and I hope to do a few more blog posts about other walking tours I have researched.