It takes a group……..a group of dedicated Sears House researchers…….to locate and document homes purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck. And the group I am in is just that.
When we locate a new primary source of information, we are anxious to see what we find. But first, we have to figure out who is doing what. Some projects are more complicated or time consuming than others, and need to be shared. Other times, it makes more sense for one person to handle the project, especially if they are familiar with the area to be researched.
That’s what happened recently, when Andrew located digitized editions of a trade magazine that published information on building permits that had been obtained in the Cincinnati area for the years we research. He turned the project over to me, since I have become pretty good at navigating the records in Hamilton County and have become familiar with a lot of the neighborhoods where we find Sears Houses in Cincinnati.
There are several ways to document a house purchased from Sears, and one of them is to find their name listed on a building permit.
Usually when we find a permit with Sears, Roebuck listed, it is for one house, though I have seen some with more than one. In this case, the first permit was for five houses, with one on the second notice, all to be built by C.W. Kibler on the south side of Markbreit Ave.
And the best part of these six houses? They were built in 1909!
The first Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1908, and these permits were issued in April of 1909, so this was truly an exciting find.
We know the Cincinnati area is loaded with Sears Houses due to the Norwood Sash and Door factory that was owned by Sears, but that didn’t get started until 1912, so these homes pre date that.
In the world of co-incidences, Andrew had just located three early Sears models on Markbreit Ave., because one of them had recently been for sale, and he thought he recognized it from the Realtor pictures. Then he checked out the rest of the street and spotted two more. And they were all on the south side of Markbreit.
I messaged Andrew about the permit, and back we went to see what else we could find. And….we found them all.
Since these are early models, they are identified by a model number, not a name. Sears didn’t start using names until about 1917.
Here they are! Some of these photos were taken today (Aug 24, 2022), by our newest research team member, Matthew, who just happens to live in the Cincinnati area. Some of the photos are older ones from the Auditor’s website and show some of the original details that aren’t there now. And some are from Google maps. The next time I go to Cincinnati, I will have to drive past them myself. Too bad we didn’t know about them a couple weeks ago, when I went there with another member of my research group for a full day’s drive around the area.
The Sears No. 103 – later called The Lucerne – there were two of these built at 3131 and 3139 Markbreit Ave.
The Sears No. 121 – later called The Altona
The Sears No. 133 – later called The Springfield – there were 2 of these built for sure. We think there is a 3rd one on the block but it isn’t quite right so I’m not adding it to this post.
The Sears No. 111 – later called The Chelsea
After finding the building permits for these houses, of course we were curious about why somebody from North Carolina was building multiple Sears Houses in Cincinnati. A quick search on Newspapers.com gave us a little information.
Of course now we have more questions. If our Mr. Kibler had lumber in North Carolina, did he just purchase plans from Sears? Maybe. Unless we get inside one of these homes and find some train mailing labels, we’ll never know where the lumber actually came from. But there were a lot more materials needed besides the framing lumber, so Mr. Kibler probably did purchase that from Sears. In any case, this is an important and exciting find for our group.
Eventually, I will get around to telling you about my day trip to Muncie, Indiana, and share some houses from a mini meet up with Nigel and Marie, also earlier this month. It’s been a Sears House August!
Hello All. In my last blog post, dated June 12, 2022, I said I was going to try to hold to my original goal of having one post per month. I made it! At least I will if I get this finished and up by midnight tonight, July 31.
I have been writing a blog post in my head for a couple of weeks now. That’s usually how I get started. I go over all the details I want to write about, think about the houses I have seen, then sit down one day, or evening, usually, and put it all down in words. Sometimes it just flows out. Sometimes it’s a struggle.
But this post isn’t the one I have been building in my head for a while. That one will be kinda long and I will have to hunt up photos I took long ago to make it what I want it to be. So……this post will be short on thought, but long on photos that are not mine, but are from a real estate listing I saw today.
I did locate the house though, quite a while back. I just have never seen it in person. I don’t usually do posts using photos from real estate listings, but the listing pics of the house are so well done that I won’t have to go get ones of my own!
Thanks to the listing agent, Tyler Fortman, for putting together a nice listing for this old home that needs a little love.
The house is a kit home design from the Gordon Van Tine Co. of Davenport, Iowa. If you have been following this little blog, or have researched mail order kit homes on your own, you should recognize that company name. GVT, as researchers refer to it, was a competitor of Sears, Roebuck in the mail order home business, and in the 1920’s and 1930’s, supplied the kit homes sold by Sears larger competitor, Montgomery Ward.
GVT published their own catalogs for many years. In 1916, they had two catalogs, one for Ready Cut Homes, which featured kit houses with factory cut lumber for a quicker building time, and another catalog featuring “Standard Homes” which did not have the lumber pre cut at the factory. These houses are still considered kits, as all the lumber and everything else you needed was supplied, but you had to cut the lumber to size on site. This type of kit home would require additional skills and tools by the builder.
The 1916 GVT Standard Home catalog is available to the public on Internet Archive. Here’s the link.
I located this house by researching one of the testimonial letters found on page 51 of the catalog, which is for house model No. 104.
The letter is the middle one on the left side, from the builder J. N. Hodgins
It’s pretty vague where in Indiana the house was actually built, but that is where years of hunting down these houses and good resources come into it.
Using Ancestry, I searched for W. B. Hadly in Indiana, hoping to spot him in a 1920 Census record. I didn’t find him, but I did find a William B Hadley in Richmond, but in the 1900 Census, followed by a Wm. B Hadley in the 1910 Census. There was no listing for him in the 1920 Census, which was what I was really hoping for, since the house was built probably not long before the 1916 GVT catalog was published, and that would have given me an address. Maybe. It’s not at all unusual to see names misspelled in the catalog testimonial letters. I was hopeful. Then…….using Newspapers.com, I did a search for W. B Hadley in the Richmond newspaper, many of which are digitized and available.
And I found him!
Now I have an address, 125 North Ninth St. Fingers crossed!
When I put that address in Google Maps, here’s what comes up.
There it is…..just down the street a ways. I don’t think W.B. Hadley lived in the GVT house though, as the Ninth St address was listed for him in the earlier Census records. I think maybe he had the house built next to his, maybe for one of his children, and his home is gone. No matter. The GVT house that matches the photo in the 1916 catalog is there.
I did all this research a while back. I don’t really remember exactly when, but it’s been a couple years ago, I think. Then today, while doing a cursory check of houses on Realtor.com, I added Richmond to my list of area Counties that I check. I do that sometimes, because, hey, Richmond is almost in Ohio, and if I find a Sears House for sale there, that will occasionally generate a trip to Today’s Harvest for donuts.
Here’s the catalog illustration of the floor plan.
Now I will inundate you with the Realtor’s photos of the house, because they are great!
Yes, it needs love, but it’s over 100 years old and still has the original leaded glass windows, interior doors, and non painted woodwork!
Here’s hoping it gets a new owner that will appreciate the quality of the lumber and building method, and brings it back to life.
Hello friends and loyal readers. Well……I guess it is pretty hard for you to be a loyal reader when I rarely write anything! When I started this little blog, my goal was to do one post per month. Yeah………that never happened. And now, since I am officially retired, I have no excuse for not making an attempt at that old goal.
But….you know…..life. Retired doesn’t always mean you have more time. In fact, it feels like I have less. How did I ever manage to work full time, raise a family, run a business, rehab almost forty houses, and still hunt down Sears Houses in my spare time? I guess I had more energy in those days.
But maybe…..just maybe…..I can get back to it. I have some new parts now! I had a total hip replacement in April, and while I am not back to “normal”, and won’t be for a few more months, getting around is a bit easier. At least I can get in and out of the car easier! Some days.
I haven’t spent near as much time as I hoped tracking down Sears Houses on the internet during my initial recovery period from surgery, because sitting at my desk just wasn’t great for a while. I use a desktop PC for my research, and since my office is on the second floor of my house, I couldn’t even get there for a couple weeks!
But enough about me. How about that Sears Langston in Urbana? I spotted it on Realtor.com just a week or so before my surgery. I couldn’t believe it! Urbana is only about ten minutes north of where I live, and we go there regularly for shopping, Flea Market, Antique shops, restaurants…….just about everything. And I’ve driven all over town looking for kit houses. Well….I guess not everywhere, since there it was on the Realtor site. A street I hadn’t been down , even though it was only a couple blocks away from our favorite restaurant in Urbana, The Farmer’s Daughter.
We had even been in town the very morning it was listed, but I didn’t know that until I got home. Yeah…..back we went. Hubby Frank is such a good sport, driving me all over everywhere checking out these houses.
This one, however, was right up his alley, since it was in need of serious renovation. He hopped out and was in the back yard before I could even get myself out of the car! Yes, we knew it was a vacant property from the real estate listing, so no worries about that.
I took a bunch of pictures, of course, so I could share some of them with you all, but……I am just now getting around to it. I took these photos on April 3, 2022. The house has since been sold and when we drove past it last week, it appears as if somebody has moved in already. I hope they were able to fix what’s broke!
The Langston was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs starting in 1916. It had more than one floor plan over several years and then was updated to the Gladstone model about 1925. That model also had more than one floor plan over the years, and made it’s last catalog appearance in 1938, just a couple years before Sears got out of the business of selling homes.
Judith, one of my research partners, tells you all about the changes to this model on her blog. Here’s a link to her post if you are interested.
The Langston model in Urbana was most likely built around 1917, according to records I found at the Champaign County Recorder’s Office. It has the distinctive porch pillars that are found on quite a few Sears models of that time period and what I recognized when I saw the house on Realtor.com
Here’s my photo of the Sears Langston at 344 Mosgrove St in Urbana. Sturdy and attractive!
The two windows on this side that are in the Living Room are there, but are not visible in the photo due to the added carport.
All the windows match up with the catalog illustration of the floor plan.
Here are those distinctive pillars seen on several Sears models.
The house needed quite a bit of maintenance inside and out. Here’s the link to the real estate listing with photos of the interior. We never went inside.
The house sold for less than asking price, which in today’s market is very unusual, even for houses that need renovating. I will keep my eye on this one, and hopefully the new owners will be able to catch up with the deferred maintenance.
Thanks for following along, and I hope to post more regularly in the future.
This is the continuation of my last post about The Provident Estates Co. in Summit County. Said company borrowed a whole lot of money from Sears in 1920 and proceeded to build kit homes purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Provident Estates Co. got three mortgages from Sears, with parcels from three different plats used as collateral. My last post talked about two of those plats in Akron, while this post will be about the third neighborhood, in Tallmadge.
As usual, I went down a rabbit hole, so to speak, researching the Provident Estates Co. I will share what I found out about them after I tell you about the Sears kit houses that were intended to be built in the brand new neighborhood of Tallmadge Park. Unlike the other two neighborhoods involved, these houses were NOT going to be Sears Rockhurst models.
The third mortgage that Sears wrote to Provident Estates was the smallest of the three, only about $35,000, as compared to the approx. $70,000 and $77,000 for the first two. There was also a major difference in the kind of parcels involved in the third mortgage. For the first two, Provident was simply buying lots in established plats and building a house. For the third mortgage, the loan was for houses in what was to be a brand new plat………
The Tallmadge Park plat was recorded on April 30, 1920, and only a few short weeks later, Provident Estates Co. ran a full page ad in the Akron Evening Times promoting sales of homes and lots.
The house illustrations in the ad aren’t very clear in the digitized edition available on line, but they were good enough for me to make my eyes pop, kinda like they did when I saw how much money was involved in these mortgages. Because……..I see Sears Houses…….
Two of the houses in the ad were photo copied right out of the pages of the 1920 Sears Modern Home catalog, The Beaumont and the Lexington models, both high end homes of that time period.
Off to the races I went, in my Google car, to scout out the neighborhood, looking for these great Sears Homes. Especially The Beaumont, as it is one of the models our research team has yet to find anywhere!
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. No Beaumont. No Lexington.
But…….there were two Sears Houses I did recognize, a Verona and a Preston, also high end models of the day. Both of those houses had previously been spotted by other researchers, and were already on our Master List, but hopefully now I could document them.
The Preston model had several options for the front, apparently. In some years it was shown with a rounded front door.
Both of these homes were built on an existing road in Tallmadge, at the entrance to the neighborhood, not on one of the new roads that would have been put in for the plat.
But these two homes, though higher dollar Sears Houses, would surely not have used up all the mortgage dollars attached. $35,287.13. Hmmmmmm…..wonder where the rest of the money went?
There was one more house in that original ad that looked familiar, but my old brain couldn’t pin it down. Fortunately, Marie has a younger brain, and remembered it almost immediately.
It wasn’t from Sears, but may be a kit house from another company, Aladdin Homes. It was even featured in a separate ad about a week later.
We have no documentation that Provident Estates Co. had any business dealings with The Aladdin Co., so it is only a guess that it’s the model pictured in the ad. But what I do know for sure, is that this house was actually built, at the other end of the new plat, also on an existing road.
For those of you that follow along, you might notice the brackets on the front porch roof. Yep. Five piece. Just like the ones Sears used on a lot of models. Crazy! This model was never offered by Sears.
So……..about documentation of the two large Sears models…….only one of them had pass through dollars on their deeds, like many of the Sears Rockhurst models associated with the other mortgages. The Sears Preston had $9449.00 shown as being owed to Walker O Lewis when it was purchased from the Provident Estates Co. in January of 1922. So we still have almost $26,000 of mortgage dollars unaccounted for in Tallmadge Park.
I wonder where the money went……
That’s what I have to share for now about the Sears Houses built by the Provident Estates Co., but like I said, I went down a rabbit hole researching this, and I did find some other interesting goings on, so if you still have interest, keep reading……..it’s REALLY long, so if you click out along the way, no worries.
I did a bit of a timeline…..
February 11-15,1920 – first mention of Provident Estates Co. in Akron newspapers. – they were selling stock in their newly formed company and needed office help.
Feb 22, 1920 – full page ad in the Akron Sunday Times promoting their stock program
Feb 27, 1920 – Sears, Roebuck mortgage to Provident Estates Co recorded – $69,740 – for parcels in Blue Pond Allotment
March 16, 1920 – ad explaining in more detail about the stock being sold – it was to back mortgages
March 23, 1920 – first ad about a house to be completed – this was one of the Sears Rockhurst models. $8750 purchase price with a $2500 down payment required
April 21, 1920 – ad with lots of details about the houses being built in the Blue Pond Allotment – these were all Sears Rockhurst models.
May 16, 1920 – full page ad about Tallmadge Park – shown at the beginning of this post
And….they need help selling houses
May 20, 1920 – another ad about Tallmadge Park, explaining in detail about the special terms for the first twenty buyers.
May 25, 1920 – Sears, Roebuck mortgage to Provident Estates Co recorded – $77,050 – for parcels in the Smith Re-Allotment – this is where additional Sears Rockhurst models were built
Also, an ad for salesmen stating 40 houses were currently under construction
May 30, 1920 – an ad stating ten of the twenty homes offered under special terms had been sold in Tallmadge Park.
June 3, 1920 – ad stating a house to be ready in three weeks, with only $1500 down instead of the $2500 from earlier in the year. This is most likely for another Sears Rockhurst.
July 13, 1920 – notice of 20 building permits issued for parcels in the Smith Re-Allotment – more Sears Rockhurst models.
Also, they are now offering evening training classes on how to sell their stock
July 11, 1920 – press release stating that 11 of the Sears Rockhurst models had been sold, and more are nearing completion. Also, a change in upper management.
July 18, 1920 – the company declares a dividend
Aug 1, 1920 – stock sales are going well
Sept 18, 1920 – they need more stock to sell
Sept 23, 1920 – Sears, Roebuck mortgage to Provident Estates Co recorded – $35, 287.13 – for parcels in Tallmadge Park
Oct 3, 1920 – the main man himself, T. H. Dillon, and they are expanding into Cleveland and Columbus
Oct 16, 1920 – growing fast
Nov 13, 1920 – they need a few live wires
Dec 24, 1920 – more dividends declared – Merry Christmas
Dec 26, 1920 – Happy Anniversary
June 25, 1921 – a change at the top
Aug 3, 1921 – huh. There’s that first Sears Rockhurst from 1920, and a couple others, for rent
Feb 15, 1922 – uh oh – a foreclosure of one of the Sears Rockhurst models with a promissory note attached
Feb 16, 1922 – uh oh – former President is in trouble
March 1922 – several more foreclosure notices of Sears Rockhurst models, followed by more throughout 1922
Oct 10, 1922 – a salesman didn’t get paid apparently
Nov 14, 1922 – somebody else stole money from the company
Mar 6, 1923 – going out of business
Summary of sales as I could find – between July of 1920 and May of 1922, Provident Estates Co sold 31 parcels, most with Sears Rockhurst models on them. No further sales from the company were recorded until the Receiver started selling parcels in July of 1923. Sales continued through the Receiver until April of 1925, many of which were vacant lots.
21 Jan 1926 – it’s over
So, did Sears get paid? I doubt it. Did all the house kits Sears shipped to Akron get built? Maybe. I guess we’ll never know for sure.
I did find a few articles on the first President of Provident Estates Co., T H Dillon, before he came to Akron.
Aug 30 1911
And Aug 21, 1914 – seems our man had a little experience in business, eh? Draw your own conclusions.
In my last post, I said that Marie and I were working our way through the mortgage record books that I found on line for Summit County. And as I expected, it turned out to be a weeks long project. I started at the beginning of the alphabet, and Marie started at the end, and we were going to meet in the middle.
As I have a bit more time to research than Marie does right now, I moved along a little quicker. Marie did have some large volumes to go through, like the R, S, and T books, so that might be why I got further quicker. As we neared the middle, I slowed down a bit, and then we had a discussion about who was taking the last book that needed review. PQ. I got the OK to go through it, and in my head, was already looking forward to combining our research to see how many mortgages and houses we had found.
Well…….as with a lot of our research, you get sidetracked.
I found 7 mortgages to research in the first P volume, which was dated 1914-1923, with results similar to what we are finding along the way. Of the seven mortgages, three houses were no longer there, two were unidentifiable, one we already knew about, and one new one. Lots of work, but that’s what we do.
Then……. when I got to the last page in the book, my eyes popped.
The last page in each volume is not indexed for individuals, but for corporations, and since this was the P book…..well……I should have remembered, but after researching hundreds and hundreds of houses….you forget a few you researched years ago. Like Provident Estates Co.
Back in 2016, I did a post here about locating several Sears Rockhurst models in Akron from newspaper foreclosure notices. This was a great find at the time, since they were the first Rockhurst models that we could add to our list. And they were documented! They were all built by the Provident Estates Co. Using that information, Judith and Marie were able to track down quite a few more Rockhurst models built by the same company, but since we didn’t have documentation connecting them to Sears, they went on our list as undocumented.
Well, they are documented now! Because Provident Estates Co. borrowed a WHOLE lot of money from Sears to build houses in Summit County.
Using one of the inflation calculators found in the internet, that equates to….um……yeah……a WHOLE lot of money.
The three mortgages were attached to different plats in Summit County, two in Akron, and one in Tallmadge, a smaller city that is considered a suburb of Akron. The Rockhurst models that we had previously identified were all in Akron, so those addresses started my research in connecting the mortgages to the houses.
This is where it gets tricky, because the actual mortgage isn’t available on line, just the index information, so there are additional steps to finding the houses. Summit County has actual deed images on line, so we have to find the corresponding deeds that matches up to the mortgages. Confused? Yeah, well, that’s OK. We know what we’re doing, so you don’t need to figure it out.
But……since it was Provident Estates Co., there were LOADS of deed records to go through. First I tried to find the deeds that showed what lots Provident had purchased, and I found those, but they were buying lots all over Akron at the time, so I wanted to double, double check. So then I looked for the deed records for when Provident SOLD the houses.
And that’s how I followed the money.
When Provident Estates Co. sold one of the Sears Rockhurst models that they financed through Sears, they passed on a portion of the mortgage amount along to the new owner on the DEED, with a promissory note, not through another mortgage.
That explains the foreclosure notices I found back in 2016, which showed Provident Estates Co, foreclosing on individuals with a Walker O Lewis mortgage mentioned in the advertisement. The actual owners didn’t get a mortgage through Sears.
Here’s an example.
Google has provided us with a nice view of the Sears Rockhurst model at 269 Kryder Ave., in Akron.
In the Blue Pond Addition, I was able to document 12 houses this way, accounting for $41, 758 of the $69,740 that Sears loaned to Provident on Feb 27, 1920.
In the Smith Re-Allottment, I found 6 deeds with pass through mortgage dollars assigned, accounting for $26,273.00 of the $77,050 that Sears loaned to Provident on May 25, 1920.
I can only assume that the other houses built and sold by Provident had financing arranged by the buyers and Provident paid Sears as they sold them.
Or maybe they didn’t pay Sears. I will share what I found about that in my next post, which will focus on the third Sears mortgage to Provident, in the Tallmadge Park Addition.
It’s always fun to discover that an Ohio County has digitized old records and added them to their Recorder’s website. That’s what happened a couple weeks ago.
As my research group’s total number of Sears houses in the United States approached the 14,000 mark in late November, I was super interested in finding enough houses to get us over that goal by the end of 2021.
Then…….a couple members of my group decided to move some houses off the main list to a separate tab. The majority of those houses were homes built as part of the Home Club plan, which Sears got up and running after 1940.
The result of moving the Home Club Plan houses left us in no position to get to 14,000 homes on the main list by the end of the year, and I was pretty bummed. In fact, I quit looking for a couple of weeks. Then I got over it, and went back to doing what I do. Look for old records on line. And I found them in Summit County.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Summit County is home to Akron, which we know has loads of Sears Houses. Sears sold multiple houses to more than one company in Akron, and used street views of them in catalogs throughout the 1920’s.
The records available are mortgage index books, by Mortgagor.
The Mortgagor is the person who got the mortgage, not the lender, so in order to find the houses mortgaged through Sears, you have to go through all the books, page by page, looking for the names of the two Sears Trustees who signed off on the paperwork in Ohio. Those two were Walker O Lewis and E Harrison Powell.
The books are indexed alphabetically, in groups of years, so there are lots of books.
Fortunately, the way the years are arranged is beneficial to our research. Sears started offering mortgages about 1912, and ended financing programs about 1933, so the 1915-1923 and 1924-1934 groupings are just about perfect.
A Winter project! And since it’s a big one, my research partner, Marie, is working the books, too. I started at the beginning of the alphabet, and Marie started at the end. We keep up to date on where we are through a shared document on Google Drive. Sounds like work, eh? But to us crazy Sears House researchers, it’s just fun, fun, fun.
And what’s even more fun is that we are finding loads of mortgages and loads of houses. Not all mortgage records will lead to a Sears House though. Remember, we’re talking over 100 years ago, in an industrial city in the Midwest. Lots of houses are gone. Some demolished due to blight, some to road expansions (damn those Interstates), some have been remuddled beyond recognition. But we are adding houses just about every day now, and our main list went over the 14,000 mark this week. Only a couple weeks late, so not too bad!
I will be doing a few blog posts over the next few weeks, to show off some our finds, and when we are finished, I will put together some numbers to share, just for historical purposes.
The first mortgage I found ended up being on a parcel that is now part of a large hospital. Gone.
The second one I found led me to a Sears Rockford, a model that was only offered for a few years, 1926- 1930. The Rockford had a brick facade.
The Rockford in Akron was built reversed from the catalog illustration, an option Sears offered on most of their models at no extra charge.
This side shows the window arrangement we can see in the catalog illustration.
The house carried a $5400 mortgage through Sears dated 7/2/1929. It’s in the Beverly Park Allotment.
One of Marie’s early fun finds was a Custom designed home built through the Sears Home Construction Division, which was started about 1929. Sears would help you find local contractors and assist with the planning and design if you needed that. Or you could bring your own plans, and they would subcontract the house for you. And you could get your mortgage on their regular terms.
This house was featured in an advertisement for Sears Home Construction in their 1933 catalog.
Here she is!
The house in Silver Lake was financed for $7000 through Sears on 4/14/1932.
Recently I was asked how many Sears Houses there are in Cincinnati. I certainly didn’t have an answer to that question off the top of my head, because there are LOADS of them. So I spent a couple of days doing some maintenance on our “National Database of Sears Homes in the United States”. I do that a couple times a year to keep on top of it. I made sure all the Ohio entries had a County listed, and in Hamilton County, I also make sure there is a neighborhood attached. Since Cincinnati is so large and has so many Sears Houses, it’s pretty much the only way I can print off a list of a smaller area when I am heading there for a day trip.
After updating that I was pretty comfortable answering the question about the number of houses there. The Cincinnati area has the most Sears Homes located to date of anywhere in the United States. Nowhere else even comes close. So……that brings up another question.
It’s a simple answer, one that has been known for a really long time, way before I started tracking down these houses.
Norwood Sash and Door.
Since I love old newspapers, and I love Sears Houses, I thought now would be a good time to share some of the things myself, and others on my research team, have learned about the Sears, Roebuck / Norwood Sash and Door connection using articles and ads found in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In 1914, Sears, Roebuck and Company started a millwork plant in Norwood, Ohio. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Cincinnati area, Norwood is an enclave, meaning it is a city that is completely surrounded by another city. In this case, Cincinnati.
On line resources say Sears bought the factory, originally The Standard Mills Company, in 1912, but the 1914 notice in the Cincinnati Enquirer appears to be when it “officially” became the millwork plant for the Sears Modern Home department. I say this because just three weeks later, Sears was advertising houses in the Enquirer that were also offered in their mail order catalog.
Sears was proud of their new millwork plant, and invited the public to come see what they had to offer. Like free catalogs of house plans and building materials.
While the rest of the United States had to get their building materials from Sears by mail order and wait for shipment by rail, in the Cincinnati area you could order direct from the factory and get prompt delivery.
Of course if you wanted your catalog in the mail, you go ahead and send in this coupon……or……you could just call them.
At this point, ads only mentioned Norwood Sash and Door, and not Sears, Roebuck, even though the catalog shown was published by Sears.
The factory was expanded twice in the next several years, once in 1918, and again in 1920.
In 1921, a display area was opened downtown, with a model kitchen, and other assorted products. Housing was in demand!
Later in 1921 was this ad for the Rodessa model. It was offered at a great price, and you could buy it on an easy payment plan. This was a very popular model in the Cincinnati area. To date, over 50 of them have been spotted all over town. In the small print, there is also mention of a Norwood Sash and Door office in Dayton, but again, no mention of Sears, Roebuck. We do know that at this point, you could get a mortgage directly through Norwood Sash and Door, something that only happened in a select part of Ohio. We are also pretty confident that Norwood Sash and Door allowed local home buyers and builders to open in house credit accounts, as we have numerous Sears Kit Houses in Cincinnati documented with a recorded Mechanics Lien. Those would have been in situations where you had a balance due but didn’t pay your bill.
In 1924, Norwood Sash and Door enlarged their showroom downtown. Business was booming!
Wouldn’t it be great if some of those miniature models showed up somewhere!
It was all about the houses, folks.
Later in 1924, some of the ads were showing Sears, Roebuck again instead of Norwood Sash and Door. The reasons for this back and forth is not clear.
The very same ad above was published a couple weeks later, with Norwood Sash and Door as the company.
In 1925, two important things happened. One was that the construction of the Sears Aurora model on Grand Vista Ave. was started for the head of Norwood Sash and Door, J J Mc Hugh, who had been transferred to Cincinnati from Sears corporate headquarters in Chicago. As far as we know, it is the only Aurora model ever built.
The other important thing was that Sears, Roebuck would move their display office from the second floor of the Carew Tower to a first floor storefront on West Fourth St. Still downtown, but much better access for walk in foot traffic.
Heavy advertising continued throughout 1926. One thing I notice is that the prices in the ads in the Cincinnati Enquirer appear to be a bit less than what was in the regular Sears Modern Homes catalog that was mailed to customers across the United States.
This next ad does specifically mention that this Kilbourne is offered at a “wholesale, direct from the factory” price.
This ad from 1928 shows actual homes built in the Cincinnati area. I think we have located all the homes shown in the ad.
In 1929, several Sears Homes were completed and open to the public for inspection.
Before 1929, customers would order the plans and building materials from Sears, then hire a contractor to build their home, or if they had skills, build it themselves. In 1929, Sears, Roebuck started their Home Construction Division, and would now take on the contracting of the house for you.
This new Home Construction Division resulted in Sears hosting Open Houses of homes they had built in various cities across the Midwest in 1930. One of them was in Cincinnati.
Also in 1930, Sears, Roebuck was kind enough to give us some idea of how many houses had actually been built in the Cincinnati area.
My research team has discussed this number on several occasions, and what we have decided is that we don’t really know what Sears considered “Cincinnati”. Just like today, it could have been a pretty good size sales region that included points north, like Hamilton, Middletown, and Dayton, and south, over the river in Kentucky. If that was the case, that number is much more believable.
After the big Open House sales push across the Midwest, which was surely planned in late fall of 1929, things began to go bad for the home building business, due to the stock market crash, and resulting bank problems.
It’s unclear exactly when, but sometime in 1930 or early 1931, Sears would close their display storefront downtown and move the Cincinnati Modern Home Office back to the Norwood Sash and Door factory, where it all started in 1914. Ads also got much smaller, and simpler.
Sales and advertising still continued, even during the lean building years.
1933 brought the completion of two high end Sears Homes, a Jefferson model, and a Lexington model, both of which were featured in the newspaper.
By 1935, J J McHugh had been transferred back to Chicago and Sears took ownership of the unique home built for him during his years at Norwood Sash and Door. When Sears sold the house it made the newspaper.
All is quiet in the newspaper until 1938 when a few small ads show up.
Marketing to renters. There were probably lots of them after the stock market crash.
A model home was built across the river in 1939, proving that the Sears Cincinnati area spread across the state line.
In 1940, there is a not so subtle shift away from home building as Norwood Sash and Door looks to get some orders from the Department of Defense. The last Sears Modern Homes catalog would be published in 1940, though sales from it continued in a few areas for a couple more years.
1941 brought labor union troubles to the factory but in 1942, Norwood Sash and Door got that big Government contract it had been hoping for. This shift pretty much ended the Sears Modern Homes building department.
Thanks to those of you who are still here reading what must be my longest post ever, but once I got started I wanted to see it through to the end of the Sears, Roebuck / Norwood Sash and Door connection.
What’s left now is the answer to that question from the beginning……how many Sears Houses are there in Cincinnati? LOADS!
Long ago, back in 2016, I did a blog post in here about several Aladdin and Sears Homes in Alpha.
I went back and reread it just now, and honestly, it was painful to read. I was still learning about how to use this website, and I think I must have used all my energies on figuring out how to add photos, and text, and links,……and not on using sentences that were easy to read Or maybe I was just trying to educate people about these houses on a simple level. I was actually thinking, for just a moment, about going back and rewriting the whole thing, but that moment passed quickly.
Anyways, now I just let the words flow, and if you can follow along……..OK. If not, well, remember, this is just a personal little blog, not some big ole’ deal to teach you everything you need to know about kit houses. There are other websites for that.
I originally thought that Alpha was a village in Greene County, but Wikipedia claims it is a actually a neighborhood in Beavercreek. On the Auditor’s website, most of the houses have Alpha addresses, as they do have a post office, but the houses are in Beavercreek city limits. Very confusing.
What I do know for sure is that it is a very old area, considering what is surrounding it, and it does have some nice kit homes.
And now I have identified another one, from The Aladdin Co., of Bay City, Michigan.
I have been driving past this particular house, pretty often, for the past couple of years, ever since my daughter and her family moved to Beavercreek. Every time we go past it, I would say to myself……that house is “something”. That is Sears House Hunter speech for…….I KNOW I have seen that in a catalog…….somewhere…….and I had better hunt for it when I get home.
Yeah, well, I never remembered to hunt for it. Then a couple weeks back, I had my hubby pull off the main drag, Dayton-Xenia Rd., so I could take a few photos of it.
Then I forgot about it again.
Then last week, hubby and I went to Zanesville for a couple reasons. Yes, Sears House research was one of them. More on that later. After that trip, I had some notes, and some mortgage research to do, which always requires doing some “Google driving” around neighborhoods. That resulted in me spotting what I thought was an Aladdin Sunshine model on a street in Zanesville and that resulted in me getting out my Aladdin Homes catalogs and doing a quick look through.
There was that house in Alpha! I knew it! I had seen it in a kit house catalog.
And the house in Alpha is a perfect match, with an enclosed side porch.
Now that I have seen this house in person, and had a good look at the catalog image and details, maybe I will be able to spot more of them around Ohio. One thing to note is the double window arrangement on all four sides. The front has doubles on each side of the front door, but split apart a bit, and there is a small double in the dormer. The right side has a single window at the front part of the house, but a double behind. The left side has doors to the side porch, with two sets of double windows behind that.
Here’s the details and the floor plan illustration which show that
There is another double window along the back wall, but on a normal street survey, you wouldn’t be able to spot that.
My photo of the right side confirms the house matches the catalog there.
While I couldn’t get a picture of the left side that shows the double windows, due to the enclosed porch, I did find a photo in an old real estate listing that confirms it matches there as well.
I did wonder a bit about the street name where the house is located, Whitey Marshall, and figured that wasn’t the original name. I was right there, as I found a nice article about that in the 4 Feb 1972 edition of the Dayton Daily News.
I find it very cool that this is the only house on Whitey Marshall Dr., it’s my first Aladdin Cape Cod model, Whitey Marshall sold Studebaker cars, and we own a Studebaker car!
What a world.
If you are in Beavercreek, traveling down Dayton-Xenia Rd. by Rotary Park, make sure to take a quick glance at the Aladdin Cape Cod.
There is no reason for me to tell you my story in order, is there? This could be like one of those confusing movies where they jump around in time and you have trouble keeping up. Then it all comes together in the end.
Well…….ha! Who knows when my story will end. And every one of these little blog posts is like a chapter in my Sears House Hunting story book.
Today I am fast forwarding through time by not telling you, my dear readers, about the wonderful Aladdin Home I got a full interior tour of in New Paris, a lovely Sears Lewiston I spotted in Minster, and several Sears Homes I photographed in Columbus, Indiana, all in the last month or two. I will skip back to those later.
Today’s chapter actually is a bit of time travel in itself. Early on in my house hunting hobby, I was only interested in locating houses in my hometown of Springfield. I was in the process of putting together a walking tour of Sears Houses for our local Preservation Alliance, and heard from other sources that the Clarke Historical Library in Mt Pleasant, Michigan had all the sales records from the Aladdin Company, which was based in Bay City. The Aladdin Company sold loads of houses as kits through mail order catalogs, just like Sears.
Hmmm……I thought, back then. Maybe I could find some Aladdin Homes through those records. So off I went, with my daughter along for assistance, to the Clarke.
We spent hours over two days going through records in search of homes connected to Springfield. And we found some. We didn’t get through all the records in the time we had, but it was definitely worth the trip.
A couple years later, I made a second trip to the Clarke for additional research, and that is where this chapter in today’s story starts.
August of 2012.
On that second trip I was already expanding my efforts to locate kit homes outside the Springfield area, so when I came across a sales record for just about anywhere near me in Ohio, I got a copy. I never did get around to locating all the homes from that trip, about 100 sales records in all, but every once in a while I will go back through them, and hunt for one or two.
Well, today, I found ten of them! Almost.
Here’s the details.
In May of 1920, The Foundation Co., of New York City, purchased ten Aladdin Homes and had them shipped to The Champion Engineering Co. in Kenton, Ohio. It is unclear what the connection is between these two companies, but, hey, that’s not my area of interest.
What I do know, from information I got today from two exceptional ladies at The Hardin County Historical Museum in Kenton, is that The Champion Iron Fence Co. was a big employer in the area back in its heyday. They manufactured those fancy iron fences you see around old Victorian style homes, iron stairs, flower vases, weather vanes, chairs……..lots of stuff.
In 1918, The Champion Fence Co. was bought out by the Champion Engineering Co, which made cranes.
And in 1920, the Champion Engineering Company bought those ten Aladdin Homes I mentioned above.
Before I start telling you all about the Aladdin models, I really must show you the Hardin County Historical Museum. You gotta go there. It is stunning inside and out.
Now for those Aladdin Homes.
It was a pretty common thing in the early 1900’s for large manufacturers to build homes for their employees, especially if there was a housing shortage in the area. Newspaper articles on file at the Historical Museum do state that the Champion Co. built homes for their employees.
Next I made a trip to the Recorder’s Office to find deed records associated with The Champion Engineering Co. The gals at the Museum had already told me where the houses probably were, but I wanted to get documentation. They were right! The Champion Engineering Co had their own plat where the houses were built. There is only one street name for the entire little neighborhood – Champion Ct.
The company purchased, in order of the sales records –
I have copies of the sale records for all ten homes, but I am only going to post one, as an example.
The second Aladdin Yale is located at 52 Champion Ct.
We drove right past one of the Aladdin Venus models……twice…….as we circled the block………and I didn’t recognize it. I spotted it when I got home and was Google driving around the block….again.
The right side of the house is a perfect match to the window arrangement shown in the floor plan illustration.
The other Venus model is located at 1 Champion Ct., but it wasn’t very photogenic.
The other Aladdin Maples is located at 32 Champion Ct. The porch has been enclosed and there is quite a bit of tall landscaping in front so I didn’t take a photo.
I didn’t actually spot The Plymouth model. It may be there, remodeled too much to recognize, but I’m certain it was there on Champion Ct. at one time. So even though I called this chapter “Ten Aladdin Homes in Kenton”, there really are only nine for sure.
But hey……nine out of ten ain’t bad.
Special thanks to Sheena, Director at The Hardin County Historical Museum, for her time and knowledge on my stop there today. And to Brenda, the Hardin County Recorder, for assisting me with the deed records and plat maps I needed to locate the Aladdin Homes.
Summer is over. And as I look back on my own little blog here, I see that I never posted about any of the Sears Houses I saw over the Summer. Yes, I did the mini meet up in early June with Marie and Nigel. But hey! That was still Spring.
Now, so much time has passed since then, that even I don’t remember what I saw. So……..I guess I need to go back through my photo files to refresh my memory. That in itself is a bit of a challenge, since I got a new PC mid-Summer and my old one refused to recognize zip drives or USB connector cables. That meant I needed to be creative in finding ways to move my files, and that was time consuming and frustrating.
I didn’t do a lot of daytrips, like I had hoped to, but Marie and I did take a day in July and go to Lima. We started out at the Allen County Recorder’s Office. Finding mortgage records that connect a house to Sears, Roebuck is a great way to get started in a new area, and we always try to do that first. Unfortunately, the records in Allen County were not indexed in way that would make it easy to research quickly, so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. That being said, the staff there went over and above our expectations to explain how their records were kept, helped us find the books we needed, and were readily available to answer our questions.
I had been to Lima before, years ago, and we already had some houses on “the list” from various sources, so that gave us a good starting point for doing a drive around older neighborhoods.
We started out having a look at two homes that had been identified previously by Dale Wolicki, who co-authored the Wardway Field Guide. Researchers use that book for aiding in the identification of homes purchased from Montgomery Ward, a competitor of Sears, Roebuck in the mail order home business. You can get your very own copy of the book right now on Ebay.
The first house we stopped at was purchased from The Aladdin Co of Bay City, Michigan, another competitor of Sears. All the sales records from the Aladdin Company are in the archives at the Clarke Historical Library in Michigan, so if you think you have a house from Aladdin, you might be able to get copies of the original sales order from them. It’s tricky, but I have the one from this very house.
Around the corner was another house identified by Dale long ago, this one a Sears Arlington. It’s definitely not original, but is still recognizable.
Next we headed over to the plat “Oakland Park Place” to have a look at a Sears Roanoke model that another member of our research team, Sarah, had spotted while Google driving the area.
Sarah is our expert on Bennett Homes, yet another kit house company, but one that was based in North Tonawanda, NY. Sarah lives in New York, and has tracked down loads of houses around her. She found some newspaper articles about Bennett Homes that had been built in Lima, and stumbled across the Sears Roanoke while looking for those. Lucky us!
What was even luckier was that the house was vacant the day Marie and I were there……so that means……
I can get a little bit CLOSER!
The owners were working on the house, but were not on site when we stopped by. You can see that the area around the front door hadn’t been painted yet. I love the navy blue on this model. It really brings out all the architectural details of the house with the trim painted white.
Here’s that close up!
This Roanoke also has a two story addition on the back, which must be original because it has the same signature five piece eave brackets as the rest of the house.
Sears sold kits for garages as well. I imagine this is one. The owners put a fresh coat of paint on it, too, but I’m not exactly sure why. It doesn’t look like it is long for this world.
Next we headed over to check out one those Bennett Homes I mentioned earlier, that Sarah had found through a newspaper article.
LeRoy Justus, a Lima Real Estate man, represented Bennett Home sales in the area and was kind enough to give us a clue where a couple of them had been built.
The one Marie and I went to see first was the Norfolk model.
The Norfolk was Bennett Homes answer to a popular home design that was offered by almost all the mail order kit home companies, and several of the plan book home companies as well.
This house was built reversed from the catalog illustration. You could request that at the time you placed your order. Usually there was no additional charge for that. What’s nice in this instance is that we have a clear view of the window arrangement on the side facing the parking lot for this property, and you can see it matches the catalog exactly.
Yes, the house has a parking lot. If you notice it also has a new roof, new windows, a new front door, new vinyl siding, and new siding on the front that looks like shingles. That’s because…….
……the house is a business office now.
What was nice to see is that even though the home has been nicely updated, they chose to keep the original front porch details. I love that!!!
And yes, we did go inside and talked to the gal in the office. She didn’t know about it being a kit, but we left some information about it.
Onward we go! Now that I am looking back at my photos, we really did see a lot of “Sears Houses” in just a few hours. Gotta love Ohio!
Another Bennett House that Sarah located from the Leroy Justus newspaper article.
You might have noticed that all the houses above had interesting model names attached. The kit house companies did that for marketing purposes, and I am so glad because they are much easier to remember than model numbers. At least for me. But…..prior to 1916, Sears Roebuck did use numbers exclusively to identify their home designs. And Lima has one of those early numbered models as well, a No 124.
This is a very cool house, in my opinion, and I am fortunate to have been able to see several of them “for real”. This one, one in Cincinnati, one in Medina, and one in Saco, Maine. Yes, I look for Sears Houses when I am on vacation.
Right next to the No. 124, mostly hidden by landscaping, is another early Sears model, a No. 162, which later was named the Elmwood.
Yes, it’s back there. Trust me. I saw it with my own two eyes from the sidewalk.
That’s not all the houses we saw, but I can’t go on forever………can I?
I’m glad Marie and I got to have a day out during these crazy times, doing what we love.
Thanks to you all for following along on my journeys.