In my last couple of blog posts, I shared information about my mortgage research project in Montgomery County (Dayton and vicinity). It took months of work and hours of my free time, and I loved doing it, but I have called it pretty much complete.
I’ve been trying to decide where to focus my efforts next. There are several Ohio Counties within easy driving distance that are likely to have houses financed through Sears, Roebuck, but where should I start?
While I will probably make the short trips to Madison County and Fayette County soon, my next BIG project needs to be Franklin County. You know…….Columbus. NOT my favorite place to go. First, the Recorder’s Office is on the 10th floor of a downtown government building, and I’m a small town girl. Big cities are just not my thing.
I know there will be plenty of mortgage records to research there, as Franklin County has their deed records on line back to 1920, and I spent several months a couple of years ago going through those. Sears, Roebuck foreclosed on many of their mortgages in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, which caused Sears to take possession of many of the homes that folks had purchased as kits. Hence, researchers now have a deed record that corresponds to those foreclosure cases.
Sad. But…..good for us that are spending time tracking down those very houses.
So wherever there are deed records, there have to be mortgage records, too. Probably many many more, since of course, not every house financed through Sears got re-possessed.
Since Franklin County was one of my first projects dealing with on line records, I didn’t really know how to keep track of what I was doing. After abandoning my usual way (sticky notes), I went back to the beginning and put together a notebook and a whole file folder full of papers.
I don’t do that anymore! Spreadsheets are the way I go now. Mainly because I can share those with other researchers, and making changes is way easier. Also, sharing documents with others will preserve the work I have done, and let others build on it.
So, in preparation of making the big trip to Columbus, I pulled out my notebook and file folder to refresh my memory on what I had already accomplished. I must have done a good job, because even though it’s been several years, I was easily able to review my work.
I spent a bit of time cross checking to make sure I had all the houses I located previously on the Master List of Sears Houses across the United States ( I didn’t ), and then I came across a couple of parcel descriptions that I was unable to locate the first time through.
Well, I’ve done a LOT of mortgage research since then, so I decided to make an attempt to locate the houses associated with the missing records.
And, WOW, am I glad I did! Look what turned up.
A Sears Trenton.
Illustration of the Sears Trenton from the 1932 Homes of Today catalog
The reason I didn’t locate this house the first time through was because the plat where it is located had been amended at some point and some lot numbers were changed. Apparently I was using the original plat map, and not the amended one, which caused me to believe the house associated with the deed record was no longer standing.
This time through, I printed off the actual deed record, which stated it was the amended plat, and gave some streets as points of reference to the location of the parcel. Using that, I was able to come up with the correct address for the house, which is completely hidden from view on Google Maps.
Fortunately, the photographer for the Franklin County Auditor had no qualms about going up the driveway and getting a photo for their website.
Sears Trenton at 400 N Lenappe Dr., Columbus OH. ( This image is cropped from the 2017 public photo found on the Franklin County Auditor’s website )
What a house! When I first pulled up the Auditor’s information, I was sure the home had at least one addition, due to the width.
Nope! That’s all original. The house is over 57 feet wide!
Auditor sketch of the Sears Trenton at 400 N Lenappe Dr., Columbus OH
This has to be one of the largest models ever offered by Sears, Roebuck.
According to Houses by Mail, the primary Field Guide for Sears House researchers, The Trenton was only offered for two years, 1932 and 1933. So that brings up some questions for me about the construction date for this home.
According to the Historical Parcel Sheets available on the Franklin County Auditor’s website, the house was complete by Oct of 1929. That makes no sense! Unless…..like my research buddy Marie suggested, there was a house already on the lot before the Trenton. Hmmmmm……..it does look like they listed the home as being brick and frame on the tax card. I don’t see any signs of a partial brick home in either the actual house, or the house in the catalog illustration. Value of the house in 1929 was listed at $10,630, and there was also a stucco garage at that point. The 1930 appraisal info show a 10% reduction in value to $9770, then there is a big drop, to $5140, in 1933, the same year the house was transferred to Sears, Roebuck by Quit Claim deed. Very confusing.
The original owners were in residence at the home according to the 1930 Census, which may confirm the 1929 build date. David and Ruth Stratton lived there along with their two children, Ruth’s father, and a servant ( note the Maid’s room shown in the first floor plan above ).
We may never know the answer, but this may a situation where the house was custom built for the owner, then Sears got permission to offer the house plans in later years.
I have an edit for my statement above about never knowing for sure about the construction date of the house. Further research, prompted by some questions by other members of my group, led me to additional information. And it ain’t pretty. BUT…..Marie was right. There was a house on the lot before the Sears Trenton. Said first house burnt down in 1932, taking the life of the maid who was in charge while the owners were away. The article below references the original address of the parcel that is shown, then crossed out, on the Historical Parcel Sheet above.
The newspaper later ran a story stating that the owner was charged with arson.
The owner was found guilty and given a sentence of 1-3 years.
This new information now leads us to believe that the Sears Trenton was purchased directly from the 1932 or 1933 catalog, and constructed to replace the first house, with financing obtained through Sears, Roebuck. When the owner was charged with arson, he most likely defaulted on his loan and they Quit Claimed the house back to Sears to avoid foreclosure. When I get to Franklin County to research the mortgage records, the date of the original Sears mortgage should confirm these theories.
In any case, we now have a Sears Trenton on our Master List. The very first one. And it’s in Ohio. Gotta love living in the land of Buckeyes……Bearcats…….and Sears Houses.
Thanks for following along.