Franklin County Update

Last Summer (2018) I spent quite a bit of time tracking down the houses that were financed through Sears, Roebuck in Montgomery County (Dayton and vicinity).  After pretty much calling that project complete, I started thinking about where to focus my research efforts next.

I already knew where it needed to be.  Franklin County.  Columbus and vicinity.

Andrew, Judith and I had already completed the research for the deed records in that County, as their deeds have been scanned and are available on their Recorder’s website back to 1920.   We found quite a few, so we knew there had to be plenty of additional work to do in the County.

I’ve been avoiding going to their Recorder’s Office, because it’s downtown, and on the 18th floor of their Government Building.  I’m not great with big cities, and I sure don’t like going up in tall buildings, but I really wanted to get this project going.

So on the day after Christmas, my wonderful man Frank took me to Columbus to see what was what.

After figuring out where the building was, finding a place to park, figuring out what entrance door to use for the Recorder’s Office, going through the Security checkpoint, and finding the right elevator to get to the 18th floor, we finally arrived.

Whew………that’s why I love my man.

As I was hoping, the Recorder’s Office was pretty quiet.  Since Christmas was on a Tuesday, I had correctly assumed a lot of regular business wouldn’t be happening, since folks tend to take vacation that week.

We started at their Customer Service counter, where a very helpful employee pointed me towards the research room where all the old Record Books were located.   Tracking down Sears Houses through the old mortgage record index books is a pretty complicated process, but if the County has index books by the Mortgagee, which is the lender, it can move along pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, Franklin County only has the index books by Mortgagor, the borrower, for the years I needed, so it looked like this was going to be a long tedious process.

Enter Eric.  After a few questions, he understood what I was attempting to do, and headed off to check their database to see if they might have the Index Books I needed in storage somewhere.

I started the tedious process of paging through one of the Mortgagor Index books looking for entries that would lead to Sears Houses.  For no reason at all, I started with the “W” book and found one almost immediately.  Yay!  On I go.

Hmmmmm……..Frank……..how about taking a book?   He looked at me like I was nuts, but agreed.  Yep.  He found two pretty quickly.  He’s the man!

We kept on for a little while, but since I had only put eight quarters in the parking meter two blocks away, our time was limited.  This was just supposed to be a quick trip to get a feel for what I needed to do next, but it turned out we found 22 mortgages in the short time we were there.

I checked in with Eric on our way out, to find he had spent some time looking through his resources, but hadn’t come up with anything to add to what we already knew was available.

After I got home, I pulled up the Excel spreadsheet I started when I did the on-line deed records, and adjusted it a bit so I could add the actual mortgage info as I found it.

Hmmmmm……..now that I can see and analyze my data, I notice that many of the actual mortgages were recorded in a single mortgage book – Volume 756.  How odd.  Unless……like Montgomery County……the Sears mortgages had their very own book.

So the next morning, I sent an email to the Franklin County Recorder’s Office to inquire if Mortgage Book 756 was available for research.  It didn’t take them long to get back to me, but the answer was no……and yes……The mortgage book itself wasn’t available, but they did have it on Microfilm.

And then…..the best news ever…….awesome employee Eric offered to digitize the volume and I could bring in a flash drive and get the file.  WOW!!!!  I certainly never expected that kind of service from a large County Office.  Kudos to Franklin County and their staff.

So on the Friday morning after Christmas, wonderful man Frank took me back to Columbus to get the file.

Said file contains mortgage record information on approximately 160 homes purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck, in the years between 1926 and 1930.  There will be more research to do after I get through this group, as Sears offered financing prior to, and after, the years this mortgage book was used.

I know……a long story…….and some of you just want to see pretty pictures of what I’ve found.  But this story is so important.  Our research group has come so far, with locating and documenting these homes, in the hopes of raising awareness, and hopefully, preserving some homes that might be lost to blight or re-development.

It’s what we do.  Not for us.  For the houses.  And the homeowners.

sears ashland 172 n ardmore rd bexley oh (wol)

Sears Ashland, 172 N Ardmore Rd., Bexley Ohio. (Photo from Franklin County Auditor website)

The Sears Ashland shown above is documented with a mortgage record on file at the Franklin County Recorder’s Office.  The Ashland was only offered in the Sears Modern Home catalogs for two years, 1927 and 1928, so is considered a rare model.  This is only the third Ashland listed on our Master List of Sears Houses Across the United States.

sears ashland image 1928

Thanks for following along, and I will be posting about Columbus and vicinity as my project progresses.






1 Comment

A day trip to the West side of Cincinnati

You’ve heard the old saying…….”You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”.

Not so with Sears Houses.  With over 350 models offered over the 32 years that Sears, Roebuck sold houses as kits through their mail order catalog, there’s pretty much no way a researcher can say they’ve seen them all.  Heck, with 99 of those models still not located anywhere, there is still plenty of opportunity to keep finding them.

But recently, my research buddy, Marie, and I made a day trip to the west side of Cincinnati.  We’ve been talking about doing that route for a while, but the first time it came up, we had a bunch of rain, and the west side was flooded.  Yikes. Then the second time, it was Halloween and we were afraid we wouldn’t get back in time for the evening Trick or Treat thing.  But the third time, off we went!

One of the reasons we wanted to do the West side was because a fair number of models I hadn’t seen “for real” were located in Sayler Park.  But along the way, we decided to take a quick ride through part of Westwood, a neighborhood in Cincinnati, which has train loads of Sears Houses!  62 to date are listed on our Master List of Sears Houses across the United States.

Most of the Sears Houses in Westwood are what we researchers call “common” models.  Not that they aren’t important to our research, but they are mostly models that we find regularly in cities, towns, and villages all over our area.

But there is one house that has been looked at, checked over, and discussed by researchers for several years.  One of the reasons we weren’t sure about it is that it isn’t easily viewed on Google Maps or in Auditor Photos because of the street trees and nicely landscaped lot.  But now that I’ve seen it for real, I am 99.99% sure it is a Sears No. 2069, which is the same floor plan as the Sears Hollywood, but has different exterior features.

S Hollywood 1922 catalog

Sears Hollywood as shown in the 1922 catalog.  The No. 2069 is illustrated in the lower right hand corner.


The house in Westwood was built reversed from the catalog offering, which was a common change at time of ordering your house kit.


S Hollywood 3054 Lischer L Cincinnati OH

Sears No. 2069, 3054 Lischer Ave., Cincinnati (Westwood neighborhood)

S Hollywood 3054 Lischer R Cincinnati OHS Hollywood 3054 Lischer Cincinnati OH

After  a bit of driving around Westwood and snapping photos of other Sears Houses on our path, we headed on towards Sayler Park.  And what a treat!  I had wanted to go to Sayler Park years ago with my friend Laraine Shape, but for some reason or other we never got around to it.  Marie and I had a great time checking out the Sears Houses we already knew about, and, like always when we visit Cincinnati, we spotted a few more.

Here’s some photos of the models I had never seen before “for real”.

S Tarryton 6828 Parkland Ave L Cincinnati OH

Sears Tarryton, 6828 Parkland Ave., Cincinnati Ohio (Sayler Park) This house is documented with a building permit notice in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Sears Tarryton image 1928

And just an FYI to other Sears House researchers…….The Tarryton is really narrow across the front in real life.

S Tarryton 6828 Parkland Ave Cincinnati OH

Sears Tarryton, 6828 Parkland Ave., Cincinnati Ohio (Sayler Park) This house is documented with a building permit notice in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

S Carroll 7230 Fernbank Ave R Cincinnati OH 2

Sears Carroll, 7230 Fernbank Ave., Cincinnati OH (Sayler Park). This house was built reversed from the catalog offering. I love the added Solarium!!!

The Sears Carroll shown above is not documented with finance records, but I have heard through the Sears House grapevine that the current owner has stated it is a house kit from Sears, Roebuck, and they should know!

Sears Carroll image 1931 catalog


The next house we saw is a little sad.  The landscaping hides the front view, and it needs some TLC, but it is a good example of the model, as it retains its distinctive front entry.

S Melrose 604 Rockaway Ave Cincinnati OH

Sears Melrose at 604 Rockaway Ave. in Cincinnati OH (Sayler Park). This house is documented as it was financed through Sears, Roebuck in 1930.


S Melrose 604 Rockaway Ave R Cincinnati OH

Sears Melrose at 604 Rockaway Ave. in Cincinnati OH (Sayler Park).

Sears Melrose image 1930

And a Parkridge!  Without a pear tree.   Just kidding.

The Parkridge model was not in the Houses by Mail Field guide for some unknown reason, so researchers have to look it up in on line catalogs instead.


S Parkridge 6823 Jersey Ave R Cincinnati OH (WOL)

Sears Parkridge, 6823 Jersey Ave., Cincinnati Ohio (Sayler Park). This house is documented as the house kit was financed through Sears, Roebuck in 1930.

Sears Parkridge 1930 image

Sears Parkridge image as seen in the 1930 catalog. (The Parkridge is one of the few models that was not included in the Houses by Mail Field Guide.)


After we had checked off all the houses on our list that we wanted to see in Sayler Park, we headed back north through the Village of Harrison, where we got photos of a lovely Sears Winona.  The owner had just finished painting the exterior.  I mean…….really just finished.  He was loading up his equipment and tools in his truck when we pulled up.  It sparkled!

S Winona 702 E Broadway Harrison OH

Sears Winona, 702 E Broadway, Harrison, Ohio

85 The Winona

We spotted a few more Sears Houses on our way home through Hamilton, and a couple of possibles.

All in all, it was a great day tracking down these houses I love.  And it’s so much better when you have somebody to share the joy with.  Like Marie.

Thanks for following along.






A Sears Americus in Dayton

You all know I love old newspapers.  I find all kinds of cool stuff when I am doing searches for kit houses in Ohio.  What always amazes me is what shows up today, might not have shown up when I did the very same search a while back.  Or…..sometimes I stumble across something while researching something entirely different.

That’s what happened a few weeks ago.  I was doing some searches on Norwood Sash and Door in the Dayton newspapers, and one thing led to another.  Kinda like Monty Python.

Anyway, here’s the really cool thing I found about a Sears Americus in Dayton.


Dayton Daily News Sun – March 7, 1926


Sears, Roebuck sold grocery items through their mail order catalogs, just like Amazon is doing now on line, and it appears these people put together a nice dinner menu with items sold through the Sears catalog.  Too bad they didn’t tell us what was on the menu!


And like happens today……the newspaper published the wrong address for the house in the article!  After a big disappointment when I went looking for 2225 Victoria Ave and finding the whole block was now the site of a hospital, I did some more checking in the Montgomery County Abstract records and found the correct address for the house.

S Americus 2125 Victoria Ave Dayton OH (newspaper)

Sears Americus at 2125 Victoria Ave, Dayton, Ohio. (Photo from Montgomery County Auditor’s website)


1926 image

The Americus on Victoria Ave in Dayton has an addition on the back, and a partially enclosed front porch, but it’s the house mentioned in the newspaper.  The Abstract Record shows D C Peterson as the owner.

2125 Victoria Ave Dayton OH earlier abstract


Further research on D C Peterson showed that he is connected to another Sears House in Dayton.  In 1937, he and another person were victims of a pickpocket and the incident made the newspaper.  His address was listed as 2317 Emerson Ave.


My mortgage record research for Montgomery County documented the duplex house at 2315-2317 Emerson Ave. as a Sears Bedford.  That house has a larger dormer than what is shown in the Modern Homes catalogs, just like the one located recently in Richmond, Indiana.

2315 Emerson Ave L Dayton OH (WOL)

Sears Bedford at 2315-2317 Emerson Ave., Dayton, Ohio

1928 image

from the 1928 catalog

I will continue to research old newspapers as more and more are getting digitized all the time.  And I’m hoping to find more cool stuff about Sears Houses in Ohio.

Thanks for following along.


Leave a comment

A Sears Bedford in Richmond, Indiana

My last blog post (yikes, almost 2 months ago) was about a few Sears Houses I located in Richmond, Indiana from newspaper research.  I promised an update when I got back there to do actual mortgage research, which happened on October 8.

Columbus Day

My research partner here in Ohio, Marie, had Columbus Day off work, so we decided to go out Sears House hunting.  Our original intention was to go someplace in the Cincinnati area, but that morning, in the Springfield (my hometown and the location of my place of abode) News- Sun, I read an article stating that the city of Columbus, Ohio had decided to maintain normal business operations and not take a Holiday

Well…….that prompted me to have a look around and see if any other local areas were not planning on taking the Holiday, so Marie and I could do some mortgage record research instead of just driving around aimlessly looking for houses.  Which is fun, too!  But not really the best way to find Sears Houses.

Guess which County was open for business?

Wayne County, Indiana.


So, off we went.  I had also determined that Preble County, Ohio was not taking Columbus Day off, so we stopped there on the way from Dayton to Richmond.  A very helpful employee there in Eaton directed us to the basement of their Government building to see if they had mortgage indexes for the correct time period on Microfilm.

They did, but they were tedious to research, so another helpful employee disappeared to the storage area and came back with the REAL BOOKS!  I love it when that happens.

The bad news is that we only found two mortgages financed through Sears, Roebuck in all of Preble County.  The first mortgage record was for a lot right there in Eaton, so the first helpful employee pulled out the Plat Maps and helped us locate the parcel listed on the mortgage record.  Marie and I then headed out to do a drive by and see what we could see.

We saw it all right.

A vacant lot.

Sigh……….so after that disappointment, we headed for Richmond.  The other mortgage record in Preble County wasn’t along our path, so that one would have to wait.

Once we got to Richmond, we had a very nice surprise!  When I was there in August, they didn’t have Mortgage Record Index books available for the time period we needed, so I was expecting a lengthy search, mortgage book by mortgage book, hoping to spot some Sears, Roebuck finance documents.

Apparently, since the last time I was there, the missing Mortgage Index Books were put back in the Research Room, and we were on our way!  Hooray!  ( I hope my earlier request had something to do with that, but who really knows for sure?)

It only took us about an hour or so, to do the record research, take notes, take Smart Phone photos of the Plat Maps we needed, and head out to the parcels that had Sears, Roebuck mortgages.

Wayne County, Indiana, hasn’t been Google mapped in most areas, so “drive bys” from home are pretty much impossible, making it even more important to see as many locations as we could in the time we had left in our day.

What we determined is that most of the mortgages for Sears Houses in the Richmond city limits, were for non-descript worker class houses, that hadn’t been very well maintained through the years.  We noted addresses and models on our drive bys, but didn’t feel the need to take pictures.

Except for one.

When we pulled up to a large bungalow on a corner lot that Marie had found a mortgage record for, she stared at the house, and said “This can’t be right”.  She looked again at her notes from the mortgage record, then at the Plat Map photo we had, and still thought we had something wrong.  THIS house didn’t match anything we had seen in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

While Marie continued to review her notes on the parcel description, I pulled out my copy of Houses by Mail, and starting reviewing the bungalow style models.

When I got to the page for the Sears Bedford, a light bulb turned on in my somewhat dim brain.  And then…….I knew…….

“Look here, Marie.  Check this one out.”   The house we were staring at had a much larger dormer that what was shown in the catalog, but I remembered I had located a similar one in Cincinnati a while back.  And……another of my research partners, Lara, had one in Illinois……somewhere.

Apparently, The Bedford shown in the catalog was not the way many of them were built.  And as a consequence, researchers may be overlooking a bunch of them!

Gotta love those mortgage records for pointing our noses towards Sears Houses we might have missed on a street survey.

The Bedford does have a couple of features to look for though, like the sets of four windows in the Living Room and the dormer, a Dining Room bump out, and large roof brackets (if they are still in place).


1928 image

from the 1928 catalog

Sears Bedford 901 W Main St Richmond IN (WOL mortgage)

Sears Bedford, 901 W Main St., Richmond, Indiana. Documented with a mortgage record


Sears Bedford 901 W Main St R2 Richmond IN (WOL mortgage)

Sears Bedford, 901 W Main St., Richmond, Indiana. Documented with a mortgage record


Sears Bedford 901 W Main St L Richmond IN (WOL mortgage)

Sears Bedford, 901 W Main St., Richmond, Indiana. Documented with a mortgage record

This Sears Bedford also has an extension on the back of the house that looks original, changing the back roof line.  We’re not sure what is up with that small dormer on the back, either.

Sears Bedford 901 W Main St rear Richmond IN (WOL mortgage)

Sears Bedford, 901 W Main St., Richmond, Indiana. Documented with a mortgage record

1928 floor plan

1928 catalog details

The base price of The Bedford in the 1926 catalog was $2,396.  The mortgage for this house, recorded in August of 1926, was $6200.  That is quite a difference, even if you add on the things not included in the standard kit, so it is possible this house was customized so much at build time that it was no longer an “Already Cut” model.  That would have greatly increased the cost of build.  Some things like that we may never know.

In any case, this was a great find for our day out and about in Richmond.

One more thing!  After I got home, I reviewed the information for the parcel in Eaton, Ohio that resulted in that vacant lot, and determined that the helpful employee in their Recorder’s Office had used the wrong Plat Map.  Seems the Sears House is still there after all.  And it’s only a couple of blocks from the Recorder’s Office.  Too bad we missed it.  Looks like a nice one!  I’ll have to get real photos next time I go that way.

201 S Beech St Eaton OH (WOL)

Grainy Google maps screenshot of a Sears Crescent at 201 S Beech St. in Eaton, Ohio. Documented with a mortgage record.


We came up with a couple dozen mortgage records for Sears Houses spread across Wayne County, Indiana that day.  Some we are still tracking down, and some we have addresses for, but no images yet, due to the lack of Google maps for most of the County.  We’ll have to go back……..someday…….

Thanks for following along.



Richmond is almost in Ohio…..

I’ve been ignoring this little blog of mine about Sears Houses in Ohio.  Well…….maybe not ignoring it……but I definitely haven’t had much time to share here.  Summer has been crazy busy for me, and I’m behind on work projects, but early in August I did get to Richmond, Indiana with a couple of friends for a girl’s day out.  Since I have great friends, and they know how much I love this Sears House thing, and…..August is my birthday month…..I got to pick a few of our activities for the day.  Well…….you know what that means!

Sears House Hunting.

I already had a couple of addresses to check out, from newspaper archive research, so those were first.  Then, we stopped by the Wayne County, Indiana government building to have a quick look at their mortgage records.  Not all counties have these old record books available in their public research room, but Wayne County does, so we spent a little bit of time flipping through a couple of volumes.

Oh yeah.  There is plenty of research to do there.  In just the first index book I checked, I spotted a Norwood Sash and Door Mechanics Lien and a Walker O Lewis mortgage.  Both of those records will most likely lead to Sears Houses, but I didn’t take notes that day.  I will need to schedule time to go back and do a thorough review.  One of my friends grabbed a deed index book, and was able to find a record that did, indeed, lead to a Sears House.

So…..since Richmond is almost in Ohio (check the map) I think it is perfectly OK to show off a couple of my finds.

First, the Sears Home Construction Special Exhibit house.

In 1930, in many areas of the Midwest, Sears constructed and opened to the public, a house that was “Completely Planned and Built” by Sears, Roebuck and Company.  In the Dayton, Ohio area, it was The Lewiston or The Colchester model, very similar home designs.  Sears advertised these model homes extensively in the newspapers where they were built, and that is how I found the one in Richmond.  I am thinking Richmond was probably part of the Dayton, Ohio sales territory, since they are so close together geographically.  Dayton had a Sears Modern Home sales office.  Richmond did not.

Here’s the ad I found in the Richmond Palladium-Item.

Palladium_Item_Sat__May_3__1930_ (1)

Richmond Palladium-Item- May 3, 1930


Check out the 3 car garage!    A three car garage in 1930 was a really big deal!

Another small notice gives us a little insight into how Sears handled construction of these Special Exhibit houses.

Palladium_Item_Sat__May_3__1930_ (2)


Here’s the house today.

Sears Lewiston 5180 W US 40 Centerville IN (Special Exhibit)

Sears Lewiston – Special Exhibit House – 5180 W US 40, Centerville Indiana

It still has the 3 car garage.

Sears Lewiston - Special Exhibit House garage - 5180 W US 40, Centerville Indiana

That was a fun find, but even more fun was finding another Sears Lewiston less than a mile down the road!  It’s not documented, but it sure looks like one to me.

Sears Lewiston 1110 E Main St L Centerville IN

Sears Lewiston, 1110 E Main St., Centerville Indiana


image 1930

The third house I am sharing in this post was also located from my newspaper research.  I spotted a notice, also in the Richmond Palladium-Item, showing a property transfer to E. Harrison Powell, who was a Trustee for Sears, Roebuck.  We see his name on mortgages, and deed records associated with foreclosure cases, from 1929 to about 1934.  This was probably a house that Sears had to foreclose on due to non-payment of a mortgage issued by Sears.


Richmond Palladium-Item, Nov 12, 1932


Using the lot number and the plat on the notice I figured out the actual address, which was a little complicated due to the street names changing.  After doing a drive by,  I was able to identify the house as a Crafton model.  The Crafton was a simple rectangular home design that was very common in the 1920’s and 1930’s, so I would never have spotted this particular house without some type of documentation record.

And what a setting for this sweet little Sears house!

Sears Crafton 523 SW 16th St Richmond IN

Sears Crafton, 523 SW 16th St, Richmond Indiana

Sears Crafton 523 SW 16th St L Richmond INSears Crafton 523 SW 16th St R Richmond IN


.1931 catalog

The Sears Crafton was offered with more than one floor plan.  I’m calling this one a Plan 3318-C, due to the window arrangements on both sides.

That’s all for this time, as I am still super busy, but hopefully will get caught up on work projects soon.   I will share more of my Richmond, Indiana finds when I get back there to do mortgage research.

Thanks for following along.


A Sears Cornell and a Sears Fullerton in Oxford

I love finding Sears Houses through mortgage records.

A couple of years back, I made a trip to the Butler County Records Center for that very purpose, and ended up with a bunch of new finds.  Several of the houses I identified were in Oxford, Ohio, which is home to Miami University.

Ever since then, I have been telling myself I needed to go to Oxford and check out what I had located, but until today, that didn’t happen.

It was a nice day for a drive, so my husband Frank and I headed out for a day trip.  My brain has been in overload lately with work projects (we re-hab houses), and a volunteer project , so it was good to get away for a bit.

Since my head hasn’t been in the Sears House game for a couple of weeks, and we did this on short notice, I went pretty unprepared.  I did take along a few addresses of houses I had located, and was hoping to find a few new ones along our path.

While I did spot a couple of houses to check out when I got home, we really only ended up getting a close look at two Sears Houses that were on my list.  Oh well.  I’ll get the rest another time.

We took a walk down Walnut St. to get photos of the two houses and as happens sometimes here in Ohio, I discovered I was not the first researcher to locate one of the homes.

The first house we came to is a Sears Cornell.

Sears Cornell 7 W Walnut L Oxford OH

Sears Cornell at 7 W Walnut St., Oxford, OH. This house is documented with a mortgage record.


Sears Cornell 7 W Walnut R Oxford OH

Sears Cornell at 7 W Walnut St., Oxford, OH. This house is documented with a mortgage record


image 1925

The second house on our path is a Sears Fullerton.

Sears Fullerton 225 W Walnut Oxford OH

Sears Fullerton at 225 W Walnut St., Oxford, OH. Documented as a house from Sears, Roebuck with a mortgage record.


image 1926

The Fullerton model is the one that had previously been identified.  That happens a lot here in Ohio, as houses from Sears, Roebuck are well known.

Sears Fullerton 225 W Walnut Oxford OH plaque

Thanks to the homeowners for the wonderful Preservation effort, and to the City of Oxford for recognizing that Sears Houses are, indeed,  part of our Architectural History.

Now…..if we could just get the rest of Ohio to do that……

Thanks for following along!


A Sears Trenton in Columbus

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.

So……what’s next?

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 18th 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.

Sears Trenton image 1932

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.

street view of Sears Trenton

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 400 N Lenappe Dr Columbus OH

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!

Sears Trenton first floor plan 1932

Sears Trenton 400 N Lenappe Dr Columbus OH sketch .jpg

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.

Sears Trenton second floor plan 1932

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.

Sears Trenton Parcel sheet

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.



Stats for Montgomery County- part 2

In my last blog post, I shared information about how many Sears mortgages I found, and how many houses I documented, while researching Montgomery County records.  In this blog post, I will share the number of each specific model that was built throughout the county, and the numbers for each specific area.

Please note!  These numbers are only for the houses I documented with Sears mortgages, and are NOT indicative of the total number of Sears Houses in Montgomery County.  Many houses were not financed through Sears, Roebuck and those houses are not represented in the following lists.

Models located and documented using mortgage records

  • Albion – 1
  • Americus – 4
  • Argyle – 1
  • Bedford – 1
  • Betsy Ross – 1
  • Castleton – 1
  • Chester – 1
  • Claremont – 2
  • Clyde – 3
  • Concord No. 114 – 1
  • Conway – 3
  • Cornell – 3
  • Crafton – 1
  • Crescent – 1 -owned by Montgomery County Land Bank – to be demolished
  • Dundee – 3
  • Elsmore – 1
  • Estes – 1
  • Farnum – 1
  • Ferndale – 1
  • Fosgate – 1
  • Fullerton – 4
  • Gainsboro – 1
  • Galewood – 1
  • Garfield – 3
  • Gladstone – 2
  • Grant – 6
  • Hamilton – 2
  • Hampton – 22
  • Hartford – 1
  • Hathaway – 2
  • Homewood – 1
  • Kilbourne – 1
  • Kimball – 2
  • Kismet – 4
  • Langston – 1
  • Lenox –  1
  • Mansfield – 1
  • Maplewood – 1
  • Marina – 2
  • Norwood – 1
  • Oakdale – 3
  • Olivia – 1
  • Pittsburgh – 1
  • Ramsay – 2
  • Rembrtandt – 1
  • Rochelle – 1
  • Rodessa – 1
  • Rosita – 4
  • Sheridan – 1
  • Solace – 1
  • Somers – 1
  • Starlight – 3
  • Sunlight – 17
  • Vallonia – 1
  • Walton – 1
  • Westly – 3
  • Wheaton – 1
  • Willard – 1
  • Windermere – 1 – owned by Montgomery County Land Bank- to be demolished
  • Windsor – 1
  • Winona – 1

What’s interesting to me in this list is the large number of Hampton and Sunlight models that were built in Dayton and vicinity.  Both of those models were basic one story home designs that were economical to build.  I’m thinking these 2 models were popular in Dayton because of the industrial base, as these homes would have been very affordable for working class families.

Sears Hampton image

image 1928

So where are the Sears Houses in Montgomery County?  All over, really.  Here’s a summary of the total number of houses by area.  Again, this is only the houses that I documented with mortgage records.

  • Brookville – 1
  • Clayton – 1
  • Dayton  – 77 in Dayton city limits, though many of these were not when they were built, but annexed later
  • Harrison Twp – 7
  • Huber Heights – 1
  • Jefferson Twp – 3
  • Kettering – 17
  • Miamisburg – 13
  • New Lebanon – 1
  • Riverside- 6
  • Trotwood – 10
  • West Carrollton – 3

The above numbers are the breakdown of the 140 Sears models I documented using mortgage records in Montgomery County.

I know this is kind of a boring blog post for most of you, but these numbers are important to serious researchers.

I should have included this little bit in my last blog post about how many mortgages were signed by the individual Sears Trustees, but I forgot, so here it is.  This mortgage record was all set to be signed by Sears Trustee Walker O Lewis, but he left the company in 1930 and was replaced by E Harrison Powell.  Apparently in 1930, the rules for mortgage documents were a bit looser than today, because instead of re-doing the paperwork, they just crossed out Walker O Lewis, and typed in  E Harrison Powell.  The mortgage was recorded with no issues.


Sears mortgage dated May 24, 1930. Walker O Lewis left Sears and was replaced by E Harrison Powell, and this mortgage was corrected to show the new Trustee.

And in case you are wondering, here is the house associated with the above mortgage record.  It’s a Sears Mansfield, the brick equivalent of the Dover model.  This house appears to have had a couple of feet added onto the right side of the house at time of build.

S Mansfield 2039 Harvard Blvd Dayton OH (WOL)

Sears Mansfield at 2039 Harvard Blvd., Dayton, Ohio. Documented with a mortgage record. (Photo from Montgomery County Auditor’s website)

Sears Mansfield image 1930

If you want more information about specific models or my research project in Montgomery County, please contact me at cyn.catanzaro@gmail.com

I am always willing to share information with those that are interested.

Thanks for following along.



Stats for Montgomery County- part 1

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I have been working through the process of identifying and documenting Sears Houses in Dayton and vicinity.  After procrastinating for several years, last November I visited the Montgomery County Records Center. With information from Tina, who heads up the Center,  I started working my way through on-line Abstract Books for the County, and then more recently, I went to the Recorder’s Office for further research.

It’s been quite a process, and hours of work, but at this point, I think I can say the project is pretty well finished.

Here’s some stats for Montgomery County, Ohio.

To date, I have found 244 mortgage and lien records that might lead to houses purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck in the Dayton area.   I say “might” because not all the recorded mortgages were for house kits.  Some appear to be for building materials used for the construction of houses not offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog, and a couple seem to be for the remodeling of older homes.

Here’s the breakdown.

158 mortgages were recorded under the primary Trustee that we see in Ohio for Sears, Roebuck – Walker O Lewis.  Of those 158, I was able to document 103 houses that match models in the Sears catalog.  Some of those homes had already been identified as probable by myself and other researchers, but many of them were new finds, like The Rembrandt shown below.  It’s certainly not the best example of a Sears Rembrandt that has been located, but it is the only one we know of, so far, in Ohio.

Sears Rembrandt 4225 Edison St Dayton Ohio

Sears Rembrandt at 4225 Edison St., Dayton, Ohio.

Sears Rembrandt image 1925

The Rembrandt from the 1925 Sears Modern Home catalog


In addition to the 158 Walker O Lewis, Trustee, mortgages, there were 39 mortgages signed by E Harrison Powell, who took over the position for Sears in 1930 for our area.  Just about this same time, many Sears Houses that were financed carried two mortgages, a first mortgage, and what was called a “junior mortgage” in the recorded documents.  With that process in place, there were less actual parcels to locate, as most had two mortgages.  Also, several of the E Harrison Powell mortgages were re-finances of earlier mortgages that had been signed by Walker O Lewis, which again resulted in less parcels to actually locate.

Of those 39, I identified 11 houses that were kits from the Sears Modern Homes catalog.  Several of those 11 models were ones I had never seen before “in person”, like this Hartford model in Trotwood.  ( I still haven’t seen it in person.  The photo below is cropped from the Montgomery County Auditor’s website.)

Sears Hartford 6513 W 3rd St Trotwood OH (EHP)

Sears Hartford at 6513 W 3rd St., Trotwood, Ohio. (Photo from Montgomery County Auditor website)


Sears Hartford 1932 image


Another piece of the Sears, Roebuck mortgage puzzle that we have here in Ohio is mortgages recorded by Norwood Sash and Door Mfg. Co.

Sears owned that door, window, and mill work plant in Norwood, Ohio during the years they were selling house kits, and for some unknown reason, some house kits in our area were mortgaged directly through that factory instead of through Sears, which was based in Chicago.

Montgomery County had 25 mortgages recorded under Norwood Sash & Door, which resulted in documenting an additional 19 homes that matched models in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.

Here’s an ad from a Dayton newspaper showing models from the Sears Modern Homes catalog, but listing Norwood Sash and Door’s Dayton office as the company, not Sears.  That’s the Sears Homes catalog in the lower right corner.


Dayton Daily News, March 26, 1922.


One of the houses that is now documented through a Norwood Sash and Door mortgage in Dayton is a Sears Argyle, like the one pictured at the bottom left corner of the ad.

Sears Argyle 3103 S Smithville Dayton Oh (NSD)

Sears Argyle at 3103 S Smithville Rd., Dayton, Ohio. (Photo from Montgomery County Auditor’s website)

Also in our part of Ohio, we see Mechanics Liens from Norwood Sash and Door.  Those would happen if you purchased building materials from the company,  but for some reason, didn’t pay your bill.  I’m pretty sure Norwood offered open credit accounts like most other local lumber companies did.  It’s possible these were for small amounts, and not the whole kit house package.  Maybe something got added on late in the order process, or something was purchased after the kit house was finished, like a Sears garage kit, which Norwood sold, too.  The houses I located through Mechanics Liens didn’t have the traditional Sears mortgages, which means the house kit was financed through a local bank, or might even have been a cash sale.

I need to point out here that there are many more Sears Houses in the Dayton area that didn’t have Sears mortgages.  This blog post is just about the houses that did.

To date I have located 7 houses that match Sears models shown in the Modern Homes catalog from 22 Norwood Sash and Door Mechanics Liens.  There is still work to do on this part of the project, but it may in fact, never get done.  The Mechanics Lien books are no longer available for research at the Recorders Office.  Mechanics Liens run with the property for only 20 years, so after a while, those records can be discarded if the County chooses.  Montgomery County chose to.  The only way to find the remaining Lien records would be to go through the several hundred Abstract Books page by page.

Yeah.  I’m probably not going to tackle that project anytime soon.

So to summarize, from the 244 individual records I had, I was able to document 140 homes that were purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck in Montgomery County.

38 parcels I have listed in my files as “gone”, meaning whatever house was associated with the mortgage record is no longer there.  Some are vacant lots, some have newer houses, some are parking lots or Interstates.

25 houses are listed as “unknown” meaning they aren’t models shown in the Sears catalogs, or, they have had additions or remodeling that makes them unrecognizable.

3 parcels have houses that I have listed as “Custom”.  2 of the three are fairly close to known Sears models, but have enough differences that they can’t be the actual Sears kit from the catalog, and the third of those 3 was a house built using plans provided by the owners.  I found that from newspaper research.

2 parcels are most likely materials for remodeling, as the amounts are less than $500 and the houses were built prior to when Sears started selling homes.

There were only 2 parcels that I was unable to actually find using all the resources available.  I’m pretty proud of that, since the parcels that have Township legal descriptions can be difficult sometimes.

The other 34 records were “junior mortgages” or re-finances.

In my next blog post, I will do a summary of what models I located through the mortgage records, and the numbers for each city, village, and township in Montgomery County.

Thanks for following along.




Leave a comment

Wardway Homes in Kettering

I’m finishing up the Montgomery County mortgage record research project that I’ve been working on since last November.  I’m down to a few pesky parcels that have complicated legal descriptions, which take a lot more time and resources to track down.  When I get those finished, I will do a blog post here about the total number of Sears Houses in Dayton and vicinity.  It won’t be a complete list of addresses, because there are too many houses for that, but I will surely have a lot of general information to share.

In the meantime, I want to show you a couple of homes that were purchased from Montgomery Ward instead of Sears, Roebuck.  While Sears remains the big player here in Ohio for kit houses, there are a few other companies represented as well.

Montgomery Ward offered financing plans, like Sears,  for their kit houses, which were marketed as “Wardway Homes”.  If a buyer took advantage of that option, there will be a mortgage record on file in the County Offices, usually under the name Thomas P. Riordan.

In Montgomery County, I have found a couple hundred recorded mortgages from Sears, Roebuck, but for Montgomery Ward…….three.


Two of the mortgage records I found when I was going through the Abstract Books that are available on line for Montgomery County.   One is for a house I haven’t been able to ID as a Wardway Home that was shown in catalogs, and the second is a Newport model.

The house I haven’t been able to identify…..well…..it may be gone actually.  The mortgage record was written for two lots.  One lot has the house I can’t ID, and the other lot is a block business building, so it’s hard to know for sure.

The second Montgomery Ward mortgage, the Newport model, was pretty easy to identify, since that style home was very popular, and almost all the kit house companies had a house like it.

Here it is, in Kettering.

WW Newport 352 Rockhill Ave Kettering OH (Riordan)

Wardway Newport, 352 Rockhill Ave., Kettering, Ohio  (Photo from Montgomery County Auditor’s website)


Wardway Newport- 1930


The third and final Wardway Home was one I came across while doing newspaper research.  I tracked down the address using info from the news article, (with lots of help from my research partner, Marie ), then checked the on-line Abstract Books, and discovered it had a mortgage through Montgomery Ward.

Here’s the newspaper write up.


The Dayton Herald, Nov 27, 1930

Notice that the write up says the house was built under the Montgomery Ward money saving plan, but also references the quality achieved by their “ready-cut construction”.

Hmmmm…….yeah……..this house was never offered in the Wardway Homes catalogs.

WW custom model 2468 S Patterson Blvd R Kettering OH

2468 S Patterson Blvd, Kettering OH. Building materials purchased and mortgaged through Montgomery Ward.

I shared this house with a few other Sears House researchers after I located it, and Lara of Sears Homes of Chicagoland noticed it had a strong similarity to a house offered by Sears, Roebuck…  The Carroll.   Another…….hmmm……..

There is still much to learn about how the kit house companies did business.

Sears Carroll catalog 1932

Catalog image of the Sears Carroll from the 1932 Modern Homes catalog


I’m continuing my research of kit houses in Montgomery County.  Check back occasionally and……

Thanks for following along.