Tracking down Sears Houses in Ohio is a bit of a treasure hunt. You get a clue to where one was built, and with some luck and persistence, sometimes you can find the house without ever leaving your home office.
Such was the case with this Sears Americus built in Columbus in 1926. Thanks go the unknown employee of the Franklin Co. Auditor’s Office for taking this great picture.
This Americus retains most of the original front porch details shown in the Sears Modern Homes catalog illustration. Note the distinctive porch pillars found on several Sears models. It also has the original porch railing and the curved header supporting the porch roof, which features a block keystone or “notch”, as another Sears House lover referred to it. Missing are several sets of triple eave brackets which were most likely removed when the house was vinyl sided to protect the exterior.
Here’s the catalog illustration from the 1925 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I love it when the Auditor’s pictures match the angle shown in the catalog. It’s almost like they knew it was a Sears Houses when they took the photo!
The Americus model is a simple American Four Square style of architecture, which Sears dressed up with those great porch details and some window boxes. The Four Square style was very popular in the 1910’s and 1920’s, so Sears featured quite a few of them in their kit house catalogs.
As you can see from the first floor layout of the house, it is indeed, square. The Four Square style usually featured four rooms up and four rooms down, with the stairwell area sometimes being the fourth room on the main floor, as is the case with The Americus.
The Americus had a slight bump out on half of the second floor, which added space in one of the front bedrooms, and makes it a bit easier to identify from the sidewalk or street.
So, back to my treasure hunt, and how I located this particular Sears House. A few weeks back, I purchased a small advertising brochure published by Sears in 1928. The brochure was about a “Startling New FUEL SAVING Feature” that would be used in Honor Bilt Sears Houses, “Air-Sealed-Walls”.
Note the happy family in the living room of their Sears House. I’m sure all the furniture was purchased from the Sears General Merchandise catalog.
The little brochure about Air-Sealed-Walls is only six pages. I usually don’t buy a lot of Sears ephemera, but this one caught my eye on Ebay because it featured my favorite Sears model, the Glen Falls, on the cover.
I also noticed in the Ebay photos that the brochure had some excerpts from letters written to Sears from satisfied customers. We Sears researchers call these “Testimonials”. If we are lucky, we can use the information from these testimonial letters to locate a Sears House.
Again, it takes luck and persistence, and a few internet tools, but many of these testimonial letters can lead to the actual kit houses that were purchased by mail order, from Sears.
Using my Ancestry.com account, I did a general search for some of the people. The first one, Thomas F Durkin, showed a lot of results. I checked on a few, but quickly moved to the next person mentioned, Harley E Rawlings, who stated he built an Americus.
I didn’t get as many results for Harley Rawlings, so that was a good thing. Less time involved to check them out. I decided to jump right to the 1930 Census records, since the brochure was published in 1928. You can see the date in the bottom left corner of the testimonial page 4.13.28.
I was happy and surprised to find that one of the entries was right here in Ohio. Harley Rawlings, lived at 2137 Margaret in Columbus, with his wife and four children.
Now that I had an address, I went to Google Maps and searched for the address. Street view showed me a Sears Americus model.
From there, I went to the Franklin Co. Auditor’s website to view additional information on the house, and got the nice photo I showed above. Franklin Co. also has some wonderful historical records on their Auditor’s site as well, so I was able to further document the house.
Here’s a bit of the assessment record that shows that Harley E Rawlings was the original owner of the home. Looks like he purchased the lot on July 26, 1924, and the house was constructed in 1925 or 1926.
Harley’s wife, Minnie, took ownership in 1938, and then the house passed to their daughter Esther, who is listed as their youngest daughter in the 1930 Census shown above, Esther retained ownership of the home until 1977, which in itself is a testimonial to the love of this Sears House by it’s original owners.
I haven’t done a real drive by this Sears Americus in Columbus, but hopefully someday I will, and get some photos of my own.
I was able to locate one other home from the testimonial letters so far, but it’s in Illinois. I have passed that information on to another Sears researcher, Lara Solonickne, who has a website about Sears Houses in the Chicago area.
Thanks for following along!