A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about Sears Houses at the 29th Annual Miami Valley Planning and Zoning Workshop in Dayton. I was honored to be asked, as the workshop is a big deal in the local area, and it gave me the opportunity to show off some houses that are outside my hometown of Springfield.
I needed to update my Presentation, and since I hadn’t been to Dayton in a while, I decided to get photos of a few houses that had been located since I was last in that area. My daughter, and usual chauffeur, kindly accompanied me on a few hours drive about.
Locating Sears Houses is not just a hobby for me at this point in my life. It’s also my social life, I guess. I have made some wonderful connections with other Sears House researchers in different parts of the country, and even had the opportunity to meet a few of them in person.
And……when I give a presentation locally, I get the chance to meet new people and share stories about these crazy little houses that I love.
And I get to go to lunch with my daughter, too!
So with the combination of those two parts of my life, locating and talking about Sears Houses, and having friends who locate and talk about Sears Houses, three homes on Alton Ave. in Dayton have now been identified.
Here’s how it happened.
The supreme Sears House researcher, Andrew Mutch, purchased a Sears promotional poster on Ebay. I have one, too, but mine is different from the one Andrew bought. Apparently Sears printed and distributed these posters along with their Modern Homes catalogs for several years in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. They are two sided, and have lots of real life photos of Sears Houses, sent in by happy customers.
The posters are arranged geographically, and on the one Andrew purchased, there is a real life photo of a little Sears Starlight in Dayton.
The Sears Starlight was an extremely popular model for Sears. According to their catalogs, hundreds were sold. It’s a compact little house, but as with all Sears homes, built to last with quality lumber.
My thanks to Andrew, and his sharing of the contents of his poster, as I was able to track down the house using the information shown beneath the photo.
Using Ancestry.com, I was able to find an address for Herbert R Busse. 160 Alton Ave. in Dayton, so that was our first stop when my daughter and I went after photos a few weeks back. Here it is! The brick work on the front porch railing is still intact.
Here’s the catalog image from 1925, so you can compare.
It’s missing a couple of the windows in the dormer, but it’s the Starlight on the poster, no doubt.
Just as I was getting back in the car after getting my photos, a gentlemen walked up with a couple bags of groceries. I never pass up an opportunity to talk to a home owner or a resident, so back I went to introduce myself.
We had a nice little chat. Yes, he knew it was a Sears House. He had lived there for quite a while, and a few years back, some ladies came to the door, and told him their grandfather was the original owner and had “put the house together”. I haven’t heard it put quite that way before, but you know, since it was a kit house, that is absolutely accurate.
Then he pointed out the house two doors down, and told me I should check it out, as it was just like his house.
He was right! The Starlight was offered in early catalogs with a shed dormer like this one.
If you look back at what H.R. Busse said in the caption under his house on the poster, you will see he mentioned that father and brother both had Sears Houses, too!
I checked Ancestry again after I got home, and sure enough, there were listings for his family members there, too. DUH! I should have checked that before I went, but I didn’t. No matter, I’ve got the houses located now.
The third Sears House is right across the street from the Starlight on the poster. It built in 1913, according to the tax card. We parked in front of it, I think, when we stopped to get photos, but I paid it no mind. I probably wouldn’t have recognized it anyway. It’s an early model, the No. 156, which was later named The Glyndon.
The 1914 catalog mentions a few places where this model was built, so I’m guessing this is it!
Here’s the house today. Well, not actually today. And not actually my photo. This is the Montgomery Co Auditor’s photo. Like I said, I had no idea we were parked in front of this Sears House. I wonder how many times that has happened? 🙂
This house is a two family home, and from what I could see in the early City Directories, it appears it was built that way. Some Busse family members are listed as living at 161 Alton Ave, rear.
There they are for those of you that are interested, or just curious. Three little Sears Houses on Alton Ave., in Dayton.