In 2014, I made a Sears House hunting trip to Delaware. The city in Ohio, not the state. It was one of those days when my daughter went along as chauffeur, so I could spend my time looking at houses, and not worry about traffic. I knew there would be houses to be found, as I had spotted several Sears kits previously when passing through the area with my husband on our way to someplace else. I grabbed photos of the homes on William St., which is St Rt 36, on that first pass through, but was anxious to go back. And had success in finding several more kits the second time.
Back then, in 2014, I didn’t have much of a system for keeping track of the houses I had located. No list or spreadsheet. Just a simple notebook that I kept in my bag. Of course, on house hunting trips, I would get so excited when I came across a nice example of a model I recognized, or got to talking to a homeowner, I would forget to write down the address! And that’s what happened in Delaware. I got home. No addresses.
A while after that, along comes “the list”. A Google document created by another Sears House researcher, Lara Solonickne, that is shared among a select few, to help us keep track of all the houses we are finding in various parts of the country. It was easy for me to enter the ones I had found here in Springfield, my hometown. I knew most of the addresses and models without even having to look them up, but as I started going through my photo files, I became aware of how many houses I had pictures of, but had no idea where they were located. (I still have some of those.)
So in March of 2015 I spent some time diligently searching Google maps and County Auditor websites to figure out where houses were, to go along with my photos, and get the addresses listed on our shared spreadsheet. And while I was going through that process for the houses in Delaware, I spotted a house I thought might “be something”. Lots of houses look like Sears models, as the designs in the Modern Homes catalog were popular styles of the time, so not every house I spot that “looks like something” turns out to be from Sears. But this “like something” was a pretty special model, The Sears Amsterdam.
A few months later, a fellow researcher, Andrew Mutch, planned a trip to Ohio with his wife, and wanted to get photos of some Sears Houses along his way. I suggested he stop in Delaware, as the homes there are lovely and well maintained. And I asked him to get photos of the one I had spotted that “looked like something.” Andrew got the photos and stated the house was, indeed, a Sears Amsterdam.
Last week, I was reviewing all the entries for Sears Houses that are listed on our shared document, and I sorted it by city to have a look at various areas. I knew we had a warm, sunny day predicted for Saturday, and I was hoping to go out and get some new photos for this blog, and my Facebook page. As I was glancing through, it seemed like the listings for Delaware were pretty thin. I knew I had lots of photos of houses there, so where were the addresses?
Sigh…….yeah……that’s right. I didn’t have all the addresses for Delaware.
Well, Saturday came as predicted. Sunny and warm. Upper 60’s for Ohio in February! So I hopped in my little blue Fiat and headed for Delaware. And that Sears Amsterdam. Which for some reason wasn’t on the list yet.
And Wow! What a house! I knocked on the door. Yeah, I do that in communities like Delaware, where I know it’s safe and people are interested in their homes. Nobody there. So I went ahead and took my photos from the sidewalk, like I’m supposed to. And cropped out the sidewalk and front yard, so you can see the house close up. It works!
In the photo caption above, I list the house as a “possible” Sears Amsterdam. That’s because this home has not been authenticated as a Sears Kit House using current methods. I will continue to consider it a “possible” until documentation is found. There are a number of ways to authenticate a Sears House, but that would need to go in a separate blog post, or you’ll be here all night reading.
And……I’ve got more stories to tell you about this house.
So now that I have my very own photos, I want to share them first, with my special interest Sears research group on Facebook, and as soon as I get home, I do. All sides of the house.
Next, I go to the Delaware Co. Auditor’s website, to get basic information on the house, like the year of build, and the sketch of the exterior. That information can be a determining factor in deciding whether to proceed with the actual documentation process on a house.
According to the Auditor, this home was built in 1925. That works. The Amsterdam was available from Sears in 1925 and 1926, according to Houses by Mail.
Next I get a screenshot of the exterior dimensions, so we can compare that to the catalog floor plan illustration.
Then, since the house was built in 1925, and was available in 1926, I grabbed my copy of the Dover reprint catalog Small Houses of the Twenties and have a look at the floor plan.
The dimensions don’t match. Sigh………
Then we, meaning Judith Chabot and my daughter (the chauffeur), who were on line at the time, started comparing the windows on the sides to the floor plan, and the chimney location. Matching those up to the catalog can make or break an identification. Nothing matched.
Then we started discussing possible changes to the floor plan that would have made sense with our differences. Nothing made sense.
Then…….something wonderful happened.
My daughter posted a link to a Sears Amsterdam she found on line. From 1923.
And it had a completely different floor plan! And window arrangement. And chimney placement. And they all match the possible Sears Amsterdam in Delaware.
So now we know. Houses by Mail missed the dating on The Amsterdam. Big time. Apparently The Amsterdam was available from 1922, which is the year shown above, until 1928. And while the front of the house looks virtually the same, the interior layout changed over that time.
Sure, sure. That information is probably out there on some other website, but I learn hands on. I went and got my own photos, checked whatever resources I had on hand, and got it figured out. With the help of a friend, and my daughter, who is fast becoming a Sears House researcher as well. It’s about time!
Now, back to the possible Sears Amsterdam in Delaware. Yes, it’s still a possible. While it now matches up to the Sears catalog listing, it’s not yet documented.
And because I love these houses, I usually try to find out a bit about the original owners. This one was easy. I just googled the address, and found the owner, Rollin C Hunter. Here’s a bit about him from “The Michigan Alumnus, volume 36”. Always good to know those Ann Arbor people can see the light and decide Ohio is the place to be.
There’s even a photo of him available on line from an Ohio Wesleyan publication.
So that’s my story on this possible Sears Amsterdam in Delaware. Here’s one last photo. The front, but not cropped for emphasis. It really was a beautiful day in Ohio.
And here’s a crop of the front porch details. While the original pillars are not in place, the decorative piece over the front door is still there.
I took photos of other lovely Sears Houses in Delaware on Saturday, and have pictures from my previous visits as well. I’ll put some of those together for my next blog post.
Thanks for following along.