When I first started this crazy hobby, I would spend hours and hours scanning real estate listings across Ohio, hoping to spot a Sears Modern Home. And occasionally, I would find one. But through the years, that practice has gone to the bottom of my list as a way to locate these types of homes. It’s been replaced by more sophisticated methods, like spending hours and hours scanning old newspaper and deed books on the internet. And occasionally, I will find one.
Fortunately for me, there are other researchers who continue to scan real estate listings looking for Sears Houses. And that’s how a Sears Concord has been located, and documented, right here in my hometown. Yay! Thanks to Lara Solonickne, who has a website about the Sears Homes of Chicagoland, for spotting a real estate listing for the house.
If you are an aficionado of Sears Houses, you might know that Sears used the name “Concord” twice over the period of years they offered house plans and building materials through their Modern Homes catalog. The house I am talking about today, is the second Concord plan offered, a quad level home offered in the mid to late 1930’s.
Yes, it really is a quad level home. I knew Sears had a few tri-level type plans in their later Modern Homes catalogs, but I am more likely to recognize the more popular 1920’s designs than the early or late models. So I was really excited to go see if this really, truly, was a Sears Concord.
If you follow this blog, you know I shared a couple of other 1930’s Sears homes recently, both located in nearby Xenia. It was on the way back to Springfield from getting photos of those two, that my friend Gretchen and I stopped to check out this house. We were fortunate that the homeowner was out in the yard, though we did surprise him by pulling into the driveway and hopping out. I’m sure he thought we were handing out political info or selling something. But as soon as I mentioned that I had heard he might have a home from Sears Roebuck, he called out his wife, and we got the story.
Yes, they knew the house was from Sears, as family members of the original owner made sure they knew all about it when they bought the home last year. And what a great story. And now I’ve heard it twice. Once from the current homeowner, and once from a family member of the original owner.
Said original owner was Robert Norton, and he was an employee at International Harvester. (Today we know that company as Navistar.) In the summer of 1934, Mr. Norton went to the Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. On display at the Fair was a new model Honor Bilt Sears Modern Home, The Concord. Click the link below to see the fabulous brochure that was handed out to visitors that toured the model at the Fair.
Robert Norton so loved the house he saw at the Fair, that a few years later, in 1937, he purchased the Concord house kit from Sears Roebuck. In most cases, when you bought a kit from Sears, they would ship it to you by railroad boxcar. But in this case, Robert Norton was able to borrow a truck and trailer from his employer, International Harvester, and he drove to Cincinnati to pick up the house kit himself. That was possible here in our area, because Sears owned the stock in The Norwood Sash and Door Company, and local pickup and delivery were common from that facility.
The family member I spoke to today wasn’t exactly sure what type of position Robert Norton held at International, but thought it was some type of office work. The 1940 census has him down as a Production Clerk for a truck manufacturer. I’ll bet a current employee of Navistar wouldn’t be able to borrow a truck to pick up a house. Times have certainly changed.
Robert hired a carpenter to build the house, but he worked along with him nights and weekends until the house was completed. Robert did small tasks, and lots of clean up, and left the building part to the professional.
The family member of Robert also said he has the actual sales receipt for the house in his files somewhere. Now that’s documentation!
Below are the details and floor plan illustrations from the 1936 catalog. The house is spacious and flows well from floor to floor. The “Recreation Room” on the lower level could also have been finished as a garage, according to the listing.
All four levels of the house built here in Springfield are finished today, just like Sears hoped when they offered this truly “Modern” design in the 1930’s.
Thanks to the homeowners who shared their home and story with us when we stopped by unannounced. Another great piece of Sears History is right here in Springfield, which makes it our history, too.