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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.