My last blog post (yikes, almost 2 months ago) was about a few Sears Houses I located in Richmond, Indiana from newspaper research. I promised an update when I got back there to do actual mortgage research, which happened on October 8.
My research partner here in Ohio, Marie, had Columbus Day off work, so we decided to go out Sears House hunting. Our original intention was to go someplace in the Cincinnati area, but that morning, in the Springfield (my hometown and the location of my place of abode) News- Sun, I read an article stating that the city of Columbus, Ohio had decided to maintain normal business operations and not take a Holiday
Well…….that prompted me to have a look around and see if any other local areas were not planning on taking the Holiday, so Marie and I could do some mortgage record research instead of just driving around aimlessly looking for houses. Which is fun, too! But not really the best way to find Sears Houses.
Guess which County was open for business?
Wayne County, Indiana.
So, off we went. I had also determined that Preble County, Ohio was not taking Columbus Day off, so we stopped there on the way from Dayton to Richmond. A very helpful employee there in Eaton directed us to the basement of their Government building to see if they had mortgage indexes for the correct time period on Microfilm.
They did, but they were tedious to research, so another helpful employee disappeared to the storage area and came back with the REAL BOOKS! I love it when that happens.
The bad news is that we only found two mortgages financed through Sears, Roebuck in all of Preble County. The first mortgage record was for a lot right there in Eaton, so the first helpful employee pulled out the Plat Maps and helped us locate the parcel listed on the mortgage record. Marie and I then headed out to do a drive by and see what we could see.
We saw it all right.
A vacant lot.
Sigh……….so after that disappointment, we headed for Richmond. The other mortgage record in Preble County wasn’t along our path, so that one would have to wait.
Once we got to Richmond, we had a very nice surprise! When I was there in August, they didn’t have Mortgage Record Index books available for the time period we needed, so I was expecting a lengthy search, mortgage book by mortgage book, hoping to spot some Sears, Roebuck finance documents.
Apparently, since the last time I was there, the missing Mortgage Index Books were put back in the Research Room, and we were on our way! Hooray! ( I hope my earlier request had something to do with that, but who really knows for sure?)
It only took us about an hour or so, to do the record research, take notes, take Smart Phone photos of the Plat Maps we needed, and head out to the parcels that had Sears, Roebuck mortgages.
Wayne County, Indiana, hasn’t been Google mapped in most areas, so “drive bys” from home are pretty much impossible, making it even more important to see as many locations as we could in the time we had left in our day.
What we determined is that most of the mortgages for Sears Houses in the Richmond city limits, were for non-descript worker class houses, that hadn’t been very well maintained through the years. We noted addresses and models on our drive bys, but didn’t feel the need to take pictures.
Except for one.
When we pulled up to a large bungalow on a corner lot that Marie had found a mortgage record for, she stared at the house, and said “This can’t be right”. She looked again at her notes from the mortgage record, then at the Plat Map photo we had, and still thought we had something wrong. THIS house didn’t match anything we had seen in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs.
While Marie continued to review her notes on the parcel description, I pulled out my copy of Houses by Mail, and starting reviewing the bungalow style models.
When I got to the page for the Sears Bedford, a light bulb turned on in my somewhat dim brain. And then…….I knew…….
“Look here, Marie. Check this one out.” The house we were staring at had a much larger dormer that what was shown in the catalog, but I remembered I had located a similar one in Cincinnati a while back. And……another of my research partners, Lara, had one in Illinois……somewhere.
Apparently, The Bedford shown in the catalog was not the way many of them were built. And as a consequence, researchers may be overlooking a bunch of them!
Gotta love those mortgage records for pointing our noses towards Sears Houses we might have missed on a street survey.
The Bedford does have a couple of features to look for though, like the sets of four windows in the Living Room and the dormer, a Dining Room bump out, and large roof brackets (if they are still in place).
This Sears Bedford also has an extension on the back of the house that looks original, changing the back roof line. We’re not sure what is up with that small dormer on the back, either.
The base price of The Bedford in the 1926 catalog was $2,396. The mortgage for this house, recorded in August of 1926, was $6200. That is quite a difference, even if you add on the things not included in the standard kit, so it is possible this house was customized so much at build time that it was no longer an “Already Cut” model. That would have greatly increased the cost of build. Some things like that we may never know.
In any case, this was a great find for our day out and about in Richmond.
One more thing! After I got home, I reviewed the information for the parcel in Eaton, Ohio that resulted in that vacant lot, and determined that the helpful employee in their Recorder’s Office had used the wrong Plat Map. Seems the Sears House is still there after all. And it’s only a couple of blocks from the Recorder’s Office. Too bad we missed it. Looks like a nice one! I’ll have to get real photos next time I go that way.
We came up with a couple dozen mortgage records for Sears Houses spread across Wayne County, Indiana that day. Some we are still tracking down, and some we have addresses for, but no images yet, due to the lack of Google maps for most of the County. We’ll have to go back……..someday…….
Thanks for following along.