Last Summer (2018) I spent quite a bit of time tracking down the houses that were financed through Sears, Roebuck in Montgomery County (Dayton and vicinity). After pretty much calling that project complete, I started thinking about where to focus my research efforts next.
I already knew where it needed to be. Franklin County. Columbus and vicinity.
Andrew, Judith and I had already completed the research for the deed records in that County, as their deeds have been scanned and are available on their Recorder’s website back to 1920. We found quite a few, so we knew there had to be plenty of additional work to do in the County.
I’ve been avoiding going to their Recorder’s Office, because it’s downtown, and on the 18th floor of their Government Building. I’m not great with big cities, and I sure don’t like going up in tall buildings, but I really wanted to get this project going.
So on the day after Christmas, my wonderful man Frank took me to Columbus to see what was what.
After figuring out where the building was, finding a place to park, figuring out what entrance door to use for the Recorder’s Office, going through the Security checkpoint, and finding the right elevator to get to the 18th floor, we finally arrived.
Whew………that’s why I love my man.
As I was hoping, the Recorder’s Office was pretty quiet. Since Christmas was on a Tuesday, I had correctly assumed a lot of regular business wouldn’t be happening, since folks tend to take vacation that week.
We started at their Customer Service counter, where a very helpful employee pointed me towards the research room where all the old Record Books were located. Tracking down Sears Houses through the old mortgage record index books is a pretty complicated process, but if the County has index books by the Mortgagee, which is the lender, it can move along pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, Franklin County only has the index books by Mortgagor, the borrower, for the years I needed, so it looked like this was going to be a long tedious process.
Enter Eric. After a few questions, he understood what I was attempting to do, and headed off to check their database to see if they might have the Index Books I needed in storage somewhere.
I started the tedious process of paging through one of the Mortgagor Index books looking for entries that would lead to Sears Houses. For no reason at all, I started with the “W” book and found one almost immediately. Yay! On I go.
Hmmmmm……..Frank……..how about taking a book? He looked at me like I was nuts, but agreed. Yep. He found two pretty quickly. He’s the man!
We kept on for a little while, but since I had only put eight quarters in the parking meter two blocks away, our time was limited. This was just supposed to be a quick trip to get a feel for what I needed to do next, but it turned out we found 22 mortgages in the short time we were there.
I checked in with Eric on our way out, to find he had spent some time looking through his resources, but hadn’t come up with anything to add to what we already knew was available.
After I got home, I pulled up the Excel spreadsheet I started when I did the on-line deed records, and adjusted it a bit so I could add the actual mortgage info as I found it.
Hmmmmm……..now that I can see and analyze my data, I notice that many of the actual mortgages were recorded in a single mortgage book – Volume 756. How odd. Unless……like Montgomery County……the Sears mortgages had their very own book.
So the next morning, I sent an email to the Franklin County Recorder’s Office to inquire if Mortgage Book 756 was available for research. It didn’t take them long to get back to me, but the answer was no……and yes……The mortgage book itself wasn’t available, but they did have it on Microfilm.
And then…..the best news ever…….awesome employee Eric offered to digitize the volume and I could bring in a flash drive and get the file. WOW!!!! I certainly never expected that kind of service from a large County Office. Kudos to Franklin County and their staff.
So on the Friday morning after Christmas, wonderful man Frank took me back to Columbus to get the file.
Said file contains mortgage record information on approximately 160 homes purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck, in the years between 1926 and 1930. There will be more research to do after I get through this group, as Sears offered financing prior to, and after, the years this mortgage book was used.
I know……a long story…….and some of you just want to see pretty pictures of what I’ve found. But this story is so important. Our research group has come so far, with locating and documenting these homes, in the hopes of raising awareness, and hopefully, preserving some homes that might be lost to blight or re-development.
It’s what we do. Not for us. For the houses. And the homeowners.
The Sears Ashland shown above is documented with a mortgage record on file at the Franklin County Recorder’s Office. The Ashland was only offered in the Sears Modern Home catalogs for two years, 1927 and 1928, so is considered a rare model. This is only the third Ashland listed on our Master List of Sears Houses Across the United States.
Thanks for following along, and I will be posting about Columbus and vicinity as my project progresses.