It’s always fun to discover that an Ohio County has digitized old records and added them to their Recorder’s website. That’s what happened a couple weeks ago.
As my research group’s total number of Sears houses in the United States approached the 14,000 mark in late November, I was super interested in finding enough houses to get us over that goal by the end of 2021.
Then…….a couple members of my group decided to move some houses off the main list to a separate tab. The majority of those houses were homes built as part of the Home Club plan, which Sears got up and running after 1940.
Here’s some info on those houses.
The result of moving the Home Club Plan houses left us in no position to get to 14,000 homes on the main list by the end of the year, and I was pretty bummed. In fact, I quit looking for a couple of weeks. Then I got over it, and went back to doing what I do. Look for old records on line. And I found them in Summit County.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Summit County is home to Akron, which we know has loads of Sears Houses. Sears sold multiple houses to more than one company in Akron, and used street views of them in catalogs throughout the 1920’s.
Here’s some info on one street full.
The records available are mortgage index books, by Mortgagor.
The Mortgagor is the person who got the mortgage, not the lender, so in order to find the houses mortgaged through Sears, you have to go through all the books, page by page, looking for the names of the two Sears Trustees who signed off on the paperwork in Ohio. Those two were Walker O Lewis and E Harrison Powell.
The books are indexed alphabetically, in groups of years, so there are lots of books.
Fortunately, the way the years are arranged is beneficial to our research. Sears started offering mortgages about 1912, and ended financing programs about 1933, so the 1915-1923 and 1924-1934 groupings are just about perfect.
A Winter project! And since it’s a big one, my research partner, Marie, is working the books, too. I started at the beginning of the alphabet, and Marie started at the end. We keep up to date on where we are through a shared document on Google Drive. Sounds like work, eh? But to us crazy Sears House researchers, it’s just fun, fun, fun.
And what’s even more fun is that we are finding loads of mortgages and loads of houses. Not all mortgage records will lead to a Sears House though. Remember, we’re talking over 100 years ago, in an industrial city in the Midwest. Lots of houses are gone. Some demolished due to blight, some to road expansions (damn those Interstates), some have been remuddled beyond recognition. But we are adding houses just about every day now, and our main list went over the 14,000 mark this week. Only a couple weeks late, so not too bad!
I will be doing a few blog posts over the next few weeks, to show off some our finds, and when we are finished, I will put together some numbers to share, just for historical purposes.
The first mortgage I found ended up being on a parcel that is now part of a large hospital. Gone.
The second one I found led me to a Sears Rockford, a model that was only offered for a few years, 1926- 1930. The Rockford had a brick facade.
The Rockford in Akron was built reversed from the catalog illustration, an option Sears offered on most of their models at no extra charge.
This side shows the window arrangement we can see in the catalog illustration.
The house carried a $5400 mortgage through Sears dated 7/2/1929. It’s in the Beverly Park Allotment.
One of Marie’s early fun finds was a Custom designed home built through the Sears Home Construction Division, which was started about 1929. Sears would help you find local contractors and assist with the planning and design if you needed that. Or you could bring your own plans, and they would subcontract the house for you. And you could get your mortgage on their regular terms.
This house was featured in an advertisement for Sears Home Construction in their 1933 catalog.
Here she is!
The house in Silver Lake was financed for $7000 through Sears on 4/14/1932.
That’s all for now. I’ve got houses to find!
Thanks for following along.