It takes a group……..a group of dedicated Sears House researchers…….to locate and document homes purchased as kits from Sears, Roebuck. And the group I am in is just that.
When we locate a new primary source of information, we are anxious to see what we find. But first, we have to figure out who is doing what. Some projects are more complicated or time consuming than others, and need to be shared. Other times, it makes more sense for one person to handle the project, especially if they are familiar with the area to be researched.
That’s what happened recently, when Andrew located digitized editions of a trade magazine that published information on building permits that had been obtained in the Cincinnati area for the years we research. He turned the project over to me, since I have become pretty good at navigating the records in Hamilton County and have become familiar with a lot of the neighborhoods where we find Sears Houses in Cincinnati.
There are several ways to document a house purchased from Sears, and one of them is to find their name listed on a building permit.
Usually when we find a permit with Sears, Roebuck listed, it is for one house, though I have seen some with more than one. In this case, the first permit was for five houses, with one on the second notice, all to be built by C.W. Kibler on the south side of Markbreit Ave.
And the best part of these six houses? They were built in 1909!
The first Sears Modern Homes catalog was published in 1908, and these permits were issued in April of 1909, so this was truly an exciting find.
We know the Cincinnati area is loaded with Sears Houses due to the Norwood Sash and Door factory that was owned by Sears, but that didn’t get started until 1912, so these homes pre date that.
In the world of co-incidences, Andrew had just located three early Sears models on Markbreit Ave., because one of them had recently been for sale, and he thought he recognized it from the Realtor pictures. Then he checked out the rest of the street and spotted two more. And they were all on the south side of Markbreit.
I messaged Andrew about the permit, and back we went to see what else we could find. And….we found them all.
Since these are early models, they are identified by a model number, not a name. Sears didn’t start using names until about 1917.
Here they are! Some of these photos were taken today (Aug 24, 2022), by our newest research team member, Matthew, who just happens to live in the Cincinnati area. Some of the photos are older ones from the Auditor’s website and show some of the original details that aren’t there now. And some are from Google maps. The next time I go to Cincinnati, I will have to drive past them myself. Too bad we didn’t know about them a couple weeks ago, when I went there with another member of my research group for a full day’s drive around the area.
The Sears No. 103 – later called The Lucerne – there were two of these built at 3131 and 3139 Markbreit Ave.
The Sears No. 121 – later called The Altona
The Sears No. 133 – later called The Springfield – there were 2 of these built for sure. We think there is a 3rd one on the block but it isn’t quite right so I’m not adding it to this post.
The Sears No. 111 – later called The Chelsea
After finding the building permits for these houses, of course we were curious about why somebody from North Carolina was building multiple Sears Houses in Cincinnati. A quick search on Newspapers.com gave us a little information.
Of course now we have more questions. If our Mr. Kibler had lumber in North Carolina, did he just purchase plans from Sears? Maybe. Unless we get inside one of these homes and find some train mailing labels, we’ll never know where the lumber actually came from. But there were a lot more materials needed besides the framing lumber, so Mr. Kibler probably did purchase that from Sears. In any case, this is an important and exciting find for our group.
Eventually, I will get around to telling you about my day trip to Muncie, Indiana, and share some houses from a mini meet up with Nigel and Marie, also earlier this month. It’s been a Sears House August!
Thanks for following along.