Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sears #110 (Silverdale) in Massachusetts (and a GVT No. 167 in Hettick, IL)

sears no 110
Our Family's 1911 Sears #110 (Silverdale)

In 1911, my maternal great grandparents (both first-generation immigrants from Russian Poland) ordered a house from a Sears catalogue. They chose the #110, later known as the Silverdale.  In 1911, Sears had not yet begun selling their houses as pre-cut packages (known as "kits"), but they did sell the blueprints and all of the needed lumber, hardware, windows, door knobs, screws, nails, shingles, floorboards, mill work, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures-- all as one big package, shipped by rail to a nearby railroad station, where it would be picked up by the buyer, and hauled back to the home site... to be constructed by a hired crew, or by the buyers themselves.

Descendants of my great grandparents still own and reside in this home, and this is where my mother grew up. The design of the upper floor was modified at the time of purchase of the blueprints, to accommodate two families, and, over its 100+ years of history, it has had several other additions and alterations, but it sits on the exact footprint of the #110 as shown in the Sears catalogue, and still contains many of the tell-tale signs of a true Sears #110.  (Though we knew the story of our family home, our house has been authenticated as a Sears house by noted architectural historian, Rebecca Hunter, through shipping labels, visuals, and family history.) Our house has held its own against at least two major floods-- all the way up into the second floor of the house-- but sits today, lovingly cared for by my aunt and uncle, with the same patch of peonies that my grandmother planted many, many decades ago. Here is the story of our family home.

(NOTE ON PHOTOS: All photos used here are the property of the blogger, and may not be used for any reason, without a direct, legible, link to this blog post. Many thanks to my cousin Martha for the wonderful family photos used here.)

Design and Alterations Through the Years

sears no 110 model northampton massachusetts
sears no 110 front porch
In the top photo, of my mom's uncle, you can see the original clapboard siding on the house.  It was later re-sided with cedar shingles.
sears 110 floor plan

sears no 110 front door
sears model 126 catalog
On the right, is a photo of the door of another Sears house -- same door! The dark door also has the original round doorbell, one of which was also on our family's front door, originally.
Click on image to go to Rose Thornton's blog post.

Residents of the Massachusetts #110 Through the Years

My maternal great-grandparents, Jan and Franciszka, purchased and built the Sears #110 in 1911.
If you were able to look really closely here, you would see that the house, at this date, still had the very tight, narrow, wooden clapboard, for its siding. At some point, shortly after this, it was re-sided with cedar shingling. I learned about this bit of info this summer, from my cousin Pete (pictured in the 1959 photo, below), while visiting the family this summer.
The house as it looks today (upper left); the house as it looked in 1940 (upper right), before some of the alterations to the back of the house; the #110/Silverdale as shown in the Sears catalogue.
Another wonderful family photo (thanks, Martha M.!), circa 1959, showing the back of the house, pre- enclosure of the back porch, and pre-2nd-floor addition above the back porch.
The Gordon Van Tine #167 – a Silverdale / #110 Lookalike
Browsing through the Gordon Van Tine (GVT) 1916 catalogue on one day recently, I came across a Silverdale lookalike! The GVT model is called the #167, and is almost an exact duplicate in floor plan and design, of the Sears #110/Silverdale. There are two noticeable differences: 

• A spot on the left side of the house, where there is a small window (on the GVT model) looking into the front vestibule of the house, where there is a full-size window on the Sears model. 

• The front porch roof is a 3-part roof on the GVT model, but a 4-part roof on the Sears model (this also alters the placement of the entryway onto the porch).

I had read a blog post by Rose Thornton (noted researcher of Sears Homes and Wardway Homes, and author of several books and websites on these subjects) in the past, about a house she identified as a Silverdale, in Hettick, IL.  When I came across this GVT #167, and compared its image to the one Rose posted on her blog, I noticed that the Hettick, IL house she was showing, had the two characteristics that would distinguish it as a GVT, instead of as a Sears Silverdale.  

I left a comment on her blog, bringing this to her attention, and she graciously replied that she felt that the house in Hettick is most probably a GVT #167, and not a Silverdale.  To read Rose’s blog post on the Hettick, IL house, clickhere. To see the GVT 1916 catalogue page showing the #167, clickhere. (To read a newer blog post [March 2015] about ANOTHER company's Silverdale/110 lookalike, click HERE.)
gordon van tine 167 hettick illinois
On the Sears #110 / Silverdale, you see the four-part porch roof.  Even though the placement of the steps and opening to enter the porch was moved to the left side of the porch (during original construction), the roof still has that four-part  construction.

To learn more about Sears Kit Homes, Gordon Van Tine Kit Homes, Wardway Kit Homes, and more:

Houses By Mail (A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and Company) -- published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation [Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl]
Kit (Architectural Researcher Rebecca Hunter's website, which also lists her books)
Sears Archives (the basic background on Sears Mail-Order homes, with some images from catalogues)
The Houses That Sears Built (and others on Sears Homes and Montgomery Ward "Wardway" kit homes) [Rose Thornton]-- that link takes you to Rose Thornton's blog on catalogue houses, as well.
Gordon Van (by noted researcher and author Dale Wolicki)
History and Field Guide to Wardway Homes: [by Rose Thornton and Dale Wolicki]
Sears Homes of Chicagoland (a very informative blog) (a source for many images of house plans from many kit-home companies and plan-book companies throughout the 20th century)
The Arts & Crafts Society (a blog with images and information for Sears Homes and others)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing all of your information! My house is essentially the same as the Silverdale, except for that it was built in or before 1886. There are so many similarities to the house you've documented above, including the side door which was at one time an entrance for an upstairs apartment. Parts of my house are clearly Victorian era and others have been remodeled over time. Our front porch, which was not a wrap-around, was incorporated into the house. Out of curiosity, are your bathrooms in the same location as the above plan? The version we looked at doesn't have any on it at all. ( ) I thought it was interesting that the store room on this plan became the bath on the plan you show, as I've assumed my downstairs bath was previously a pantry.
    I've been going a little crazy trying to document my house and am fascinated by this Sears House development. I wonder where Sears got their plans! ;)

    1. Hi Rebecca -- thanks for your comment!

      My family's house does have the first-floor bath in the area that the earliest Silverdale (No. 110) floor plans show as the "storage" area. I believe, but am not 100% certain, that the house, when built in 1911, was built with indoor plumbing, and a bathroom in that spot. I may be wrong, but I believe that is what I heard.

      Your house sounds very similar to one I know of in Michigan, that, as I understand it, also has the same floor plan and room sizes as the No. 110, but a few things, like window sizes and number of windows, are different, and the front porch is as you describe yours. It also seems to possibly date from before 1900, but there is no definite record of the build date. Also, that one, and another that I have seen in McKeesport, PA (I think?), have a taller space above the front porch -- big enough to accommodate full-sized windows, which the size of that area of the Silverdale/110, could not.

      Thanks for your comment. I imagine that it would be pretty difficult to document the origin of a home of the era of yours. I understand that the gabled ell style is a very old, standard style that dates back to long ago, so Sears architects wouldn't have had to look far for inspiration :)

    2. The Sanborn fire insurance maps were very helpful in documenting the age of our house, and many of them are now available online. All of the abstracts for my town were destroyed (intentionally) at some point, so if they don't know the exact date of a house they list it as built in 1900, which really means around or before then. The Sanborn maps are also handy for documenting additions to houses.
      You can see a slideshow of my block that I created with the Sanborn maps here:


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