Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sears Clifton in Nearby Webster Groves, Missouri ( & many other 1920s and 30s catslide models)


sears house in st louis webster groves
Authenticated Sears Clifton with added dormers • 660 Oakland Avenue, Webster Groves, MO • 1932
This lovely little Sears Clifton is very near my house.  And I found it quite unexpectedly one day, when I finally decided to turn right on a side street that I normally take a left onto.

What a surprise when a swoopy smacked me in the face! That's the term I sometimes use for referring to the A-shaped cat-slide something-or-other shape of the front entry area (it's certainly not the official term). You see this on many models of late 1920s and early 1930s homes, not just by Sears, but by Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway, other kit home companies, and every plan book.  I would imagine that this is one of those styles that typically gets a novice kit-house hunter excited, thinking that she has found a Sears house, when the house may really be from one of any number of builders, or be one of any number of Sears models, for that matter.

sears catalog 1930
Here is The Clifton, as advertised in my 1930 Sears Honor Bilt Modern Homes catalog.
You can see that it is a very nice match for the home above. Note the left side extension with the double windows, the single window to the left of the entry gable, the shape and size of the entry gable, the window placement on the left section behind the extension, and the back left lower extension of the house. 
1930 catalog.

But, since this is actually a very common characteristic, there are many other details that you need to take into consideration when trying to pin down what model a home is, that you are looking at:

• What is the shape of this swoopy gable section?
• How far up does it start on the short side?
• How far down does it go on the long side?
• How big is the swoopy front gable?
• How many windows are on the front of the house, on each side of the front gable entry?
• Is there a chimney, where is it, and what does it look like?
• How wide is the house?
• Is there an additional section bumping out somehow (like you see here, on your left)?
• How are the windows placed all over each of the sides of the house?
• Is there an expected additional back section behind the house (like you see here)?

sears house webster groves missouri
You can see that everything is just as it should be!
It is important, also, to look at the floor plan, as it is shown in the catalog.  My 1930 catalog shows these two floor plan images, and they indicate for you where you should expect to see windows, and whether the windows should be single or double.
sears catalog 1930 floor plan
You can see the two sets of double windows on the left side of the first floor, and then the single one in the back, on the left, in the kitchen.  And, you can see that you need to look for three single windows, on the first floor right side, spaced pretty well apart. 
Comparing against the floor plan images is especially helpful when the catalog only shows you one side of the actual constructed house.

sears house oakland avenue clifton model
Here you see the three first-floor windows on the right side, just as you'd expect them to be.
This shot also clarifies that there is just a single window on each side of the swoopy front gable entry, which is also what is shown by looking at the floor plan.  And, you see that there is a double window upstairs, on the right side, as shown in the 2nd-floor floor plan, below.
sears catalog 1930s floor plan
There's the double window you expect on the right side, upstairs, and the single window you expect on the house itself, on the left side. However, on the house at 660 Oakland, they must have opted for a double window there, or added a larger window sometime since 1932.
Five or Seven Rooms: It's Up To You
The 1930 and 1932 catalogs include information showing that you could order this house with only the first floor finished, making it a 2-bedroom, 5-room bungalow, or, complete the finish of the second floor rooms, to give you two more bedrooms and an additional storage area... making it, then, a 7-room house.

As advertised in the 1932 catalog.
Description from the 1930 catalog, about how you could opt to finish off the second floor at the time of build, or later on.
Since the house at 660 Oakland has dormers, my guess would be that they finished off the second floor at the time of build.  Those dormers have some similarity to a Sears-style, as seen in some other Sears homes, like the Lorain model.  Since time of build in 1932, the 660 Oakland Clifton looks to have had new windows and siding, so they surely must have altered the look of the dormer, a bit, but that rounded style is probably not what you would get in an add-on dormer later in the life of the house.

Probably originally the same dormer as the Lorain had, changed during re-siding and adding of new windows.
Front Door and Interior Accessory Options
It is often helpful to look at the front door of your house, to compare it against models offered by Sears.  Of course, a door alone is never a sole indicator that your house is a Sears kit, because, for one thing, different companies shared some door styles, and, for another, many plan-book homes were built with Sears lumber and supplies -- which means that they are not considered a "kit" home, or even a Sears catalog home -- because the design didn't come from Sears, and the lumber isn't pre-cut and marked for ease of construction. But, Sears did offer the service, earlier even than their catalog-home service, of preparing and bundling all of the lumber and supplies you would need, and shipping them to you, if you sent them either a blueprint, or a construction-company-prepared "Bill of Materials" list. This is why just finding even a shipping label on the back of such things as window trim, would not necessarily mean that your whole house is a Sears kit house. For example, I previously lived in a 1907 solid-brick home in the city of St. Louis, that had a dining room chandelier from the Sears Princess line, and had some simple door hardware and hinges and cabinetry -- including a Sears Hoosier cabinet-- in the kitchen, as well as a Sears clawfoot tub, but it was definitely not a Sears kit house, or a Sears catalog house. It was built before Sears catalog homes were available, and it was solid brick (not face brick), which was never available in catalog homes from Sears.

sears light fixture sears chandelier
This is the chandelier that we had in our 1907 solid-brick home, though the home itself was not from a Sears catalog.
An obvious issue here, too, is that this chandelier was offered by Sears in the 1930s, and our home had been built in 1907, so it was clearly not original.  It was probably purchased when the family bought their dining-room set, which was of a 1930s style. The original owners of the Clifton at 660 Oakland Avenue, might have chosen this style lighting fixture, but others were offered, too.
But, that, coupled with other things, like family history, a preponderance of other evidence, like style and size and footprint and layout of the house, can help you come to the likely conclusion that your house is a Sears house. Of course, stamped lumber, or grease-pen-marked lumber, or blueprints, would definitely authenticate your house.  In the case of this house at 660 Oakland Avenue, I also came across the 1932 mortgage deed, signed by Sears trustee E. Harrison Powell, so this is an authenticated Sears catalog house!
sears door
Here is the front door. This is a style that Sears offered, and we've seen it on other Sears homes.
sears catalog 1932 door jeanette clifton
UPDATE September 5, 2015: Apparently, when you ordered your house, you could pick and choose from the different styles of decorative hinges and glass openings, to mix and match. Here is more information on that, from another blog post of mine.
sears catalog vintage chandelier
Another lighting option available to the family who built this Clifton, is the "Imperial" set.
sears vintage door hardware la tosca
sears catalog door hardware 1930ssears shefton door hardware vintage

The Hankins Family of 660 Oakland Avenue
My mortgage deed research, coupled with further research on Ancestry.com, shows us that it was Howard and Gretchen Hankins who had this Sears Clifton built for their home, in 1932, when they were in their early thirties, and had a little 4-year old boy.  They lived here until at least 1940, because the 1940 census shows 39 and 38 year old Howard and Gretchen, along with their 12 year old son, Joe, still living at this address.  Howard had attended one year of college, and was earning about $2,450 per year, working as a railway mail clerk.  Their home is valued at about $5,500.
ancestry.com hankins family webster groves missouri
The Hankins family, from the 1940 Census, which is as late as we can find on Ancestry.com.
Previous to living here, the Hankins were renting a cute little 1905 house in nearby Kirkwood, Missouri, at 201 S. Van Buren, in a lovely neighborhood just a couple of miles from the location of their new Sears home.  The 1930 census shows that they were paying $30/month for rent.

201 s. van buren kirkwood missouri
201 S. Van Buren, Kirkwood, Missouri -- previous residence of the Hankins family.
Other Styles With the Swoopy Catslide Front Gable
As I mentioned earlier, the A-shape cat-slide front gable entry area is a common feature in 1920s and 1930s era homes.  Here are a few other Sears models with this shape in the front, followed by several examples from other companies. They differ from the Sears Clifton model in a variety of ways, so it's always important to look at all of the other features I listed above. Click on any image to enlarge.
claremont sears catalog
Sears Claremont
(later called The Riverside?). We see this model very often.
Brick version : Kendale
The brick version of the Claremont, is the Kendale, depicted below, in the 1932 catalog.

Sears Kendale, in the 1932 catalog, here.
The Sears Hartford is offered in the 1932 catalog, and it has two versions, a 4-room, and a 5-room. The 5-room version is the same size as the Claremont (24' wide X 36' deep), but the room layout is different. The 4-room version is slightly smaller (22' wide  X 32' deep).  All three models look pretty much the same from the front!
hartford sears catalog
Sears Hartford . At first glance, it looks quite like the Claremont,
but the footprint is actually a bit different.
randolph sears catalog
Sears Randolph (The Willard is the cedar shingles version)
sears catalog maplewood model ridgeland model
Sears Maplewood (later called The Ridgeland)
See my August 2015 blogpost for a 1930 brick veneer Maplewood.
The Sears Dover and Mansfield
The Sears Dover is depicted three different ways over its years in the catalogs. In the 1928, '29, and '30 catalogs, it is shown with a very straight line to the long side of the entry gable (the "catslide"), as shown here:
sears dover with straight line entry gable early version
Notice the straight line to the long side of the entry gable.
This picture is from the 1930 catalog.
Thanks to researcher Karen DeJeet, whose great eye for detail
brought this catalog difference to our attention.
In 1932, the Dover is depicted in the catalog with a longer, and gracefully curved "catslide".  This is what we usually think of, when we think of the Dover.  Notice, also, that the windows at the front of the left elevation (this is the living room), are double windows on the house shown here in the catalog. The floor plan, however, shows triple windows there (as shown in the earlier catalog images).

sears dover catalog 1932
1932 Sears Dover (note clipped gables)
(See the difference in the1940 version of the Dover
 at DailyBungalow
Sears introduced a brick-veneer version of the Dover, naming it the Mansfield:

Sears Mansfield.
See the somewhat similar (no clipped gables) Croydon,
from 1939 and 1940, on a blog post by
Sears Homes of Chicagoland
But, in 1940, the Dover's "catslide" front entry gable was changed to an A-frame design, with both sides of the entry gable the same length. The fireplace was also moved to the left side of the house:
sears dover 1940
1940 Dover with its A-frame style entry gable, and chimney moved to the side.
See it here in the 1940 catalog on Archive.org.
Then, there is the similar-looking Croydon, in 1940:
1940 catalog page

Wardway Kenwood
(from a blog post by Lara Solonickne,
at Sears Homes of Chicagoland)
montgomery wards plymouth house kit 1930
1930 Wardway Plymouth
(from AntiqueHomeStyle)
gordon van tine briarcliff cat slide entry
1931- Gordon-Van Tine The Briarcliff
(I believe this is the same house as the 1936 Lane model) 

gordon van tine avon gordon van tine willow
Gordon-Van Tine 1936 Avon
(The Willow, in 1931, without the little eyelid dormer)
gordon van tine 1931 oriole
Gordon-Van Tine 1936 Burton
(1931-- The Oriole)
gordon van tine big swoop cat slide
Gordon-Van Tine 1936 Arlington (wow! What a swoop!)
sears maplewood lookalike sterling glencoe 1939
Sterling GLENCOE • 1939 (source)
sears claremont lookalike sterling dresden 1939
Sterling DRESDEN • 1939 (source)
sterling homes 1930 cat slide entry
Sterling Homes 1930 The Pontiac (source)

sterling homes 1930 cat slide entry
Sterling Homes 1930 The Chevy Chase (source)
Aladdin The Gables, 1933
Aladdin The Madison, 1931
(called The Lindbergh in the 1929 catalog.)

Aladdin Stratford (1931) 
aladdin 1931 cat slide entry
Aladdin 1931 The Bristol

lewis liberty liberty homes 1931 cat slide entry
1931 Lewis (Liberty Homes): The Wellington (source)
Lewis Mfg. Company, Liberty Homes • 1939 • Cambridge
(Source: Daily Bungalow album)
Liberty Ashland • 1939
(Source: Daily Bungalow album)

The Denny • 1928 Home Builders (Plan Book)
(Source: Antique Home's Daily Bungalow album)

radford 15373
1930 Radford No. 15373 (plan book, not kit)
radford catslide
1925 Radford MANSFIELD (similar to No. 15373,
but with a dormer in front, center. (from AntiqueHome)
radford model no 15374
1930 Radford No. 15374 (plan book, not kit)
Bennett Homes • 1937 • Allenhurst (source)

Bennett Homes • 1937 • Winston (source)

Daily Bungalow: Bennett Jackson 1930
Bennett Homes • 1930 • Jackson
(Daily Bungalow: 1930 Bennett Homes catalog)
2 floor plans • lookalike to Sterling Dresden, above) 
Sears in the Neighborhood
I found two other Sears models, built the same year, in the same neighborhood as this Sears Clifton, and have authenticated them with mortgages, as well, so stay tuned for further blog posts about a Stanford and a Randolph!

4 comments:

  1. Judith, your American houses are lovely and the architecture is very interesting comparing to our houses are big. But mine summrer house is also big when I lood at this one..

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    Replies
    1. Gosia, these are interesting, aren't they? But, keep in mind that we have many, many kids of houses around the United States! These that I show are typical of older homes from the 1920s and 1930s, but newer homes come in many styles, big and small.

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  2. Hi, there -

    This was the page I was looking for today! Caught sight of what I thought might be a Sears house a few weeks back and didn't start to look it up until tonight. Something like a Sears Clifton but not a good match. I decided to Google search Sear Clifton and found this page. God bless you and your swoopy-thingies listing. The house I saw matched the Lewis Wellington exactly (except of course for the huge two story addition on the back and the breezeway and garage added, but, well . . .) Thanks! My first Lewis-Liberty ID! Take care.

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    Replies
    1. Great, Robb! I'm so glad you found your match! Congrats on the first Lewis-Liberty ID!

      I find it helpful to have the "swoopies" together like this, and use this page myself when I've got one.

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