Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blogs About Sears Homes and Other Kit Homes

sears houses in cincinnati
A beautiful, authenticated Sears Osborn, as shown in a post on the tribute blog, Sears Houses in Cincinnati
I love reading about, and researching, Sears kit houses. If you do, too, you might be interested in a few of the blogs I turn to regularly for well-presented and thoughtfully-researched information, along with wonderful photos of Sears houses, and homes by other kit companies and plan-book companies of the 19-teens through 1930s.

radford gordon van tine wardway sears modern homes lewis sterling

Along the way in my own readings and research, I learned that several other kit-house companies existed, too (some larger than Sears, and older), and some of the bloggers I read include excellent information about homes by those companies, too: among them Aladdin, Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway (by Montgomery Ward), Harris Brothers (and their earlier name, Chicago House Wrecking Company), Lewis (later Lewis-Liberty), Sterling, and Bennett Homes.  All of these companies sold houses through catalogs, selling house blueprints, and bundling them up with all of the needed pre-cut-and-labeled lumber, screws and nuts and bolts, windows and doors, framing wood and millwork, staircases and built-ins, and even paint, stain, flooring, shingles, light fixtures, bathtubs, sinks, faucets, and heating systems.

Other companies sold only the blueprints, requiring you to turn to your local lumber yard for all of the needed supplies. We call these, Plan Book companies, and their house plans were usually compiled in books available at local lumber yards (who were all in deep competition with the mail-order kit-house companies). Some of the big names you might read about are: Radford, C. L. Bowes, Standard Homes, and Home Builders Catalog. There are others, too.

Here's a list of a few blogs you might enjoy, given in no particular oder. They're all informative and well-done. They're not updated daily, because research takes time, but each post is worth the wait:

1. Sears Houses in Cincinnati
laraine shape blog
This blog is a tribute blog, re-creating the blog posts of Laraine Shape, a Cincinnati Realtor and Sears House enthusiast, who passed away in January of 2015.  Her good friend, Cindy Catanzaro (of Sears Houses in Ohio), collected all of the words and photos of Laraine's original blog, and is, little by little, re-publishing her posts.  Cincinnati is, as Cindy has said, like Disneyland for Sears House enthusiasts, because there are hundreds (and hundreds?) of Sears houses there, thanks to the existence there of a company called Norwood Sash & Door, which was headquartered in Cincinnati.  Sears bought the company, and used them for the fabrication of its millwork, doors, and windows. The image at the top of today's blog post, is of a beautiful, authenticated Sears Osborn, and comes from the November 14, 2015 blog post.  Since Laraine was a realtor, many of the posts she wrote included lots of great interior photos, which is rare.
Click here to read the informative post about that Osborn
Click here to get to the home page of Sears Houses in Cincinnati

2. Sears Homes of Chicagoland
sears-homes.com
Whenever I needed information and photos of houses, I found myself turning to this blog all of the time, before I even knew its author, researcher Lara Solonickne.  Lara began this blog several years ago, when she realized that there was a real dearth of information available to show Sears Homes in the greater Chicago area... another area of the country that is rife with Sears homes, because Sears was headquartered in Chicago. While the blog focuses on Sears homes in the Chicago area, Lara also occasionally includes Wardway or Gordon-Van Tine homes, or the occasional Harris or Home Builders plan-book home.  Her blog is informative, well-researched, and often includes some history about the original owners of the homes.  As Lara is an avid researcher, she also sometimes includes posts that provide background information on how Sears developed its Modern Homes division. Lara is responsible for beginning the National Database of Sears Homes.
Click here to go to the home page of Sears Homes of Chicagoland (www.sears-homes.com)

3.  Sears Houses In Ohio
blog on sears houses
Researcher and Sears house expert, Cindy Catanzaro, is based in Springfield, Ohio.  She became interested in Sears homes when she realized that she owned one, a Sears Jeanette model.  Since then, she has become a leading authority on Sears homes, and leads tours of Sears homes in Springfield, Ohio.  Her blog includes homes found throughout her state, and touches on research methods and other historic background on the houses she includes. A number of the homes that Cindy writes about, have been located and authenticated through meticulous research of mortgage records using Ohio's excellent on-line tax assessor and auditor resources.  But, she also has a great eye for spotting Sears models, as well as homes from other companies.  Cindy is also the administrator behind the Facebook page, Sears Modern Homes, where you can see images of Sears homes, learn about the background of kit homes, and ask questions.
Click here to read Sears Houses in Ohio
Click here to go to the Facebook page, Sears Modern Homes

4.  Kit House Hunters
andrew and wendy mutch novi michigan
Researchers and kit-house enthusiasts Andrew and Wendy Mutch live in Michigan, in a wonderful 1926 Sears Hamilton model.  Who knew there were so many kit houses in Michigan!? I didn't, but I've learned about tons of them, thanks to Andrew's input in our research-oriented Facebook group -- we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in the blog posts so far! Besides showing homes, Andrew's posts frequently highlight research that he has done authenticating Sears homes and Wardway homes, especially, and providing research-backed information on the development of kit-house companies in the U.S.  Andrew has located hundreds of houses in communities in Michigan, New York State, and elsewhere, through top-notch research of mortgages and historic publications.  He and Wendy are both information professionals, and they share their research via the blog, but also through presentations in local communities in Michigan.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of their presentations, don't miss it!  Andrew is also a co-administrator of the Facebook page, Sears Modern Homes.
Click here to read Kit House Hunters

Other Resources
If your blog reading has given you a taste for further research on your own, I've provided a list of a few great resources in the side column on the right of my blog (Don't miss Daily Bungalow's albums on Flickr, the resources found at Antique Home, and online original catalogs you can find via this link.) Happy hunting! This is an enjoyable hobby, but also an important bit of research into an unusual phenomenon in American History.

4 comments:

  1. Wow. Great! Thanks for having all these in one place for those who are interested. I always look forward to new information from you, and learn something regularly from your in depth research about the slight differences in the Sears models. We all have different methods and research resources, and being able to share information has brought so much new knowledge to light. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, everyone has their own writing and research styles. Some styles will resonate with readers more than others!

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  2. Awww thanks Judith! XX

    Laraine of Cincinnati is the queen, in my opinion. No kit house website has the photos and content that she has. You can't get that content by just grabbing Google Streetview shots. I bow down! (And much thanks to Cindy for salvaging Laraine's material before it was deleted!)

    Lara
    Sears Homes of Chicagoland
    sears-homes.com

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  3. Thanks...I just made a file for all the sears blogs you mentioned and a few extras!

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