Saturday, January 17, 2015

My First Sears Crescent!

sears crescent 1926 rock hill missouri
1926 Sears Crescent in Rock Hill, Missouri (St. Louis)
I stumbled upon this Sears Crescent today, on my way home from work. I decided to take a
side-street detour on a street I hadn't been on before, because I could see that there were old bungalows on it.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this one, because I've read innumerable blog posts and FaceBook posts about this very popular Sears model, and all of its cousins and step-sisters from other kit companies and plan books, but I've never seen one in real life. This one definitely appears to be the real thing, though.

Why do I think so?

1. The Front Porch Roof With Its Cornice Returns
When you see this house in person, you're really struck by the size and presence of that front porch. It really feels like the main feature of this small home.  The cornice returns are a major identifying factor, as very few lookalikes have that feature.  Some of the other similar kit-home and plan-book versions have a similarly large porch roof, but others have a noticeably less-impressive entry.  The Crescent's porch roof should have:
• cornice returns
• a triangle shape at the peak
• a few inches of wood on each side of that triangle
• a boxy structure on each side, about 10" in depth, connecting the porch columns to the cornice returns

sears crescent porch supports
Notice the amount of space around the center triangle,
and the size of the boxy support structures on each side.
Probably one of the most common mistakes of a newcomer to house researching, is not taking into account the size and quality of the front porch of the Crescent (obviously, I speak from experience!).

Note how the front porch roof differs from the Crescent, in these examples:

la salle by liberty homes of lewis mfg
This is the LA SALLE, by Liberty Homes of Lewis Mfg. Company (from Archive.org, the 1947 catalogue).
If you were new to the game, and drove by this, having just seen your first photo of a Crescent, you might think you had spotted one.  The windows are good... sort of! They're close, but too even in size.  However, the porch roof is nothing like the impressive, elegant porch of the Crescent.  The columns for the porch roof are wrong, too. And, there are no side lights around the front door. The gables (the end sections of the roof) are clipped, too.    
Bennett Homes' SANFORD / CLIFTON and other lookalike Bennett models:
sears crescent clone bennett homes sanford  
Bennett Homes of North Tonawonda, NY, had this home, as well as other versions that seem to look just like it (Staunford, Clifton) in  catalogues available on Archive.org.  The porch roof is bigger than  Lewis' LA SALLE, but still lacks the impressiveness of the Crescent's porch roof.
bennett homes crescent lookalike
(Click here to go to the 1937 catalog for Bennett Homes, for more information.)

This photo gives a better impression, I think, of the proportion of the porch roof to the house:


crescent sears house st louis rock hill
Again, photos of this house are courtesy of Google Maps, October 2011.


2. The 3-part Front Windows
Most of the front of the Crescent is taken up by the porch and the two large, 3-part front windows that flank it. Always look at these windows. Not only are they three part, the two outer windows that flank the center one, should be noticeably slimmer -- maybe less than half the size of the center window. Other companies mostly had models with 2-part front windows, or single front windows, and of those that had three parts, those parts are usually similar to each other in size.

The Crescent's 3-part windows.
Originals will also have the little set of 8 panes
high up across the center window.
Wardway Homes (by Montgomery Ward) had two similar homes to the Crescent -- the Mount Vernon, and the Priscilla. Gordon-Van Tine had twins for each of those, whose names changed for different years of the catalogs.

The Mount Vernon (called Mayflower in other years?), seen below, differs from the Sears Crescent in these ways:
It does not have 3-part windows-- it has twin double windows on each side.  Gordon Van Tine's Stratford (1931)(called the Cabot in 1929?) looked just the same (with double windows) from the outside, and the GVT Oxford (1929) looked the same from the front, but had pointed gables instead of clipped gables, and a different floorplan (I think).
The porch roof is shaped differently-- it does not have cornice returns.
It has clipped gables (though sometimes, apparently, folks would opt to have pointed gables, so that's not as big of an identifying factor as the porch roof and the windows).

Take a look at this home in the Chicago area. It's a probable Wardway Mount Vernon. It's from an excellent and informative post by noted kit-home researcher, Lara Solonickne, at Sears Homes of Chicagoland:

Probable Wardway Mount Vernon, according to Lara Solonickne.
Note the double windows, as opposed to the Crescent's 3-part windows.
The front doorway has side lights, but the attractive front porch roof lacks the
cornice returns of the Crescent's porch roof.
gordon van tine stratford sears crescent lookalike
Gordon-Van Tine • 1931 • The Stratford
1929 • The Cabot
Standard Homes offered, in 1928, The Cornell, which looks remarkably like the GVT home shown above (at least on the exterior).  The medallion is a bit different. (source)
The Wardway Priscilla  (and the Gordon Van Tine Fairfield in 1931 -clipped gables/ Tremont in 1929-pointed gables) had a very similar look, but:
•  had only single front windows on each side of the porch
•  had no sidelights on either side of the front entry door
•  had a porch roof with cornice returns, that looked more like porch roof of the Sears Crescent

clipped gables wardway priscilla
This image of the Priscilla, is from the 1925 Wardway catalog, shown HERE on AntiqueHome.org.


The 1930 Wardway Potomac has this same porch roof style, but double windows... still no sidelights around the door:
Source-- from 1930 Wardway catalog
Gordon-Van Tine: The Chatham. In 1931, GVT did have a model with 3-part windows, but with a porch roof without cornice returns, so it was more like the porch roof of the Wardway Mount Vernon.

gvt chatham
The Chatham in 1931 = The Oxford in 1929
3. The Sidelights Around The Door
sears crescent sidelights
The arrows are pointing to the sidelights that flank the door.
The Crescent has a set of full sidelights on either side of the door. The sidelights, if original, should be a length of little square shapes, as you see in the image above. Some lookalikes have a different pattern in the glass of the sidelights, or there are no sidelights at all.

4. The Floor-Plan Footprint
While you can't tell the footprint of a house from a drive-by, you can find that information on the tax assessor's website for the county of the home.  The St. Louis County DOR website shows that the Crescent in Rock Hill (a suburb of St. Louis) has a footprint of 24 X 34 -- that's exactly the footprint of the smaller version of the Sears Crescent !

sears crescent floor plan 13086a
The 1925 Sears Catalogue (available here) shows this No. 13086A floorplan (later catalogs list it as the 3258A)
as the smallestof the two floorplan options availble for the Crescent. None of the other similar homes seem
to offer this size footprint.

Here is the footprint of our Rock Hill Crescent -- an exact match!

A Close Lookalike

sears crescent lookalike clone standard homes olmstead
Standard Homes OLMSTEAD model, in a 1929 catalogue collection offered by Gordon Lumber Company
(seen here on Archive.org).
It looks like the Standard Homes OLMSTEAD is a spot-on match on the outside, to our Rock Hill Crescent. However, a look at the catalogue page shows that the Olmstead has a 36' wide footprint -- the smaller Rock Hill Crescent is only 34' wide.

Two Radford Lookalikes
radford 15001-r sears crescent clone
This Radford plan-book model, from a 1927 lumberyard plan book, shows a very similar look to the Crescent.
 This one's footprint is a different size than the Crescent.  You can access this catalog page HERE, on Archive.org.
In 1925, The Harwick Lumber Company of Detroit put out a plan book that included this Radford model, The Fernwood.
A  C.L. Bowes Lookalike
crescent clone lookalike cl bowes
Source
A 1926 Gordon-Van Tine Lookalike
gordon van tine 635
Gordon-Van Tine No. 635 • 1926 Catalog
Source
National HomeBuilder's Society • 1923
Lincoln model: source
A Stetson & Post Lumber Co. Lookalike
sears crescent lookalike stetson & post seattle
Source: This Daily Bungalow album
Two More By C. L. Bowes
Another  C. L. Bowes plan-book model that is going for a Crescent porch roof look, but is straight across, instead of curved (and the house is tiny!):


c l bowes Creton crescent lookalike style
From a 1927 C.L. Bowes plan book, here.
And another C. L. Bowes plan-book model, the 14160-A:
c l bowes 14160-A crescent lookalike
Thanks to the excellent Daily Bungalow collection on Flickr,
you can see the full catalog image, here.
It's always important to look at the details of the porch roof and the number of windows in front.
Then, consider the placement of the chimney,  extensions on the back of the house, and side windows.
A Home of Your Own: A Lumber company plan book
source: Daily Bungalow

Source: Daily Bungalow

Conclusion:
We have a 1926 Sears Crescent, floor plan 13086A!*

Here's what it looked like in the 1925 catalogue mentioned above:

1925 sears crescent catalog image

And here's a view of our Rock Hill model from the same angle:

sears crescent rock hill st louis
You can see that our Rock Hill Crescent has a side doorway, leading to the kitchen and basement.  This is shown on the
floor plan No. 13086A on that same side (the catalogue image above is of one of the larger floor plans-- note the third column on each side of the porch, which was a feature of the larger floorplan [I learned that today from reading a January, 2013 blog post by Rosemary Thornton]). 

The 1925 catalogue describes what comes with the kit-home package:



As well as offering additional options:



Inside the 1926 Crescent, you'd no doubt find doors and woodwork like this beautiful pantry door in a Sears Josephine in Mt. Healthy, Ohio:

This photo was found on an October, 2014 blog post by the late Laraine Shape, a huge enthusiast of Sears Homes, who shared many of them on her blog, Sears Houses in Cincinnati. She was well-known, admired, and respected in the Sears Homes community of fellow enthusiasts. There are more photos of the beautiful woodwork in the interior of this Josephine, on Laraine's blog post, here.

This image is from Rose Thornton's blog post of January 28, 2013.  Go here to read this very interesting and informative blog post by this author of several Sears books, which shows a number of photos of other possible Crescents (I don't think it's mentioned whether or not each one is authenticated). It's interesting to note that this home's front porch is supported not by the expected two or three columns on each side, but by only one on each side (and, the columns don't connect to the porch roof with the same boxy structure as in other Crescents).   This one also has front windows that aren't quite the right size. This house has not been authenticated, and possibly is not a Sears Crescent.  EDIT: Noted researcher Lara Solonickne, of the blog Sears Homes of Chicagoland, has left a comment below, stating that this house is not a Crescent.
I'm pleased to have found this Sears Crescent today, and glad to have written about it here... especially because the street where it sits is full of older, somewhat neglected bungalows, that seem to be in danger of systematic tear-down and replacement with newer homes.  At least two of the homes visible in the October 2011 Google street views I used, are already gone.  So, if this house disappears along with the others, we'll at least know that there once sat a fine, Honor-Bilt Sears Crescent, at 1030 N. Rock Hill Road, in Rock Hill (St. Louis), Missouri, 63119.

To Read more about the two different floor plans of the Crescent, read this blog post of mine.

* Disclaimer: I have to add that I have not actually authenticated this house as would be required to definitely declare it to be a Sears house.  To do that, you would need something like (correctly) marked lumber; original mortgage or deed papers; building permit showing Sears somehow; or blueprints. When declaring a house to be a certain model from a certain company, one really must make that disclaimer. I can only say that the process of elimination shows this to most probably be a Sears Crescent.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Josephine by Sears • Columbus, Ohio • late 1920s

josephine by sears 1929
1929 Josephine, by Sears, with a 2003 little addition there on the side.

This little home was built on Acton Road in Columbus, Ohio,  in 1929.

At least, that's what the assessor's site says about the house.  But, the foreclosure deed* says that Walker O. Lewis (trustee for Sears) received the house back from Ada Belle Murphy (and her husband, William Ray Murphy) in 1927... and that their mortgage deed began in 1926.  I'm still not fully clear on how these foreclosure deeds for Sears worked, but they usually show Walker O. Lewis, and then, a year or so later, Sears Roebuck & Co.  

This is a snippet from a public document on the Franklin County Assessor's site.

The Josephine was available in Sears catalogues from 1921 through 1929, according to HOUSES BY MAIL (that nifty book published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation).  The Josephine is on page 258.

I don't have an actual Sears catalogue, as so many avid researchers do.  These days, there are wonderful digital copies of several issues of kit-home and plan-book catalogues on archive.org.  Right now, that's good enough for my needs. 

sears house joesphine in catalog 1921
Here is the Josephine, as shown in the 1921 catalogue.  You can see that, even though there is a little addition on the side now, the  little window closest to the front is visible there.  The front porch has had some changes, though,
The Josephine could be bought at one of two price points: 

You can click on the images to see them in larger format.

                  
               
  • Honor Built (which meant, in this case, stronger build, and all lumber pre-cut and fitted)
  • Lighter Built (which meant that your joists were further apart, you had maybe 2 X 6 lumber instead of 2 X 8, you had a less-expensive roofing material, you had single-glaze window glass, and you had one single layer of flooring, instead of a sub floor plus finished wood layer -- and, your lumber would come to you not yet cut and fitted)
I don't know what Ada Belle and William Ray chose.  They would have paid about one third more, though, for the stronger, pre-cut Honor Built version.

If they did choose the Honor Built version, then here is what their flooring would have looked like:


Sears described the quality of their wood choices, and everything else, as being "a little better than you have a right to expect". Heh heh :) That made me chuckle.  My husband, too.  That was on page 11 of the 1921 catalogue I got all of these images from.  You can see it yourself here.

No hemlock, spruce, or inferior types of lumber!
(You can see how the pre-cut, pre-fitted lumber was marked at the edges.)
Still, though... one of the selling points for these Sears kit houses now, is that we know that they were made of strong, old-growth lumber, of the type you can't even get anymore.  The wood in these homes was solid and strong.  



So, we don't know what the Murphy family had hoped for.  They must have hoped for their little 4-room, 1-bath home to look something like this lovely idea in the catalogue:


I guess all we do know, now, is that they didn't get to live in their little Josephine.  But, since 2003, the current owners have an extra bedroom, and an extra bath,  thanks to that little addition there on the left side of the house... all packed into 952 square feet.  

*Thanks, Cindy C., for pointing my nose in the right direction to find this house you had already found :)