Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sears Rochelle in South Burlington, Vermont

1210 shelburne rd s burlington vt
1210 Shelburne Road (Us 7) • S. Burlington, Vermont • Probable Sears Rochelle • 1930
(Why is the old TV sitting on the front porch? Not sure :) It's there in the recent Bing Maps view, too!)
Not long ago, I mentioned my trip this summer to Vermont.  We stopped off one day in Vergennes, to go to Vergennes Laundry for lunch, and I found a not-so-sure-if-it-is Sears Crescent.

Well, we finished up that day with a nice trip to Burlington, which is a wonderful (really wonderful) university town on gorgeous Lake Champlain.  It's a favorite spot of ours to visit.

I had a list of possible kit homes spread out over a few neighborhoods of Burlington, and my family indulged me by spending a couple of hours driving by most of them, and getting photos (more on that, coming eventually).

However, not on my list, was this yellow home that I spotted as we were driving along busy US Route 7, also known as Shelburne Road.  It's sitting there on a big, busy, 4-lane road, next to a big, dark green evergreen tree, flanked by the Ho Hum Motel and an Advance Auto Parts, with all manner of commercial businesses everywhere.

ho hum motel sears rochelle advance auto parts
There it is! (Click to enlarge.)
In fact, this house is zoned as a commercial property now, but... it started its life out in 1930, I do believe, as a kit home bought by a Vermont family: The Sears Rochelle.
LEFT: My photo of the S. Burlington Rochelle. RIGHT: My 1930 catalog image of the Rochelle.
According to Houses By Mail (p. 156), the Rochelle model was offered from 1929-1933. In 1933, its sister model, The Fair Oaks, was also offered -- the same house as the Rochelle, but with the gable and entry vestibule reversed.

sears rochelle and sears fair oaks
The Rochelle in my 1930 catalog; the Fair Oaks in a later catalog (courtesy of The Arts & Crafts Society)

Both models used this floor plan:

sears 1930 catalog rochelle
As seen in my 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
The Rochelle in South Burlington has been modified a bit, by the addition of a fireplace there on the left side, in the living room -- which explains the change in layout of windows there.  There also seems to be a second-floor space in regular use as an office or apartment -- hence the exterior fire-escape-style wooden staircase on the left side. 

1210 shelburne rd
Things were a bit messy outside when I stopped by.
There is also an extension addition to the back of the first floor, as you can see in this photo, by the difference in the size of the cedar shingle siding:
See the difference in the size of the shingles?
Other than that extension, you can see that this side of the house looks as it should, with those two first-floor windows, and the side entry door.

sears rochelle

The Sears Door: Curlycues!
I don't have any authenticating material on this house, unfortunately.  I can't even get a footprint, so there is no way even to compare its size.  I have no mortgage information, and haven't been inside to look for stamped lumber. But, it sure looks good for a Rochelle.  Take a look at that front door! Classic Sears.  It's their Chelsea style door.  Also, Sears had a distinctive look to the hinge-edge of their decorative iron strapping: the curlycue design. See it here on these images? That design was only offered by Sears. If you see it, it's a good indicator that the house (or at least its building materials) is from Sears.  
vintage sears door chelsea
rounded wooden door decorative iron strapping sears 1930

Note the Sears curlycue on the right-side/hinge-side of the Sears door (above, and below):

After you chose your door style, you could also choose your window opening.
Here are just a few more shots, and I don't have any interior photos, I'm sorry to say.
sears fair oaks sister model

sears rochelle front gable and entry gable

This litle extra shingle-hooded stump... we aren't sure why that's there at all.
sears rochelle
Courtesy of Google Maps.
As is so often the case, I had a little help in identifying the model that this house was.  I was away on vacation, with just my iPad mini to help me, and no access to my catalogs.  As soon as I found this house, I excitedly shared it with some of my research colleagues -- I had a few ideas of what it might be, but couldn't access anything to verify it. Once again, Cindy Catanzaro (who runs the FaceBook page Sears Modern Homes, and writes the blog Sears Houses In Ohio ) said, "Try the Rochelle." Sure enough... of course... that was it! But, I'll tell you, there isn't really much of anything out there in the kit homes blogosphere showing real-world examples of the Rochelle. So... I'm happy to be providing that.

In addition to this strong probability in South Burlington, Vermont, we have on our National Database of Sears Homes, a great-looking Rochelle in Kettering, Ohio, and I believe that the Pinterest image I ran across recently is one of Cindy Catanzaro's personal photos:

sears rochelle kettering ohio cindy catanzaro
2911 Glenmore Avenue, Kettering, Ohio • 1928 Sears Rochelle
yellow sears rochelle in s burlington vt
Probable Sears Rochelle in S. Burlington, Vermont
I found zero examples of real-life Fair Oaks models (am I missing some that are out there?), and only one catalog page showing it (thanks, Arts & Crafts Society!).

Burlington, Vermont is a wonderful place to visit.  It's a richly vibrant university town, with extensive neighborhoods of character homes and historic architecture.  It sits on the border of Lake Champlain, and they have a wonderful, newly-developed waterfront area.  Restaurants focus on quality, locally-grown foods -- it's just a delight.  I'll leave you with a photo I took as we were about to board an hour-long sight-seeing cruise on Lake Champlain. Those are the Adirondack Mountains in the background. Wonderful visit!
lake champlain adirondacks burlington sightseeing cruise
Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sears Jeanette Spawns The Parkside: A Sears House Mortgage in St. Louis, Missouri

sears parkside model
Sears Jeanette, floorplan A, later known as The Parkside • 8837 Blewett, Jennings, MO • 1931
What do Sears, St. Louis, the Olympics, and basketball history have in common? This little house in Jennings, Missouri, a suburb north of St. Louis.

On October 6, 1931, E. Harrison Powell (trustee for Sears), signed off on a $2,500 mortgage for Albert J. and Adele Kurland.  They had chosen to build the 2-bedroom Jeanette model, but that year, the Jeanette offered something new: an additional floor plan that included an entry vestibule, and that is what they chose. This was offered as Plan 3283-A.  Just two years later, in 1933, Sears discontinued the Jeanette, and replaced it with the vestibule version, renaming it The Parkside.

sears parkside floor plan
The vestibule-addition floor plan of the Jeanette, later marketed as The Parkside.
The Kurlands were a young couple, in their late 20s, with three little ones: their eldest, Robert, and his two little sisters, Mary Ellen and Delores.  Albert worked as a "furniture finisher" and furniture repairman for one of St. Louis' major department stores, Famous & Barr (which was owned by the May Company, which was bought out by Macy's in the 1990s), but by 1940, still living in the family's little Jeanette, he had moved on to Interior Decorator.

Famous & Barr's recognizable sign (to anyone from St. Louis!).
They had a fabulous, thick French Onion soup and everyone loved going to their restaurants for a cup, which was served simply with a big piece of French baguette, and creamy butter. Yummmmm.

kurland family jennings mo city directory 1932
The Kurlands, listed in the 1932 Saint Louis County city directory.  "Famous" is how everyone shortened "Famous-Barr".
The 1932 directory lists the Kurlands at 8840 Blewett, but their house was at 8837. I don't know if this was an error, or if there was a change in postal addresses for their block that year.
st louis childhood home of bob kurland
The 1943 city directory, listing by street name, shows the Kurlands still at 8837.

sears jeanette 1931 st louis jennings mo
Despite the tree in front, you can see that this is the Jeanette-A / Parkside, with a bit of an addition off to the right, over the carport. The Parkside can be seen in the 1936 catalog, here.
sears jeanette
8837 Blewett from the side.  Note the little window in the vestibule, which can be seen on the catalog floor plan.
The Jeanette, from the 1930 catalog.

sears jeanette with vestibule
The 1932 catalog listing, showing the original Jeanette, and its new option: adding a front vestibule.

In the 1930s and '40s, if Albert Kurland was working for Famous & Barr, he no doubt would have been going in every day to this wonderful location in downtown St. Louis, in the Railway Exchange Building.  Sadly, this location has now closed.

The Railway Exchange building in downtown St. Louis, was built in 1911, I believe. This was the location of Famous & Barr in the 1930s and '40s. Macy's eventually bought out the May Company, which owned "Famous", as we all called it. (Source: billburmaster.com)
A close-up of the entrance to Famous & Barr in the Railway Exchange Building. (source)
Other Jeanettes and Parksides
Fellow researcher Cindy Catanzaro ( Sears Houses In Ohio) is the one who clued me in about the evolution of the Jeanette.  I was perplexed as to how this mortgage that I had, for  a house built in 1931, could be for the Parkside (which it looked like to me), when the Parkside wasn't offered until 1933.  Cindy knows the Jeanette well, as she used to live in one, and I believe that is what sparked her interest in Sears homes.

sears jeanette springfield oh
A beautiful 1929 Jeanette at 803 Snowhill Blvd., Springfield, Ohio.
(Image courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.)
This summer, Cindy did some traveling, and stopped along the way in Middletown, Rhode Island, to snap a photo of this beautiful Parkside:
43 beacon st middletown ri
Authenticated Sears Parkside at 43 Beacon Street, Middletown, RI. Notice the cute garage in back, and the original cedar shingle siding.  (Image courtesy of Cindy Catanzaro.)
I did a little checking, and found that the Beacon Street Parkside has recently been for sale. Let's take a look at a few of the inside photos (courtesy of the Zillow listing, found here.)

sears parkside interior
View from the living room, through the eating alcove, into the kitchen.
(click to enlarge)
sears parkside front door
A Sears front door!   Sears offered the option of choosing from
a variety of glass openings for their doors,
but many of the Jeanettes and Parksides seem to have this large, square opening.
Big beautiful windows in the living room, with that wonderful wood framing.
UPDATE:
The owner of that cute little Parkside on Beacon Street contacted me. She loves her Sears Parkside! Here it is with a fresh new paint job:
43 beacon street middletown ri
43 Beacon Street, Middletown, RI, freshly painted, in 2016 (photo courtesy of K. Lombardi -- credit her website if you use the photo) 
The owner put together a great little website about the history of her Sears house. Take a look:
43 beacon street middletown ri
Click here to see the website about this cute Sears Parkside.
What Came With The Jeanette?
The Sears Modern Homes 1929 catalog shows us what came standard with the purchase price of the Jeanette:

... and what options you had for your "extras":


You can see that plumbing fixtures were not part of the standard price, as the customers had a few options to choose from, and that was an additional cost.  For the bathroom fixtures, they could choose from the Delmar, Corona, or Plymouth sets of tub, commode, and sink:

sears bathtub delmar corona


Financing Your Sears Home
Sears explained, in the 1929 catalog, that you had three options when buying your home from them. You could pay the full price up front; you could secure a mortgage through a bank, and have the bank send a special letter to Sears, showing that they would be paying Sears on behalf of the homeowner; or you could arrange a 5, 10, or 15-year mortgage directly through Sears, at 6% interest per annum. This was the option that the Kurlands chose, which is why I was able to authenticate this cute little home as a Sears home, by researching mortgage deeds for Saint Louis County.
You didn't have to finance through a mortgage with Sears.

But, if you did take a mortgage, you had 5, 10, or 15 years to pay!
Sears reminded you that your mortgage was about the same as rent payments,
but you were actually buying something with your payments.
And, Sears wanted the homeowners to know
that they were simply offering their mortgage options to facilitate their home sales. 
In order to help the homeowner feel comfortable with inquiring about the full cost they would end up paying if they bought their home from Sears, each catalog included a form that interested buyers could fill in, choosing various options, and send in for a full-price estimate. This one is from the 1930 catalog:

(Click to enlarge.)
Olympics? Basketball?
Do you follow basketball history? I don't, but, apparently, our little Blewett Avenue Sears Jeanette, is the childhood home of legendary olympic and college basketball player, Bob Kurland! I found this by Googling "Albert and Adele Kurland"... and, up came a bio about 7-foot-tall Bob Kurland, who seems to have pretty much invented the slam dunk.  In this little video clip, he is mentioned as one of the top 25 basketball players, and is said to have been the first player to have dunked in a game.

This is a snippet from a little video about Bob Kurland
(source)
Though Bob Kurland grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended Jennings High School,  where he played basketball and ran track, he was lured away for college by Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), and is considered one of the most important athletes in the history of their university's sports programs.

After college, Bob decided not to go professional, but this allowed him to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team (though it is not the case now, Olympic athletes used to be required to retain amateur status). He helped lead the U. S. team to two Gold Medal victories, in 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki, Finland).  He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, in 1961.  

To learn more about Bob Kurland, consult these sources that I used for my information:
• Bob Kurland's biography on Wikipedia
• Bob Kurland's write-up on the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame page



Friday, October 9, 2015

Vergennes Laundry and a Sears Croissant

A many-berries tartelette at Vergennes Laundry, in Vergennes, Vermont
This summer, my mom and I went back east for a visit, and for my niece's wedding in New Jersey. First stop: Vermont, where my sister and her husband have a (beautiful) home that they designed (they're architects), that is in a peaceful, mountain setting, with lots of fresh air and all-around fabulousness. We love visiting.

We're kind of all foodies, and all lovers of architecture and history.  So, on one of the days, they drove us over to the lovely old town of Vergennes, Vermont, to re-visit this amazing French-style bakery/coffee house/lunch spot, called Vergennes Laundry.  We had the most incredibly flavorful (true tomato flavor) tomato salad, and I had a beet and goat cheese sandwich on a hearty, house-made rye bread slice that was just fantastic. For dessert, we all shared bites of the beautiful little tartelette you see up there.

This image from the Vergennes Laundry website shows you what we love about them: crusty bread, fresh butter, amazing jams, tasty tea and coffee, and a cool, authentic vibe. Here's their website. They're on Main Street, in Vergennes, Vermont.
Here's a view from the inside of Vergennes Laundry:
vergennes laundry looking out from inside
Love these old store fronts.
Of course, as we were driving into town, I spied one old house after another, but most were of an era that pre-dates Sears homes. And then:  bam! My eyes were hit with a beautiful Sears Crescent ! I thought. Right there on Main Street.  

51 Main Street, Vergennes, Vermont
My family indulged me with a stop to take several photos.  Everything looked so right!

Until I got home and started to compare the house with catalog images of the Sears Crescent.  My heart kind of sank.  Even though the Crescent has more than one size floor plan, this house just does not fit the window layout.  And... there are a few other details that just don't fit. Let's take a look.

Thanks to Andrew Mutch, of Kit House Hunters, for the image of this Ann Arbor house.
(Click to enlarge)
See those three-part windows in front? The Crescent does have 3-part windows... but, the outer two should be only about 2/3 the width of these.  And, see those boxy support structures that connect the front porch columns to the porch roof? That area should be almost twice as high.

Now, let's take a closer look at the beautiful porch roof:

What do you notice, there where the three arrows are pointing? The overall size and height of the Vergennes house's porch roof is a bit different.  See the little triangle shape at the top of the peak? On the authenticated Crescent, there are several inches of wood under the triangle shape.  On the Vergennes house, the curve follows along the exact bottom line of the triangle.  No wood below.  Continuing that thought: on the left and right upper parts of the curved area of the porch roof, there is a noticeably-wider amount of wood than what you see on the Vergennes house's porch roof.  The whole curve looks to be scooping out a larger area on the Vergennes house, than on the Ann Arbor house.

Now, you might think that this is a silly, splitting hairs kind of concern. But... if a house's components are pre-cut and shipped from Sears, those parts are going to be pretty much exactly the same proportions from house to house.  The fact that this one in Vergennes is noticeably different, means that this porch roof was maybe made by a local builder, or by a different company, that copied alllllmost exactly the Crescent's porch roof. In fact, the Vergennes house porch roof actually looks to be just a bit wider overall... because, look where the inner edge of the left cornice-return hits, in relation to the left sidelight around the door (and, by the way, that is not the Sears-design sidelight, though the doorway looks original to the era of the house):

(Click to enlarge)
Overall, it looks like the Vergennes house is just wider than the Ann Arbor house.  Unfortunately, there is no accessible real estate information for homes in Vergennes (that I could find), so I was not able to find a footprint measurement for the house at 51 Main Street.  But. what I do know, is that the two standard Crescent floor plans are both 34' wide... so any Crescent that you see, should have the same distribution of elements in the front of the house. The sides will show differences in window layout between the two floor plans, and the larger (in depth) floor plan (3259A), will have an extra room added onto the back right side of the house (making it 36' deep on that side, instead of 26' deep, which it is on the left side). The catalog image below shows that model floor plan.

Larger Floor plan (3259A), from my 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog, showing the extended section at the back right.
The Two Crescent Floor Plans
Here is the floor plan for that larger version of the Crescent. Notice the three first-floor windows on the right.

sears catalog crescent 3259a
Larger floor plan for the Crescent

The smaller version of the Crescent, Floor Plan 3258A, is only 24' deep on both sides, with no extension in the back. The layout of the rooms is different, too.  Look at the windows on the sides... they are different in number and in placement, from the larger floor plan.

sears crescent floorplan 3258a
Smaller floor plan for the Crescent

Since our Vergennes, Vermont house does not have an extension on the right side, we know it isn't the larger of the two Crescent floor plans. But, if you look at the side windows on both sides of the Vergennes house, it doesn't match the first-floor window layout of either Crescent floor plan.  On the left, there should either be two close-together single windows, in the back half of the house, or two single windows spaced very far from each other, one in the front half of the house, and one in the back half of the house. But, that's not the case with the Vergennes house:

This lone back window is placed correctly for the furthest-back side window of the larger Crescent floor plan, but there is no front window on that side.... and there should be.  That window would be much closer to the center of the side, if this were the smaller floor plan of the Crescent (and there would be an additional window right next to it).

On the right side, we should see three windows, and an extension in the back, if this were the larger of the floor plans (as we see in the 1930 catalog drawing of the Crescent,  a bit above). If this is the smaller version of the Crescent, we would have a single window in the back half, and it would be the kitchen... and, these shorter, smaller windows are more typical in kitchens, I think.  Maybe they could have upgraded to a double window there. But... the floor plan shows a side door here on this side, if that is the kitchen back there... and no window up there in the front half of the house:

sears crescent catalog 1930
Smaller floor plan: right side look

Those little short windows are usually in a kitchen, I would say. The smaller floor plan of the Crescent does have a kitchen back there, but shows a single window in that spot. 
Obviously, the Vergennes house has additional dormers, and a shed dormer across the back.  The Crescent did have a finished-second-floor option, and I'm sure you could have added dormers. But, too many other things are just wrong here.

We do know that Sears offered the possibility of enlarging the house a bit... but, would someone enlarge the house just, say, 8 inches? or 1 foot overall? I doubt it. And they could probably have asked for an additional window, or a double kitchen window... I guess... but, what about the side door? Who would want to get rid of a handy side door?

So, the bottom line is that this is probably not a Sears Crescent, after all. We've never seen an authenticated Crescent with the front elevation anomalies that we see on this house.  Some researchers may have mistakenly labeled a house that had these larger front windows, and the shorter boxy support areas of the front porch, as Crescents, because a drive-by "windshield survey" gave them that impression.  So, if you Google around, and find images, or blog posts, that include houses with these departures from the correct look of the Crescent, take a look to see whether or not they are labeled as authenticated Sears Crescents.  Remember, if no one has gone inside, and found marked lumber, or blueprints, or if the house has not been authenticated through mortgage records, you just can't know for sure that it is a Sears house.

If you're interested in seeing other lookalike models to the Crescent, by other kit and plan-book companies, take a look at this blog post of mine about a probable Sears Crescent (3258A) in Rock Hill, Missouri (in the Saint Louis area). I've included quite a few lookalikes there (and you'll notice that very few have the cornice-return porch roof that this one, and the Crescent, have). If you're interested in seeing more Sears catalog images, you'll find links to several years of catalogs in this blog post of mine.

Thanks to fellow researchers Andrew Mutch (Kit House Hunters) and Lara Solonickne (Sears Homes of Chicagoland), who shared thoughts and images with me as we dissected this cute house in Vergennes, Vermont. We may have ended up with a great croissant, but not, I think, a Crescent !

p.s. If you happen to know the owners of this lovely home on Main Street, please encourage them to contact me. I'd love to find out if they have authenticating materials to prove me wrong!