Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sears Crescent: Frank Ohlson's Testimonial Sears House

front of grey and white Sears Crescent at  247 Chapman Street New Britain Connecticut
Authenticated Sears Crescent • 247 Chapman Street, New Britain, Connecticut

Sears Crescent in 1930 catalog

This is the testimonial home of Frank August Ohlson. I saw mention of Frank's Sears house in Rebecca L. Hunter's book, Putting Sears Homes On The Map, which lists locations for all of the testimonial and "built here" Sears homes mentioned in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. Frank Ohlson's listing simply said, "house", so I assume that the testimonial didn't specify what model Frank had bought. But, here it is: A Sears Crescent, and he bought the larger of the two floor plans.

Sears had two sizes and floor plans of the very popular Crescent model. This larger floor plan had a back extension off of one side, where one of the bedrooms was located (the other bedroom is at the front of the house, on that same side of the house). The larger model also has three columns, instead of two, on each side of the front porch. You can see that clearly on this house on Chapman Street, in New Britain, Connecticut.

left side of grey and white Sears Crescent showing deep green top half of side gable
Here you can see that the left side of the house matches the right side that we see on the catalog image. The home is the reverse floor plan. 
On the floor plan, you can see that three porch columns are shown, and you can see the extension for the back bedroom. This floor plan is 34 feet wide, and 36 feet deep on that longer side:
Sears Crescent larger floor plan
This is from my 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
And, here, a close-up view of the front porch, indicates the three columns:
3 porch columns
Three columns!
The smaller of the two floor plans has only two columns on each side of the porch. While it is also 34 feet wide, it is only 24 feet deep, on both sides. On the larger floor plan, the secondary entrance is in the back, off of a little porch, behind the kitchen, but this smaller floor plan has the secondary entrance on the side:
Sears Crescent smaller floor plan 1925 catalog
You can see this floor plan here, in the 1925 catalog.
Frank August Ohlson lived here with his wife, Anna (the former Anna Pauline Swanson), and their little boy, Frank E. Ohlson, and little girl, Dorothy. It looks like Frank and Anna built their house in 1928, as that is the year given on the tax records, and 1929 is the first year that the New Britain city directory places them at this address. The 1930 census puts them here, and shows that Mr. Ohlson had been born in Sweden, and arrived in the U.S. in 1907. Mrs. Ohlson was born in New York, though the 1910 census puts her living with her family right here on Chapman Street (though at a different address). Though I didn't find any newspaper mention of a death, I noted that there was a new Mrs. Ohlson in the 1940 census: Lydia Ohlson, who was a few years younger than Frank (Anna had been a year older than he). 

As it turns out, Anna died in 1932:
grave marker of Anna Pauline Ohlson, former Anna Pauline Swanson, Fairview Cemetary, New Britain, Connecticut
Source: FindAGrave website.

Here is the page from Rebecca Hunter's book, with the mention of Frank Ohlson's house:

You can buy this interesting little book, here. I enjoy using it for  researching with and  historic newspaper resources, but it also has some good background on kit houses.
I was able to find a real estate listing for the Ohlson house on Chapman, so here are a few more views, followed by a Bing maps view with nice, orange autumn leaves:
Sears Crescent
The grey and white is so pretty. And, we see the standard triple front windows that came on the Crescent: one wide window, flanked by two slim windows.

Sears Crescent glass-enclosed front porch
The Crescent doesn't normally have an enclosed porch. This one is nicely done, I think. You can see a Sears Craftsman style 8-pane front door inside there, too.

Sears Crescent larger floor plan living room dining room staircase
The larger floor plan has the staircase to upstairs in the center of the house, whereas the smaller model has the staircase right on the side of the living room. 

Sears Crescent larger floor plan central staircase
Nice wood floors and wood staircase, with a good, chunky Sears Craftsman-style staircase newel. The door to the right of the staircase is a closet.

Sears Crescent larger floor plan living room dining room staircase
The arrow indicates that hall closet you see the door for, next to the central staircase.
Sears Crescent larger floor plan upstairs
Clearly, the Ohlsons chose to upgrade to a finished half story above the first floor, adding two more bedrooms.

Sears Crescent larger floor plan dining room
This is the triple window in the back of the dining room.

Sears Crescent 247 Chapman Street New Britain Connecticut
I love New England in the fall. Orange leaves! This is the shorter side of the house.
More On The Crescent
You can read more on the Crescent model, in other blog posts of mine:
  • The many (many!) "lookalike" models to the Sears Crescent, are shown at the end of this blog post
  • A lookalike model found in the lovely town of Vergennes, Vermont, is discussed here
  • Lara Solonickne showcases a wonderful little Crescent in this post of her blog, Sears Homes of Chicagoland
  • A lovely, smaller-floor plan Crescent in Keego Harbor, Michigan, is shown in this blog post by Andrew Mutch, on his Kit House Hunters blog.
  • The late Laraine Shape showed a few Crescents in the Mariemont section of Cincinnati, in a post on her blog Sears Houses in Cincinnati, which was faithfully re-created by Cindy Catanzaro, after Laraine's death.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Gordon-Van Tine Dunham, In Bennington, Vermont

Gordon-Van Tine Dunham • 1929 • 924 Gage Street, Bennington, Vermont

Looking around the streets of Bennington, Vermont, I came across this beautiful little house, sold by the Gordon-Van Tine company, as the Dunham. Isn't that the most charming entry porch?

Here's the Dunham in the 1931 catalog, next to the house on Gage Street. There's no mistaking it, that's got to be a Dunham.

Those two gabled bump-outs on the right side, are for the dining room, and the breakfast room off of the kitchen. That's an unusual thing to find on one of these small homes, a breakfast room. It looks larger than the workspace of the kitchen.

I found a real estate listing online for our little Bennington Dunham, and here's a photo of the kitchen, with its breakfast room at the end:
I really like the pale, creamy yellow walls, with the pale green tile. And, that woodwork! And the solid-wood door!

And, a view of the kitchen, from the breakfast room. That door leads into the dining room, and the one on the right opens into a broom closet.
Speaking of the dining room, here it is, looking into the kitchen. On the left, the doorway leads into a short hall, with the door that you see straight ahead, opening to a linen closet. To the left, of that closet, is a door to the back bedroom.
Gordon-Van Tine
Gordon-Van Tine was a company based out of Davenport, Iowa, though they also had a large lumber yard in St. Louis, that they used for manufacturing kits. I've learned much of my background on the Gordon-Van Tine company, from research done by Dale Wolicki, and posted on his website. He explains that GVT was the supplier of the wood for the kits sold as Wardway Homes, by the Montgomery Ward Company. 

Because of the GVT association with Wardway Homes, GVT and Wardway marketed many of the same home models in their catalogs, but with different names. However, 1931 was the last catalog year for Wardway, and, so, no doubt somehow related to that, beginning with the 1932 Gordon-Van Tine catalog, the names in the GVT catalogs changed, and the Dunham became the Erie. I don't believe that Wardway ever sold a model that resembled the Dunham/Erie (I may be wrong -- Dale, if you know differently, please feel free to leave a comment), and didn't run across one in a quick look through the Wolicki/Thornton field guide to Wardway homes.

Here is the same model, marketed in 1936 as the GVT Erie .

Looks like the same floor plan.

The two bedrooms are on this side of the house.
More Kit Homes In Bennington
To read about some of the other kit homes in Bennington, Vermont:

Here's a post about beautiful Aladdin Shadow Lawn
Here's a post about several Sears models: The Saratoga and the No. 225

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bennington, Vermont: Bountiful Beauties! Sears Saratoga and Sears No. 225

Sears Saratoga (No. 146) • Silver Street, Bennington, Vermont
Sometimes, we researchers, and other kit-home enthusiasts, end up looking around in the same town, on the same streets, and end up coming across the same houses. That happened today, with this house. Here it is, a big, beautiful Sears Saratoga model, sitting there waiting to be discovered, and two of us came across it. Well... it was just waiting for someone to find it and document it, and that's what we are all about, so let me tell you about this house.

The No. 146, in my 1914 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
The Saratoga began its run in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs as the No. 146, but later had a few small changes made to it, and it was then marketed as the (new) No. 108 (a different house model was shown as the No. 108 in the earliest catalogs). The most obvious change to the house itself, was the porch: the original model, the No. 146, had a big wraparound porch, like the one you see here on Silver Street in Bennington, Vermont. The porch on the later No. 108, and the Saratoga, spans only the front of the house. There is also a side entry door on the later versions, that is absent on the No. 146. Inside, there was a difference in the entry area, as the No. 146 had a defined entry hall, whereas the No. 108/Saratoga floor plan shows the entry area simply combined as part of the living room. I outlined these differences in a blog post earlier this year, about a Saratoga in Fairmont, West Virginia.

The earliest floor plan: Sears model No. 146

The later floor plan: Sears model No. 108 / Saratoga
The exciting thing about this Bennington house, is that we can label it as "authenticated", because it was what we refer to sometimes as an "advertised house". What that means, is that the catalog mentioned that one of these homes was built in this city. We don't have a testimonial letter from the owner, so we can't pin down the address, but, in all likelihood, this particular house is most surely the house that the catalog mention is referring to. Here it is, mentioned in the 1917 catalog:

Let's finish off with a few more views of this house, which is located at the corner of Silver Street and Grandview. The house number is probably 219, but Google and Bing maps don't accurately direct us to this house when that address is given. The house to its left is definitely number 217, and the house across the street appears to be number 220, so I think that 219 is the correct address. 

Sorry for the blurry bit, but that's Google streetview for you! Here we can see the porch wrapping around to the side.

The side section of the porch, next to the beautiful 4-window bump out in the dining room
(not to mention the magnificent dumpster!)

There's the little porch off of the back door, as well as the two windows of the dining room, and then the pantry. The dining room's window is shown in the catalog as a stained-glass window (and we've seen that in other Saratogas we've found), and is placed high enough for a built-in sideboard.
Here is that stained-glass dining room window, and built-in sideboard buffet, in the West Virginia house I mentioned earlier:

And, here is how the dining room, living room, and entry area were depicted in the 1914 catalog, where you can see that there is a partial wall separating the entry hall and the living room space:

The Sears No. 225
The reason that I was looking around in Bennington today, is because another enthusiast, after reading a blog post of mine about a beautiful Aladdin Shadow Lawn on Weeks Street in Bennington, had decided to look around the town to see what she could find. And, what did she find just two doors away? An incredible bungalow: the Sears No. 225. I will admit that I spent very little time looking around Bennington after finding the Shadow Lawn. I did look around at the nearby houses, and didn't recognize anything. Ha! Big miss there! This beautiful No. 225 was sitting right in front of my nose, and I didn't recognize it. And, the humorous part of it, is that, every time I have seen the No. 225 in the catalog, I have thought to myself, "Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever even seen one of those." Well, sure enough, they have. That just goes to show you how helpful it is to see the real house, "out in the wild", because catalog images just don't hit your eye the same way. Take a look:
Here is the No. 225 in my 1914 catalog.

Here is the No. 225 again, in the 1916 catalog (courtesy of Daily Bungalow), shown as part of an ad for a roofing material that Sears sold with their houses.
And, here is the house, all in white, sitting nicely at Number 201 Weeks Street, Bennington, Vermont:
Those porch columns are so distinctive. I won't miss this one again... in fact, I think I spy one right down the street!
This white house matches the windows, the chimney, the front door, the porch columns, the roofline, and the inset dormer of the catalog images of the No. 225.  It's a great find, and a great addition to our National Database of Sears Houses in the U.S.... where, as it turns out, we already had three others.

As I mentioned above... I believe that there is another No. 225 just down the street, at the corner of Weeks Street and Washington, at number 231 Washington Avenue.  Let's take a look!

231 Washington Avenue, Bennington, Vermont... another Sears No. 225?
This house is remarkably similar to the lines of the white house at 201 Weeks Street. However... we wonder if maybe  this one was actually made with locally-supplied lumber, using the plans from the Sears No. 225 down the street. Though people sometimes think that, when they find another similar house right nearby a house they suspect to be a Sears house, that it is more evidence of them both being a Sears kit. But, in reality, that makes us more suspicious that at least one of those houses was not a kit. Remember, much of the time, Sears kits were bought by individuals, and often, especially in the early years, they intended to build the house themselves. It's unlikely, then, that the very same model would be bought by a nearby neighbor. But, what is a more likely scenario, is that maybe the plans were shared with that neighbor, or brother, or sister, or son, or friend, and they then bought the supplies locally to build the same house. Because, if this house were a kit, bought at the same time, it would likely have the exact same porch columns, windows, and dormer. But, this house has a few little anomalies:
  • The side windows are doubles, where they should be triples... however, they look like new windows, so perhaps they were originally triples?
  • The upper side windows on this side, appear to be set up a little bit higher than those on the white house.
  • The porch columns are obviously shaped a little differently, and don't have the interesting upper portions connecting them to the porch roof. Again, though, because the house is obviously refreshed and renovated, they may be replacement columns (we do see that rather often in these very old homes).
  • The dormer is closed off, whereas the dormer on the 225 is actually inset, and has a bit of an open space across the front. Again... this would be a smart thing to "fix", if you were renovating the house, because you can just imagine the problems with leaking that might develop in a snow-heavy climate like Vermont, in that inset area of the dormer. 
  • The dormer's windows are not the same in number, and are not spaced exactly as they are shown on the 225. Again, this might be a change that would have been made if the dormer was enclosed in a renovation. 
  • The dormer, though the same width as that of the white one, starts right up at the tip of the peak of the roof. However, the dormer on the white house, and on the catalog image, show this dormer staring a few inches down from the peak. Once again, though, we can imagine that, in a re-roofing of this house, that gap might have been done away with, to help avoid snow pile-up at the back of the dormer.
  • There is a little peaked addition ornamenting the front of the house, over the entry way. This is obviously a later addition, and I've seen this kind of ornamentation added even on houses just blocks from my own, here in Missouri. It lends a nice "sense of entry".
  • Finally, the front door is moved over quite a bit toward that right-side front window, and those two windows are single windows, instead of the nice old doubles shown on the white house, and on the catalog. Someone adapting the plans but cutting their own wood, might make that change of door placement rather easily, however, because that whole area in the front of the house, is the living room.
Other than that, the house is a great match! LOL
No, seriously, that sounds funny, but all of those changes are easily explained away as changes that would probably have been made during a modern renovation of the house. But... without seeing the inside, or earlier photos of this house, we have no way of knowing. What we do know, though, is that this house is remarkably similar to a house only just down the block, and, this being a pretty rare model, it's pretty likely that there is some connection to the white house down the block. Unfortunately, we will probably have to put this on the "possibles" tab of our national database, because there are too many slight differences, but... it was a fun find. 

Here are a few comparison photos:

We do know that both houses were probably here in 1925 (though surely built earlier, because the No. 225 was only sold through 1917)... at least, there were houses at these addresses. And, both houses were listed as being of similar value in the 1930 census ($9,500 and $10,000). So, the grey house at 231 Washington Avenue was certainly not a new-build recently, even though it looks fresh and new.

Who Lived Here?
201 Weeks Street
Mr. and Mrs. Irving C. Cobb lived in the white house at 201 Weeks Street. Mr. Cobb was a traveling salesman, and there are numerous mentions in the Bennington Banner, of Mr. Cobb being away in New York  on business, beginning in the 1920 papers. One year, Mrs. Cobb accompanied her husband as he attended a convention in Atlantic City.
Mabel and Irving Cobb, and family, in the 1930 U.S. census.

Irving C. Cobb in the 1925 Bennington City Directory
In 1919, Mabel gave a presentation entitled, "The Moral Influence Of Lincoln in Literature", as part of the "Fortnightly On Saturday" cultural presentations in Bennington. An article in the March 12, 1919 paper, says that the Committee on Literature had, of late, been focusing their readings on issues related to war, and subject for that Saturday's presentation, was "Our Presidents Distinguished In Letters".

231 Washington Avenue
Katherine and Joseph J. McDermott lived, with their children, and her father, in the grey house at 231 Washington Avenue. Mr. McDermott was a clerk in a drug store... no doubt the drug store owned by his father-in-law.
The McDermotts in the 1930 U.S. Census. You see that Katherine's father, Quinlan Bartholomew, is listed last. 

Here we see that Joseph McDermott's living was made as a clerk at a drug store, and down in the line across from his father-in-law, Quinlan Bartholomew, we see that he is the druggist in a pharmacy.

Here in the 1925 Bennington City Directory, we see that Joseph McDermott was an employee of "Quinlan's Drug Store"... bingo! Quinlan is his father-in-law's name, so we know that Quinlan Bartholomew was the owner of the drug store.

More Kit Houses In Bennington?
You bet! Now that we realize that we should look around a bit in Bennington, we'll be on the lookout for more kit houses by Sears, Aladdin, and other companies. I've just run across two of the Solace model by Sears, for example... one with clipped gables, and one with peaked gables (which is unusual for the Solace). 

The Sears Solace, which had a name change in 1933, to the Waverly.

The standard Solace has clipped gables.
This Solace, next door, has peaked gables, and is the reverse floor plan.

Here is the Solace in 1933, marketed as the Waverly.

The Solace is recognizable by its three windows that go down in size from the front to the back of the house.

And, here are those three windows on the house next door.
An Advertised Sears Concord In Bennington
We also know that the Concord model was built in Bennington. There is a house that almost looks like a Concord, on Grandview Avenue, not far from the No. 146 that I showed at the top of this blog post. Is it "the" Bennington Concord? Well, if it is, it had a major design change to the roof line, either at build, or later in its life. Here it is:

204 Grandview Street, Bennington, Vermont... Is this "the" Sears Concord ?

Side and back of the house at 204 Grandview Street.
A Zillow ad for this house, gives its build date as 1895. Who knows if that is correct... build dates are so often off. However, I know from my own family's Sears house, built in 1911, that it has had huge changes to its lines over it's 100+ years of existence. Walls were added, rooms were added, porch columns were changed... even the siding was changed from wood plank to cedar shingle. So, who knows! Maybe this is the "advertised" Sears Concord in Bennington. 

Thanks go out to our fellow Sears house enthusiast, who faithfully follows my blog and offers up excellent leads to help us add to the National Database of Sears homes!