Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sears Mitchell And Lookalikes

English cottage style sears mitchell house model pale green
Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
b & w image of Sears Mitchell
Sears Mitchell • 1932 Sears Modern Homes catalog
This is the first time that I have blogged about the Sears Mitchell model. That might be because it is a model that has such close lookalikes, that I am rarely confident that the house in front of me is, in fact, the Sears model. 

But, today, we have a beautiful real estate listing for a Mitchell that was found in Fort Wayne, Indiana, during a house-hunting weekend that several of our researchers were involved in. I understand that the group was headed down this street to see a Sears Barrington, and drove right by this house, and it was Dale Wolicki who spotted it as they headed back up the street. Ha! We all thought that was pretty funny, considering that there were probably quite a few avid Sears house minds--and eyes-- in the car at the time. 

There are quite a few little things to look for (on the exterior) when trying to pin down that a model like this is a Sears Mitchell, and not one of the lookalikes sold by Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway, Aladdin, Bennett Homes, or Home Builders plan book. The side windows -- on both sides-- are a huge key factor. Sometimes, though, it's hard to get a good look at both sides. There are some other distinguishing features in the front of the house, too. I'll try to explain them all. 

But, first... take a look at this door on the house on Arlington Street, in Fort Wayne! This is, without a doubt, a Sears door. It's a perfect example of what we call, "Sears curlycues". See the hinge edge of the door? That curly look? That was only on the decorative iron strapping of Sears doors. So, if se see that on a house that looks like a model from the catalogs, we know it's authentic.

round top 1930s style vintage Sears door with iron strapping with curylcues on hinge end
Sears door with trademark Sears "curlycue" decorative iron strapping, on our Mitchell in Fort Wayne.
There is one other company that we have found, that offered decorative iron strapping with a curly edge, and that is the McKinney forged iron company, based in Pittsburgh. Their iron strapping options were advertised in a big Home Builders plan book that I have, from 1929. The curl is slightly less pronounced than the Sears curl, but the definite difference is at the other end: McKinney's strapping has a little hook at the other end. Sears' strapping has a pointy tip, kind of like the tip of a fat arrow. All of the other companies used iron strapping that did not have curylcues at the hinge edge, in any fashion.
styles of vintage decorative iron strapping
See the difference there at the end?
What's On A Mitchell?
First, let's take a look at what to expect on the front of a Mitchell. Not all companies have all of these features. Some have most of this, some have all of this, some are clearly different here.
infographic showing aspects of Sears Mitchell house
See the right side here, with 2 windows, then 1, 1, 1 ?
Well, the Wardway/Gordon-Van Tine version has one fewer windows on this side (2, 1, 1).

view of front and left side of Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
The Fort Wayne Mitchell looks good from this angle (reversed floor plan, of course).
The real test of a Mitchell, is the set of windows on the long side of the house... so, if you're looking at the catalog image, it's the left side of the house. On this Mitchell, since it's reversed, it's the right side elevation of the house.... which we can't really see in any of the photos. But, for this house, the door clinched it for us, so we know it's a Mitchell. I'll use the floor plan, and another house, to show you what we're looking for.

Here's an infographic that I've turned to many times, made by Andrew Mutch:
window configuration of Sears Mitchell
That single window should be right up close to that bumpout, and the triple windows within the bumpout, should have plenty of space before you get to them, just like you see here. Other companies are different here. Aladdin's University model has a single window, but it's more centered in that area... not quite as close to the bumpout, and, within the bumpout, there are only two windows, also set back toward the back of the house.  Gordon-Van Tine's Patrician, and Wardway's Newport, have a whole triple set of windows there in that first space (that's the living room, for all of the models), and then only a double, in the bumpout. The Bennett Homes Brentwood looks the most like the Mitchell: it has a single window, but it's not quite as close to the bumpout a the Mitchell's single window, and the bumpout also has three windows in it, set back like the Mitchell's windows. The plan book lookalike, the Home Builders Elyria, is very different on this side of the house, because it has no bumpout... it is even for the whole length of that side of the house.
four catalog floor plans compared - all are lookalikes to Sears Mitchell house model
The GVT and Wardway models are actually the same house-- on the shorter side of the house, they have one fewer windows... a double, and then just two singles; Aladdin's model is the University, and here is the Mitchell, both with a double, then a smaller bathroom window, then two bedroom windows.
(Click to enlarge.)

comparison of two floor plans Sears Mitchell vs Bennett Homes Brentwood model
On the outside, the Bennett Brentwood would be pretty hard to tell from a Sears Mitchell.... though the whole bumpout looks larger on the Sears Mitchell. On the inside, the location of the closet in the front bedroom, is a key indicator.
Home Builders Elyria floor plan
No bumpout at all on the living room side of the house!

I was lucky enough to run across an Aladdin University this year, in Charleston, West Virginia, and to help myself figure out the differences, I looked at all of the windows on this side, and made this comparison:
infographic comparing Sears Mitchell to lookalike made by Aladdin: University model


Here's another house that shows this side of a Mitchell:
white Sears Mitchell
You can see what we expect, on both sides of the Mitchell, with these two photographs.
Notice that front set of four long windows? 
On the image above, of this white Mitchell, did you notice that the 1932 catalog doesn't show windows like that... it just shows three wider windows? Well, the older catalog versions do show this kind of front window look:
Sears Mitchell 1928 catalog
The Sears Mitchell in its first year, 1928, had a stretch of 4 long, slim windows. 

Sears Mitchell showing front with 3 standard sized windows
Beginning in the 1932 catalog, up through 1939 (this image), the front windows are shown as three standard size windows.
The Mitchell was first offered in 1928, and had a long run, all the way up into the 1939 catalog. It graced the cover of the 1929 catalog, and its brick-veneer twin, the Sears Stratford, starred on the front of the special Brick supplement catalog put out in 1929, also:

colorful catalog cover showing Sears Mitchell
Sears 1929 Modern Homes catalog

colorful close up of pale grey Sears Mitchell with green door and roof of shades of reds and green

brick Sears Mitchell -- Sears Stratford-- gracing green cover of Sears Honor Bilt brick veneer catalog
Thanks to our friend at Antique Home / Daily Bungalow, for this image, and the scans above: Sears Special Supplement, 1929, Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes
Now that we've seen the floor plans for the competing companies, let's see their catalog images:
B & W photo of Aladdin Homes University model
Aladdin Homes offered the University. (Source: 1936 Aladdin Homes catalog.)

B & W image of Gordon-Van Tine Patrician model
Though Gordon-Van Tine and Wardway usually offered the same model, with a different name, you can see some differences in the look of the Patrician, vs the Newport, especially in the section over the front windows, and in the size of the window by the chimney (this window is absent on both the Sears Mitchell and Aladdin University).
(Source: 1929 GVT catalog, on Daily Bungalow)

B & W image of Wardway Newport model in stucco
Wardway's Newport, in their 1929 catalog. (Source: Daily Bungalow)
Also note: Look at the top of the door, on both the GVT and Wardway models. Instead of being one solid, curved-top door, it is actually a squared off door, with a separate curved section just set in there.

Bennett Homes Brentwood model
The photo of the Bennett Homes Brentwood, is probably actually a Sears Mitchell...look at that door.... sure looks like Sears curylcue iron strapping! (Source: Bennett Homes 1937 catalog)
Catalog image light brown shingle exterior Home Builders Elyria
It looks like the folks at Home Builders plan-book company, grabbed an image of the Sears Mitchell, as well... tell-tale curlycue iron strapping from Sears!
Interior Of Sears Mitchell In Fort Wayne
Finally, thanks to Andrew Mutch's scouring of real estate ads this weekend, we are treated to beautiful interior photos (click to enlarge) of the Sears Mitchell at 4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana, thanks to this real estate listing:

living room Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
These are the triple windows you see in the front of the house, and the window on the left is the single window on the bump out side.

living room inset built in space Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
This inset area is actually the start of the bump out, before it gets to the dining room windows.

living room windows Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

fireplace Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

looking into dining room Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

kitchen dining room living room Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

dining room looking into living room Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

white and grey kitchen of Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
pale grey bedroom with double bed of Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

bedroom looking into hallway • two windows Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

bathroom with deep lilac walls Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Door hardware on Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

rear entry side view Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

rear entry side view Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

left side visible fom air rear entry side view Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

front view Sears Mitchell •  4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sears Mitchell • 4616 Arlington Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sears Belmont Bungalow in Marion Indiana

front right side of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
1918 black and white catalog image of the Sears Belmont, a bungalow with cross gables
The Sears Belmont in the 1918 Sears Modern Homes Catalog
We've known for a while that an old bungalow-style Sears Belmont was built somewhere in Marion, Indiana, but we didn't know where. We knew, because, in the catalogs from about 1917-1920, on the page of the catalog showing the Belmont, there was a short list of places where Sears knew that a Belmont had been built. These little blurbs always start with, "Built at...." and then continue to list a few towns where the model was built. Well, the Belmont was listed as having been built at Marion, Indiana; Antioch, Illinois; and Armington, Illinois. We had found the one in Antioch, Illinois, but not a Belmont in those other two locations. Well, yesterday, eagle-eye researcher, Karen DeJeet, noticed that a house posted on the Facebook page, For the Love Of Old Houses, looked to be an old-style Sears Belmont
post on Facebook page For the Love Of Old Houses, showing the front of Sears Belmont at 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Here's our Marion, Indiana Sears Belmont, as shown on the FB page, For the Love Of Old Houses
When Karen checked further, she eventually learned that Marion was a "built at" location for the Sears Belmont (we call that an "advertised house"), so we have added it to our National Database of Sears Houses as an authenticated Sears house.
Here's the mention of Marion, Indiana, on the 1918 catalog page for the Belmont.
Now, there were two models that Sears called the Belmont. This is the first, and older, of the two. It ran in the catalogs from about 1914 through 1921.  We only have about 16 on our National Database of Sears Houses in the United States, so we were excited to see this one. These old models are hard to authenticate, too, because they were not pre-cut, and many would have been sold pre-1916, which means that they wouldn't have been labeled on any wood pieces. In fact, researcher Andrew Mutch has found two in New York that he thinks have Sears mortgages tied to them, but they have a few differences in their look, so he has not added them to our list. 

In 1931 or 1932, Sears offered a brick-veneer version of their popular LynnHaven design, and called it the Belmont. You can read about an authenticated one, that's in another town in Indiana (Hammond), at this blog post of mine.
An authenticated early 1930s Sears Belmont, in Hammond, Indiana

The Sears Belmont, in my late 1931 catalog.
But, let's get back to our early Belmont, and take a look at a few of the years that it was offered in the catalogs. Notice how much higher the price is in the 1920 catalog, as the post-WWI era affected the price of wood, and that was reflected in the price of our Sears kits.

The 1914 catalog offered this model as the No. 237 (well, okay, as No. 264P237).

Here is the Belmont in the 1918 catalog... four years later, and approaching twice as expensive as the 1914 kit.

And, by 1920, the price was almost triple the 1914 cost of the kit.
One thing that is rather unique about the Belmont, is the long stretch of windows on the right side elevation. In the bump-out area, we see a run of four slim windows, right next to each other, followed by a shorter pair of slim windows, right next to each other, and then a side door... all of that under the eaves of that peaked-gable bump out. The side door has its own little straight-line, flat roof overhang. If we think a house might be a Belmont, we look for this window-door configuration on the right side. Our Marion, Indiana house, has it.
right side street view of Sears Belmont at 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Right side elevation of the Sears Belmont in Marion, Indiana
Another thing we look for on the Belmont, is the use of the Sears five-piece bracket. We want to see them placed just as the catalog image shows... and, they are, on our Marion, Indiana Belmont. We also hope to see the unique design along the lintel, that long rectangular stretch of area at the base of the front gable. That is present, too, on the Marion, Indiana house.
Design elements of the early Sears Belmont.
front porch area close up of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Wonderful original elements: five-piece brackets, and the series of little squares that run along the base of the front gable.
Interior Elements Of the Sears Belmont
We are so fortunate to have interior views of this house, and doubly fortunate that it has been beautifully cared for over its 100+ years. The interior is simply stunning. Additionally, we are able to see a few millwork elements that match what was offered in the 1915 Sears Building Materials catalog, and that is always exciting. Let's take a look (note that the photos of the house all come from the MLS listing photos, available here, on Realtor.com).

black and white rendering of first floor layout of Sears Belmont 1918
Floor Plan of the Sears Belmont, as shown in the 1920 catalog.
The floor plan offers a nice, spacious, long living room, and lots of windows along both sides of the house. Here are views of three areas of the living room:
living room with view into dining room, showing fireplace, of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
The beautiful right side of the living room, looking into the dining room. Those look certainly to be original wood floors.

living room center, focused on front entry door and two large front windows, of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
A center view of the stretch of living room, focusing on that beautiful, original Craftsman M Sears door.

closet end of living room of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
This end of the living room lets you see the cute little closet on the right side--an unusual element along the wall of a living room in a bungalow, but it works here... with the other end of it being a closet for the bedroom that is to the right of this room.  You can see the decorative exposed beams on the ceiling, as well. Those stretch across both the living room and dining room ceilings, I believe.
decorative wooden beams on ceiling of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
The beams are only decorative, but they sure add a nice touch.
Here is the front porch and entry area of the house. I'm showing this now, to show the exterior side of that Craftsman entry door. I found that offered in the 1915 Sears Building Materials catalog, and I should add that it's a style that we don't see very often in later years, with that lovely stretch of three long, slim rectangular inset areas. That nicely mimics the many long, slim windows along the sides of the house, and, in this house, the interior doors are of the same style, though with a solid upper section.
front porch with Craftsman-M Sears door, Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Beautiful Sears Craftsman-M door.

comparison of front door against catalog images of Sears craftsman entry doors
Here is that Craftsman-M door offered in the 1915 Sears Building Materials catalog.
As you move from the living room, into the dining room of the house, you immediately see, of course, the wonderful Craftsman style bookcases and colonnades, that separate the two rooms:
view into dining room of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana

room separators -- craftsman columns and bookcases between living room and dining room, against catalog image of same
These have the exact same design of those shown here in the catalog, but, obviously, the bookcases are a bit taller, and the colonnades are significantly shorter, and possibly a bit wider. The catalog mentions that there were standard sizes available, and that other sizes could be requested.
Lots of windows in that dining room, where the bumpout is, and you can see the nice back side of the book cases:
dining room, looking into living room, of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Dining room, looking into the living room. The right side of the dining room is that bumped-out section of the right side of the house, with its stretch of four long windows.
This room, off of the closet end of the living room, is being used as an office or reading room, I believe, though the Sears floor plan shows this as one of the first-floor bedrooms. You can see the door to the closet that I mentioned earlier... note that it is an interior version of that Craftsman front entry door with the three rectangular inset sections:
front bedroom, first floor, of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
First-floor bedroom, off of the living room, being used as an office or reading room.

Sears Craftsman-I interior door on Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Here is that beautiful Craftsman door that copies the style of the front entry door, though this one has a solid wood piece at the top. This is the Craftsman I door. I just love the rich patina on the original wood in this house. What a treat to see.

craftsman doors in Sears 1915 building materials catalog, next to craftsman-I door in room of  Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
Here is the Craftsman I door in the 1915 Sears Building Supplies catalog.
Even the bathroom in this house, retains its original layout, with the two windows flanking the sink and medicine cabinet. I believe that is an original porcelain tub, as well. Those were nice and deep in the era when this house was made... nothing like the little shallow things you see today in houses from the past forty or fifty years.
bathroom of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana
This is a pretty spacious bathroom for an older bungalow, I think.
Let's finish up with a few more photos of the exterior of this great house:
front and front ride view of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana

left and front left view of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana

closeup of left side bumpout and other side windows of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana


back area of yard of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana

front view of Sears Belmont • circa 1916 • 501 W. Spencer Avenue, Marion, Indiana

EDIT: Thanks to research by Alan Miller, of Marion, Indiana, we now know that the first residents must have been Earl J. Mason, and his wife, Grace. He found them at this address in the 1916 city directory, and here they are, listed in the 1919 city directory that I was able to see on Ancestry.com:
Mr. Mason's 1940 obituary mentioned that he was the Secretary-Treasurer of the Canton Glass Company. The 1940 U. S. census shows that Earl and Grace had two sons, Richard, and Earl J. Jr.