Sunday, August 13, 2017

Off-topic: Some Sears homes



The Westly, apparently one of the top 4 models.
As a chaser from current news and the last post, I give you some Sears homes.

With Sears in its current cratering state, it's possible that people don't know that it once shipped not only girdles, engagement rings, and farm equipment, but houses. From 1908-1940, you could have all the pre-cut materials shipped to you on a rail car (plumbing and heating extra) and build the home on your own lot. The lot sizes were included so you could decide.

This fancy model has a servant's room.
These were well-built homes, and especially if you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you've probably seen them. This site (http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/1908-1914.htm) has pictures and floor plans, and if you're looking for distraction, it's a great place to visit. Here are the most popular models.






Floor plan for "Modern Home #115" from 1908-1914.
It's an interesting tour through the early twentieth century, too. The earliest plans don't include bathrooms as a matter of course; the later ones do.  The one at left has a pantry, parlor, 3 bedrooms, and an attic but no bathroom.


You can see the trend toward neo-Colonial versions emerge in the 1930s, with names like "The Salem" and "The Lexington," but the majority continued to be bungalows.  One defining feature seems to be whether the homeowner was willing to pay for extras like dining rooms and hallways--not so different from today, really.

By 1940, the homes are virtually all two-story or 1 & 1/2 story models, more Cape Cod than bungalows.




After the war, one of the hit movies celebrating/satirizing  individualism in home ownership was Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948).  You can see a clip from it above. (The completely blank stare from Cary Grant when he doesn't have the faintest, foggiest notion what the builder is talking about is priceless. I have so given that blank stare at being given a choice between two options when I didn't even know there were options to be considered.) There were a lot of these houses built, too, all over the country, including Northern Clime.

Do you have any Sears homes in your neighborhood, or have you seen any?


3 comments:

Servetus said...

Yes. One of my best friends in kindergarten lived in one; then they moved away. About seven years later, I got a new piano teacher who taught out of her home, and I said to my mom, "I feel like I've been in that house before," and she said, "You have, that was a house you could buy from Sears." Over the years I became good friends with my piano teacher, babysat, etc., and was in the house a lot until they eventually sold it.

From the outside anyway it looked like the Westly. The outside and the mainfloor were charming, and the main floor was quite spacious. It also had one of those side entries for the iceman and the front porch was pleasant. The upstairs was cramped and really made me think about how much less people expected from a bedroom in those days. I think it was remodeled to add the bathroom, and that would have cut the space even more, of course.

Undine Spragg said...

Servetus, thanks for the inside view of the Sears home! They had a number of homes that were sort of like the Westly, but that one was probably it b/c it was the most popular. You're right about the expectations of bedroom sizes. If it could fit a bed, everyone was happy. I remember touring the Wilder house in Malone (from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy) years ago, and there was a room in which there wasn't much more than maybe 2' between the bed and the wall--and that was the only space in the room.

Servetus said...

[Thinking about it -- it also had a really rather grand staircase -- which made the upstairs seem all the smaller.]

They have a reputation around here (NE WI) as starters home, probably because of the bedroom / bathroom plan. I don't think my piano teacher's house had a ground floor bathroom, either.