Frank’s Beautiful Strathmore In Waldwick, NJ

Sometime in the 1930s, a man named Frank Workman not only built a Sears Strathmore, but he had the wisdom to document part of the process through photographs.

About 80 years later, a kind soul named Ms. Dickinson had the wisdom to save those photos and put them on eBay.

Last week, yet another kind soul named Dale Wolicki had the wisdom to send me a link to these photos, and I hastily put in a bid and subsequently won this treasure trove!

Thanks to Frank, and Ms. Dickinson, and Mr. Wolicki, at least 2,000 people will now enjoy these many photos of a Sears Strathmore being built at 21 Pennington Avenue in Waldwick, NJ.

Ms. Dickinson reports that Frank’s daughter (shown in photos below) lived in the house until recently. These houses were built with so much love, and the first families intended that these houses be passed down through the generations.

But unfortunately…

According to the wonderful note Ms. Dickinson included with these photos, Frank’s house was demolished about one month ago. How many Sears Homes are we going to tear down before someone decides that they’re worthy of preservation?

So very frustrating.

Frank Workman obviously took great pride in his beautiful Strathmore. How disturbing that someone in Waldwick, NJ saw fit to tear it down.

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Frank

Frank Workman must have been quite a character. He's standing on the side of his Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ. Perhaps Frank had Indian roots. Or maybe he just really liked this headdress.

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Frank

Frank really liked that headdress and he really liked his house.

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The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you dont find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception.

The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you don't find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception. It had an expandable attic, for extra square footage (1936).

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Good florplan

The Strathmore had 1-1/2 baths, which was a plus. The kitchen was a mere 12-feet by 7-feet.

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Ive always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

I've always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

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Side view of the Strathmore under construction.

Side view of the Strathmore under construction. Note, the planking is horizontal. On many houses of this vintage, the planking runs diagonally. However, this house ended up with cypress shakes, so maybe that's why the planks are run horizontal.

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This is a close-up of those packing crates.

Close-up of those packing crates (seen in the foreground of the photo above). I suspect that the quality of lumber used in these packing crates is far superior to the "premium" lumber currently being sold at the big box stores.

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What a grand photo!

What a grand photo, and it really demonstrates a different time in American architectural history. Years ago, I knew a man who built his own home in Elsah, Illinois and it was all the rage in Jersey County. He was a novice homebuilder who undertook to build his own home "from scratch." And yet in 1930s, people didn't think anything of buying a kit home and building it themselves.

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I love

And here's a close-up of that same photo. Look at that make-shift ladder! And that wooden scaffolding looks a bit primitive, too. Looks like Frank might have been doing his own brick work. My favorite item in this photo is the 55-gallon drum overturned on its side. For the life of me, I can't imagine what would have been in that drum. Paint and varnish were supplied in one and two-gallon metal buckets.

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Another i

Another view of the home's front, during construction.

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Franks daughters

According to Ms. Dickinson, Frank's daughter lived in this house until very recently. Judging by the clothes, it looks like this photo dates to the late 1930s, or shortly after the house was finished. It seems likely that these are Frank's two daughters, seated on the "cheek" of the front porch. Check out the original batten shutters behind the girls.

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Another view of the two daughters.

Another view of the two daughters. And judging by the steps, it does seem likely that Frank did his own brickwork. Kind of reminds me of the Lucy episode where she rebuilt the brick barbecue pit in the backyard.

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Another view of the completed house, date unknown.

Another view of the completed house, date unknown. However, it's interesting to note that those three windows next to the fireplace have already been replaced. Originally, these three had diamond muntins.

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Frank loved cars, too.

Frank loved cars, too. The home's left side is shown here. Can anyone identify the year of this car? My best guess is early 1930s, or even late 192os.

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View of

Good view of the home's left side, and kitchen door.

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Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

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Frank

Oh Frank, I'm sorry to say that your beautiful Strathmore - built with such love and care - is now sitting in a landfill somewhere. When will we decide to stop tearing down old kit homes?

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And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, its still standing.

And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, it's still standing. Then again, I haven't been down that street in four years, so who knows.

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes so valuable (and worthy of restoration and preservation), click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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15 Comments

  1. Betsy Thompson

    What a wonderful treat! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Donna Boatman

    I really enjoyed this, I’m sure you have had a few sleepless nights over this one.

    Best Wishes.

    Miss you.

  3. Dale Wolicki

    Oh but Frank was lucky, and some crazy woman in Virginia posted pictures of the home he built over 80 years ago, rare pictures of his Sears House being constructed, rare pics of masonry work, and pics of the family that loved the house he built

  4. David M. Kinchen

    Rosemary: I reviewed the Preservation Press book when I was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times (see below).

    I have that book, plus in today’s mail (Jan. 21, 2014), I received a copy of your book (via Amazon) Sears Homes of Illinois. Wonderful book! I might review it. Is it still in print?

    Dave Kinchen
    david.kinchen@gmail.com

    \YOU ARE HERE: LAT Home→Collections
    Book Review : When a New House Came in the Mail
    July 27, 1986|DAVID M. KINCHEN | Times Staff Writer
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    For 32 years, from 1908 to 1940, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the place many Americans went to buy not only the furnishings for their homes but the houses themselves.

    The story of the Sears Modern Homes collection is chronicled in “Houses by Mail: A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck & Co.” by Katherine Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl (The Preservation Press, 1600 H St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, 368 pages, $24.95 plus $3 handling and postage).

    A personal note: One of the houses illustrated and described in the book is called the “Rochelle.” I grew up in Rochelle, Ill., a small town about 75 miles west of Chicago, where Sears has always been based. The house–and others in the book–looks familiar; I probably saw dozens of Sears precut homes in Rochelle, Rockford, De Kalb and other surrounding towns without giving them a second thought!

    The authors state that the designs were reflections of contemporary taste, with nothing innovative in terms of design, probably because the buyers wanted houses that would not be easy to identify as manufactured housing. Today’s housing manufacturers could learn from the successful Sears experience and the prospering firms undoubtedly have the same philosophy.

    Sears built conventional wood-framed houses until 1935, when steel-framed houses with plywood walls were introduced. The authors don’t make it clear if this line was offered instead of wood-framed houses or in addition to them; I think steel-framed, plywood houses were offered in addition to conventional wooden houses.

    The wood-framed houses were offered at three levels of quality: The Honor Bilt, the Standard Built and the Simplex Sectional, for summer cottages.

    The “Preston” model, illustrated, was offered in the 1918 and 1921 catalogues at prices ranging from $2,978 to $3,766. This Dutch Colonial house had four bedrooms, a sleeping porch (Midwesterners often used these screened porches on typically humid summer nights), a huge formal dining room and a 27-foot-long living room.

    This book is not only a valuable contribution to American social history, it’s a lot of fun to read. The hundreds of illustrations will probably help many readers discover that the 100-year-old Sears firm was the source of their home.

  5. Dale Wolicki

    Oh, if you’re in Los Angeles, you can also ask Rose about Pacific Ready Cut Homes, which was Sears competitor in California. In the early 1900s, they manufactured more than 40,000 kit homes for the Los Angeles area and California.

  6. Jon Jefferson

    Frank’s 55-gallon drum?

    My hunch is, it was used to haul water to the site, for mixing mortar: the second photo seems to show not just the drum but a trough of some sort (great place to do the mixing!), and – in the background – the freshly built chimney, which would have required lots of mortar.

    BTW, I’m a crime novelist, and my second novel, “Flesh and Bone,” includes a scene (a love scene, at that) set in a Sears Foursquare, Modern Home No. 158.

    It was my way of paying homage to Sears and its way-cool kit homes.

  7. dick landess

    Went to school in the 40s. I remember his house well.

  8. CHERYL LUKSHA

    Hi ! I have a sears Strathmore home. I live in Massapequa Par, Long island.

    The particular block I live on has many Sears homes on it. Different types as well!

  9. Bob Hunt

    Frank Workman was a special person. He was a minor league ballplayer back in the 1920s , school principal for nearly 30 years, and Waldwick’s long term fire chief (he was known as “the chief” to just about everyone – hence the the headdress). Moreover, he adopted many local kids as an uncle, taking groups of us on outings and fishing trips for many years.

    As one of his “adopted” kids, I probably spent more time in that house than anyone who wasn’t a resident.

    I actually spent most of the time in the basement with a small group of friends who were always welcome to visit him. I like to think that we partially paid him back when we visited him in his elder years as his health declined.

    He was my first mentor who put me on a path to a college education and long career in banking technology.

    For the record, the woman in the white head band was his wife and I cannot recognize the other woman in the picture.

    The picture with him in his suit was taken at the elementary school playground during his tenure as principal. The second picture of him with a headdress has a small boat in the background that I helped him build in 1957.

    The Workman’s only had one daughter, Susan, but she is not in the pictures and I have lost contact with her.

  10. Sears Homes

    @Bob Hunt
    Bob,

    Thanks so much for leaving the comment. What a wonderful “back story” on the life of Frank Workman.

    I’m so grateful that you found the blog.

    Rosemary

  11. Helen Potter

    @Sears Homes
    Frank Workman was so dedicated to Walwick, N.J. history.

    Waldwick means “light in the woods.”

    Next to Waldwick is the town of H Ho Kus, named after an American Indian Chief.

    I grew up in Waldwick and went through K-12th grade with Susan Workman. We graduated from Midland Park High School in 1965.

  12. Marcella (Bogart) Criscione

    @Helen Potter
    I also went to school with Susan, kindergarten through graduating high school.

    We have known each other for 64 years!! We also went to Sunday School and church every Sunday.

  13. james terlemezian

    Frank Workman aka ” chief ” was my grade school principal 1955-1962 .

    He was well known and liked by the entire town.

    He also was a fishing game warden who would open the season on Waldwick Lake with a blowing of a whistle at 8 am.

  14. Susan workman

    Bob, holy____! It is by sheer coincidence that I found your message. Dad worked hard to build our house.

    We loved it so.

    I think that half, if not more, of all the kids in Waldwick came through the back door and to the cellar to schmooze with my Dad, “The Chief”, and to sign the ceiling.

    All of the names were there until the bitter end. So many memories and good times.

    Dad was quite a character and loved by so many.

    I loved that house and tried to find someone to love it just as much, but it wasn’t meant to be.

    It sickens me to know that it is gone. People don’t value history any more. Things have to be bigger and better to be appreciated. It was too much of a struggle to keep up repairs and pay the outrageous taxes!

    Dad had kids coming to the house up until 1980. He passed in 1982. The kids kept him alive. They were his joy.

    When there was no one left to mentor there was no more passion. Dad was a teacher and mentor all of his life.

    Boy Scouts, fishing and camping, trips to Canada, stamps and stamp stories, apple and pumpkin picking at Sudel’s farm, fire department, fishing warden, leather crafting, purveyor of used skates, principal extraordinaire, and on and on. That was my dad!

    Those of us who experienced “The Chief” were blessed to know a rare man. (By the way, he made that headdress. He was a history buff and very interested in Native Amerian history.)

    I don’t know who the woman is who had these pictures. I had not seen a couple of them myself. I would like to know where she got them. She seemed to think she knew a lot about my family.

    FYI. The other woman with my Mom was her best friend from college.

    I am new at this computer stuff and just have a Kindle. But, if you would like to get in touch, I am in Ohio at 219 E. Walnut Street, Westerville, Ohio 43082.

    I can only manage one thing at a time. I am still a letter writer and I have to catch up on modern tech.

    Good to know that you are still out there. How did you come across this site?

    Take care.

    Susan

  15. Mrs. Dickinson

    Hi I am “the woman that found the photos”.

    There was a tremendous amount of stuff left behind at the curb when you moved, and i salvaged anything that looked interesting historically or otherwise including alot of old books, papers from his time as prinicpal.

    I gave anything that looked interesting/relevant to the town or school history to the town historical society and am still left with many of your pictures.

    Now that I have your address I will be happy to send them to you.

    Anything i know about your family i pieced together from the papers left behind. Incorrectly it would seem.

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