Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built!

For years, I’ve quoted the stat that “at least 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built.” That observation comes from years of studying Sears Homes “in the flesh.”

But what about customized Sears Homes – that bear no resemblance to any of the 370 known models that Sears offered?

It’s been 15+ years since I did the research for my book, “The Houses That Sears Built,” and I’ve learned so much in those intervening years.

This morning, through a lovely set of surprises, a rare one-of-kind document came into my life providing specific addresses of custom-built Sears Homes throughout the country. None of these houses bear any resemblance to a Sears House, but we now have incontrovertible proof that they are “The Houses That Sears Built – Custom Editions.”

This document provides the addresses of more than a dozen custom designs; houses whose addresses were almost lost to history, but now those addresses have been found, after being tucked away in a history lover’s attic.

Pretty exciting stuff.

The first house on this delightful list was owned by a long-time Sears employee and manager, Arthur Hoch.

Arthur was a veteran of The Great War, and according to his draft card, he was working as a buyer for Sears and Roebuck in 1918. Arthur survived the trenches, the war, the Spanish Flu and the long ride home from France, and when he returned home, he went back to work at Sears in Chicago.

Two years later, Arthur was assistant manager in some capacity at Sears, and living in his uncle’s home in Oak Park (near Chicago). By the 1940 Census, Arthur’s life had changed dramatically, and he was living in a shiny new home in River Forest, with a 1940 value of $20,000.

In 1945, he moved to Elyria, Ohio to manage a retail store there, and in 1954, he retired from Sears. Arthur was 59 years old.

In early December 1968, Arthur Hoch suffered a heart attack while driving, and was rushed to the hospital. He died a short time later.

He left behind a wife and three daughters, and one heck of a house.

Enjoy the photos below.

To learn more about identifying traditional Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with this blog!

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When many folks think of Sears Homes, they think of very modest designs, just like this.

When many folks think of Sears Homes, they think of very modest designs, just like this.

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Starting in the 1920s, Sears started promoting the customization of their own designs.

In the 1920s, Sears started promoting the customization of their own designs (1930).

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House

"Complete Home Building Service"! (1930 catalog).

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Arthurs
Arthur’s favorite store built him one fine house. Built in 1934, Arthur put its value at $20,000 in 1940. Nine years ago, this property sold for $1.2 million. Zillow says the house has 6,900 square feet.  Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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FF

It's had a sizable addition added to the rear, but it was beautifully done (and in keeping with the home's age and style). Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And
I can’t resist asking – do the homeowners know they have a Sears House? Does anyone in town know this is a Sears kit house?  Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Heres a customized design that Rebecca Hunter found through grantor records. The house is in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Here's a customized design that Rebecca Hunter found through grantor records. The house is in Elmhurst, Illinois. It doesn't match any of the 370 known designs of Sears Homes - not even in a little itty bitty way!

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To learn more about identifying traditional Sears Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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14 Comments

  1. Rachel Shoemaker

    That document is a treasure! This is going to be a lot of fun!

    I’m just your bulldog….ready to fetch!

  2. Sears Homes

    @Rachel Shoemaker
    I know, I know, I KNOW! I’m excited!

    We’re going to find all manner of unusual Sears Homes now! 😀

  3. Tony Gibbons

    I live in Oak Park and can stop by to take photos.

    Do you have the address in River Forest?

  4. Cindy Catanzaro

    OH! A list! What a novel idea. Working from a list. 😉

  5. Sears Homes

    @Tony Gibbons
    Thank you so much, Tony! However, I think we’ve already got someone riding out to get our photos. 😀

  6. Lara

    Hi, Rose! I just got a link to your blog post this morning. A quick search revealed that this house in River Forest was completed in July 1934 for a cost of $20,000. Built by the Buurma Brothers, who built literally hundreds of homes in that immediate area.

    Per your book, wasn’t the Sears Modern Homes Department CLOSED in 1934?

    How have you verified the authenticity of this list?

    Lara

  7. Sears Homes

    Hi Lara,

    Yes, as per my book, Sears closed their Modern Homes Department sometime in 1934, and reopened it a short time later in 1935. I did see the “River Forest Village Wide Architectural and Historic Survey” (dated August 2013) which states that this house was erected by the Buurma brothers in 1934 (p. 471).

    That same survey also identifies the house at 521 Keystone Avenue as a “Sears Martha Washington” when in fact, it’s a stunningly original “Sears Verona” (p. 331). The survey also states that this Sears Home is “one of two in River Forest.” I would question that statement as well.

    The house at 368 Monroe Avenue appears to be a Harris Brothers #1512 (and a beautiful example!), but is listed only as “a California version of a Craftsman bungalow” (p. 435). The author of the survey says it’s a style that’s “very rare in River Forest.” Maybe so, but that very same model can be found throughout Illinois.

    Another Harris Brothers house can be found at 351 William Street (although I could not find that address on a map). It’s a grainy image but it sure looks like a spot-on match to Harris Brothers Model 152-D (on page 567 of the survey). The same house can be found at 714 William Street (p. 583). And this is with a cursory glance at a document for which more than 50% of the photos do not display on my computer.

    It’s not my intention to criticize the survey’s authors, as it appears to be a thoroughly researched and professional document. It is my intention to point out that this survey does have a few significant flaws. As with all historical projects, new information is always coming to light.

    As to the trustworthiness of this rare document in my possession, I am wholly confident that it is legitimate.

    Here’s the PDF referencing that architectural survey: http://vrf.us/sitemedia/pdf/FINAL_SIGNIFICANT_PROPERTY_SURVEY_305-605.pdf

  8. Lara

    Hi again. I didn’t get that build date from the survey. I got it from an article in the Oak Park Leaves newspaper. I agree with you that surveys are not always reliable.

    Lara

  9. Carolyn Hancock

    This sounds very exciting. The only custom-built Sears house I have read about is in Anderson, Indiana.

    Looking forward to hearing more about these houses.

  10. Jenny Murphy

    Hello, I am going through blueprints for my home that were stored in the attic. I live in suburban New York City colonial, built in 1932. I have a set of blueprints from a well known NY architect from the time and I have a few pages of blueprints for the same home by Sears. I also have a packing list of all the materials from Sears to build the home. Our small town has a few catalogue homes, but my home is not designated. I am in the process of uncurling the blueprints and trying to photograph them. I will scan the very worn documents. Would any of this information be of interest to you and your research? The home is almost completely as built and is exactly the same from the front, except for the original slate roof shingles. Is there a registry for such homes? Is it appropriate to call my home a Sears home? I am looking forward to your reply.

  11. Laura McGeachy

    I live in Stamford, CT and own a 3-bedroom Dutch Colonial.

    Our city assessor records indicates it was built in 1930.

    I did a little research and it appears I may have a Sears Roebuck “Oak Park” kit house. It has a sun porch, arched overhang with side window panes, walk up attic with half moon attic windows.

    The floor plans from the 1926 catalog for P3237A are virtually identical except a slight variation on the dimensions of a bedroom building wall line on the 2nd floor.

    The 1929-1933 floor plans of “Oak Park” (P3288) are 4 bedrooms and don’t show a sunporch.

    Am I able to send a photo to get your knowledgeable input? Thanks, Laura

  12. Deanna Maidwell

    Hi, I just recently bought a house and the realtors identify it as a Sears house, however, I can’t find a design that looks like it…

    I believe it was customized, it was built in 1915. Where do I look next?

  13. Morgan Finn

    Dear Rosemary,

    It was thrilling to find this website where I could see some of the interiors for Sears homes. My interest is very keen as I’ve written a novel about three women who become empowered by building The Rodessa from a kit in 1943 Ohio.

    Missing from my novel is construction info that would’ve been available in blueprint instructions. Certain procedures might even be metaphors for my characters’ growth, but I haven’t been able to find anything online.

    I did find some fascinating details in your book on Sears homes, and I thank you for that. I’m wondering if you know where I could locate a copy of the Rodessa blueprints, in order to make the construction believable?

    Sincerely,
    Morgan Finn