1920's Sears&Roebuck Bungalow Home

traceeeAugust 29, 2010

I was so delighted to read about the interest in my Sears and Roebuck Catalog Bungalow home, and even more delighted to start this thread to share info and pic's of my wonderful home (Thank you Kiki and Moccasinlanding)! First, let me make this very clear - the knowledge that my home is a Sear's catalog home from the 1920's came to me about 3-4 years ago when a local newspaper article showcased the history of these home (of which there are many in my town), and my block with 4 bungalow homes, including mine, appeared in the paper. The previous owner, a gentleman in his 80's who lives down the street, has confirmed verbally that this is a Sears home, but as far as any formal written documentation, I would have no idea where to begin to find such a thing.

I live in Plymouth, Massachusetts and purchased my home 15 years ago. I was recently divorced with 2 small children and purchased my house on my own. The seller took unbelievable care of this property as it was his aunt's home. It is approx. 1100 sq ft and had vinyl siding, updated electrical and plumbing, 10 year old double pane windows, 3 heating zones, town water and sewer, wood floors throughout, and an enclosed 4 season porch room with it's own heating zone and wood floors (I am not sure when the porch room was enclosed-there is a crawl space). I call it a "front to back" ranch. The 2 bedrooms are on the driveway side - a total of 6 rooms including the porch. There is a built-in hutch in the middle/dining room and a small room in the back of the basement where coal was stored.

Here's a picture.....


The contractors poured the foundations and the homeowners would pick their homes from the Sears & Robuck catalog. The home came to Plymouth from Boston on the train in sections. Destination here in Plymouth, MA was the Cordage Park which is in North Plymouth on the water - some kind of Rope Factory. The Cordage Park Shipyard back in the early 1900's was a major employer in town and many homes in the North Plymouth Harbor area are duplexes, and multi-family to accomodate the workers and families - many were immigrants - Italian and Portuguese.

[Here's a picture of my block with 4 Bungalow homes!


As I stated before, the gentleman I bought the home from took incredible care of it. For 10 years the home "ran itself" while I paid the mortgage and raised my boys. In the last 5 years, and the with the help of Joe, my S.O., I have been able to give back to my house. I have replaced the roof, waterheater, and garage door. There has been a complete bathroom remodel, painting, and now a complete kitchen remodel which included major structural changes. I accomplished quite a bit, a little at a time, staying within budgets, and I will post a link to more pictures. I was sooooo moved by the beauty of this home when the walls came down. The different floors and wallpapers, the inside walls - BEAUTIFUL, clean, dry, built to last 1000 more years.

Thanks again for letting me share--I am so proud! I have opened my profile to include my e-mail. I never imagined there could be a book about these lovely homes!! I am curious if Plymouth, MA is mentioned, because there are many bungalow homes like mine here in America's Hometown!

I have tried to include a link with more pictures- hopefully it works - some of the pic's have captions and descriptions. So many homes featured on this forum have wonderful historical stories - I love to read about them and I thank you for the chance to share mine!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: 1920's Sears Catalog Bungalow

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MEGA-kudos! What a FIND! I love the symmetry, proportions, and geometric "dialogue" going in that classic architecture! It is no small feat to add "updated" windows and doors to such a fine specimen, without losing "the look". Kudos to you and the loving former owner. A real GEM. A truly GREAT house to come home to, eh?

I just became aware of these "Sears mail order" homes 3 days ago, when I stumbled upon a business profile type 1-hour special on CNBC, covering the 100+ year history of Sears, Roebuck & Co. (You can probably view it on their website, or check your local cable listings for re-runs.) This (probably 52 minutes running time) show devoted quite a lot of time just to these homes, and it is no exaggeration to say NONE of them looked as "sharp" as yours. A knowledgeable archi-historian walked the camera crew through several of them, pointing out the signature features included... I think she has authored a book on these homes. IIRC, 'Honor-Bilt' was the predominant mfr. supplying Sears with these "kit" houses.

There was one town(name?) in which 180-some of these homes (various models) had been erected, and something like 154 were still standing and occupied, which speaks volumes about their quality, not to mention the workmanship of the working-class owner-occupants who assembled them. When YOUR family is going to live there, you do the job right!

Congrats, and thanks for keeping history alive!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 4:55PM
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Oh my goodness! What a lovely place! Just calling it a "Sears & Roebuck" home makes it sound like SUCH a jewel from the past! I just love hearing how much you love your home, they are such special places and good ones deserve to be taken well care of!

It looks so kept us (as you say) for its age, what a special place. I am absolutely DYING to see pictures of the inside. I have never heard about these Sears homes before, it's a really interesting idea...you don't think of 1920's houses this way.

Please please keep sharing your fascinating home!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 6:33PM
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Hey, Traceee lady!!! I am very pleased that you've started your own house thread. That way, you should get all the responses to this thread sent direct to you.

Did I mention that one of the most knowledgeable folks in the area of Sears Kit Homes is a regular on GardenWeb? Not on the Small Homes, but on the Home side of the forums for sure. I accidentally stumbled across Rosemary Thornton when I was reading a thread on older homes forum called FOUND MY MAGNOLIA. I have since purchased one of her books about seeking the elusive whereabouts of Sears Kit Homes.

I also read that there were distribution centers in Boston and other major cities for Sears Kits. So your area was among those with more examples of the homes existing to this day.

Your house is breathtakingly beautiful. I have not yet visited your link, but that will happen momentarily. It is great to have your presence among us. We...and I'm sure I speak for many others who are Small Homers....are very happy to have you here.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 6:46PM
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I'm a dummy, I missed your link earlier. Oh my goodness, you really did have a major reno! The stone is gorgeous, everything is gorgeous. I'm so happy that you're keeping this place up so beautifully!

This article is interesting with some basic history and a link to pictures of some Sears homes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sears homes

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 7:01PM
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Your house is lovely! Aren't you lucky to have had a previous owner who took such good care of it! The bathroom might look a lot like my dd's. I can only see the top of the curve over the tub in your photos. My dd also has birch cabinets.

Were there two kitchens or were the stove and sink in two different rooms?

Here is my dd's house link. Is your bathroom anything like hers?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 10:20PM
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I just did a search for Sears catalog house and there are a ton of hits!

Here is one for floor plans from 1920. (scroll down)

Is any of these yours? The Olivia, maybe?

Sears houses

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 10:30PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

traceee, Welcome! Your house is lovely--what a gem, and what a nice neighbor hood. I love your kitchen--those counters are gorgeous!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 10:19AM
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Your home is so beautiful! And what a lovely kitchen! Thank you so much for sharing your photos!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:07PM
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Traceeee, I am uploading a picture of a Sears Kit house which was included in a 1919 ad for their homes. It was for the STARLIGHT model, and the particular version of it was built in Detroit MI. There were several options with the house, one being that the dormer could be changed. This house I plan to upload here for you looks just like YOUR dormer, and it has a front porch. I know your front porch was enclosed into a sun porch in the past, so I think we have something to go on or at least worth exploring. The STARLIGHT was apparently an extremely popular floorplan.

I am not meaning to put up much from this source, I found the page with this on it in Rosemary Thornton's book, THE HOUSES THAT SEARS BUILT, on p. 96. I highly recommend that you get a copy of her book. I don't even have a Sears house, and I found it very interesting reading.

Hope this piques your interest even further. I note in the captions of your photo album, there is much love apparent in the way you are approaching your treatment of this old lady. I can tell you, inside every old lady still beats the heart of the young girl she once was. The same with houses.

And this is the whole page. Your house is the one bottom right. Or so I think.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 3:43PM
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And check this one out.
Arts and Crafts Society shows it here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Sears Starlight

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 3:55PM
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I looked at that last night ML. Cracked me up that it came in two versions - with or without a bathroom!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 5:57PM
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Marti, in reading Rosemary Thornton's book about Sears Kit Homes, she mentions that fact.

I am trying to remember the shape of my Aunt's house which was in the country, they were so proud when the TVA ran power to them. There was a lightbulb in every room then, which turned on/off by a pull chain, not a switch.

And they had an inside bath ROOM, designated as such, but with no plumbing. They put the galvanized tub in there, since it was beside the kitchen. Heating water on the wood stove was done when meals were cooking, and maybe two kettles (cast iron things) full of hot water went into it.
The cleanest person bathed first, then the next cleanest and so on. Toting water to fill the tub was a heavy and time consuming chore, so there was not the sort of baths you see in the old western movies where bubbles are overflowing. I suppose some really sophisticated towns had plumbing, or maybe pumps up on the second floor to have water up there, but considering the engineering to allow it, I'm not sure they'd have spent the bucks to get it.

Anyway, I love the house. It is a lovingly restored home, and I hope they can get historical designation on the cluster of four houses on her block.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 1:39PM
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Moccasinlanding - WOW, I am blown-away to see that Starlight newspaper print-out advertising my house!!! That has to be my exact home! There is a middle/dining room that I can now envision to be the "parlor" room. There's a small 3' x 3' patch in the wood floors where the coal heat used to come up from the floors with a built-in hutch in that room. The attic window, the porch room, the brick stairs and even the foundation all look exactly the same....amazing! I am not quite sure exactly when the whole kitchen ended up inside the pantry - maybe in the 1950's or 1960's? Kinda funny don't you think?

I spent about 45 minutes scrolling through the link Marti sent - The yards, porches, stonework, and overall exterior of those advertised homes include timeless features. Maybe what we desire on the inside of our homes has changed, but the exterior look is universal, and that could be a catelog of homes from 2010!

I thank you all for sharing all this information with me. Very soon, I will take and post more pictures, I want share more homes in my area. Did you hear about the hurricane set to "skim" Massachusetts over the next couple of days?

We really have not finished our renovations - we just STOPPED somewhere around 4th of July. Budget was busted and it was time to enjoy some of the summer here in New England! We are still living kinda in shambles but I know we will get there soon!!!

Thank you everybody again for all your kind words!! Moccasinlanding again WOW - thanks for taking the time to find the Starlight!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 9:29PM
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Your house looks exactly like the one I lived in as a baby. I have the Sears Catalog and wonder about the layout, where my room was. My mother told me she painted the ceiling blue and put stars on it.

From photos I have we didn't have an enclosed porch, there were two old chairs sitting there.

If you look at the layout, one has a bath the other does not. You had an option at the time for an outhouse or indoor plumbing. Perhaps your layout was due to having plumbing. And depending upon the location, a basement too which we did have...again from photos taken long ago.

What a fun adventure.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 7:02AM
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Traceee and Emagineer, I agree that the Starlight model is a soul satisfying design. Traceee's house was apparently modified to include the front porch at some point in its past. And they did a lovely job of the addition too. It kept the symmetry of the house.

It pleases me greatly when someone can unravel another thread in the history of their home. Those old ladies have some tales to tell. I look forward to seeing how the story continues.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:52AM
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One thing you can do with old photos is to scan them at the highest resolution that you can.

Then begin blowing up the scan, and looking into the detail of the photo. You will be very surprised what you begin to see.

I did this with some of the old old family photos taken back in the early 1900s. Blowing them up and peeking at things like the scuff marks on the shoes of the children, the detailing on the home made dresses, a barb wire fence between the yard and a corn field, which had corn ears fully grown on it, so it had to be late in the year. And most of all, I could see the expression in the eyes of my grandmother.

But you might see the detailing of the boards on the porch, the way the steps were built and from what, and were they painted or not. Any flower beds and what was in them.
Many of the homes in my old pictures were not painted, but were of rough lumber sometimes board and batten. But the young couple were invariably standing proudly in front of their home, probably newly built or expanded. Hard working people in homemade dresses and overalls and brogan shoes. It was as close to Southern American Gothic as you can get.

Another one I loved was of my great grandmother Sophia taken in the hog pen with this huge hog which she was feeding. Going on the assumption that they had pictures taken of important things or events, I decided this was important because she was proud to be able to feed such a fine hog which would be slaughtered and feel her family well during the winter. Plus, she loved animals and took good care of them. I guess I inherited that love from her.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 11:17AM
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