Almost two years ago, we found our dream home back home in northwest Indiana, also known as The Region. My dad came with us to check it out with the realtor, I called it my free pre- inspection inspection because he has built and rehabed many homes and is a union electrician. The first thing he said as we walked in was that he thought it was a Sears home. I knew what he was talking about because one of our friends grew up in one and he had talked about it before, but this house didn’t look anything like that one. We loved it immediately, with its quirky points, because it was solid and had the updates we needed without sacrificing its 1939 charm. We quickly secured financing and closed and moved 30 days later. There is a picture of it from the day we moved in posted under House Hunting Is Hell.
I started looking for Sears homes built in 1939 about a year after we moved in, once all the major projects were finished. I realized looking at the floorplans, that this has to be The Lynn. It’s described in the book as neat as a pin. The measurements are spot on to my inspection and assessment. The only difference is the front door is now a window and the front porch is enclosed, so what was just a porch door is now the main front door. It also was at some point a two family home, with a second story, so there was an outside enclosed staircase added to the side. Strip those changes away, and it looks like the 1939 catalog picture.
But is it really a Sears Home? Rosemary Thornton, the most knowledgeable expert on the subject, cautions against that assumption. Her website contains a list of things to confirm, among them original blueprints, mortgage documents, building permits and shipping documents. These were a wash for us because our town does not keep old building permits, we have not located blueprints and Sears stopped doing mortgages before ours was built.
Other things to look for were mentioned as stamps on the lumber, grease pencil marking and even shipping labels on the backs of mouldings. I’ve been on the hunt for those and until a few weeks ago had come up empty. One night while doing laundry in the basement I noticed some blue grease scribbles on a floor hoist. Unfortunately it was half covered by another board and probably upside down.
Today after once again trying to find any info I could on the subdivision I live in, hoping that could shed some light, and coming up empty handed again, my husband discovered his wallet missing. I was dispatched to the garage to do another check of the car when the old door from the bathroom caught my eye, and right next to it was the old door frame with a Norwood shipping label looking right at me. I couldn’t believe it, it was right there all along.
I go back in the house and find my husband searching the laundry in the basement again for his wallet. I told him about my exciting find and ask him again if he has seen any stamps or grease pencil marks down there. We proceed to check the scary closet under the stairs that I was afraid to check on my own. It’s really not that scary, just slightly cob webby.I find another grease pencil scribble and two faded but semi legible stamps that look like the pictures I’ve seen online.
Later on, on my way to the store I noticed one of the shelves in the garage is one of the old shutters. Again, that has been there as long as we’ve owned the place and never noticed it.
So there you have it, my suspicion appears to be true and this is a Sears home, but even more exciting is that recently I found the Sears Homes of Chicagoland website, which lists the Lynn as one of the ‘rare 10.’
Here is the full list, from this page, which is where I’m quoting from:
The “Rare 10” 1939 models are as follows:
To quote the author,
“The 10 new models in the 1939 catalog are the most difficult to identify. Only a handful have been found and some of the models have never been seen. There are three main reasons for this:
- There are no shortcuts to find these houses. Testimonial letters from homeowners (sometimes with addresses) are an easy way to locate Sears houses. Unfortunately, after 1939, Sears had less print advertising and provided few updated testimonials about the newer models.
- There are no Sears mortgage records for the 1939 models. Sears used to offer financing for kit houses, and a search through grantor-grantee indexes can reveal the owners and locations of older Sears houses. However, after the Depression, Sears merely assisted customers in finding financing through FHA or private lenders so you won’t find the name “Sears Roebuck” or one of their trustees in later mortgage records.
- Generic styling. Most of the 10 new models were modified Cape Cods or Modern Colonials and look like zillions of other houses built in the 1930’s. It’s hard to identify these houses merely by sight.”
Are you kidding me? I can probably walk to half of the ones listed in under a minute. They are all around me.
I guess I’m not really surprised that no has noticed, these aren’t the typical large Sears Homes that get all the attention, just cute little houses tucked away between the railroad tracks and a main thoroughfare. Region people also don’t tend to get excited about such things, the woman at the building department last week basically told me my house didn’t look like one. So hiding in plain site, here they are.
I’m on vacation this week and my goal for the week was to find proof, day one and I’ve done that. Time to start identifying the others around me.