About “Sears Houses in Cincinnati”

This site is a tribute to the original “Sears Houses in Cincinnati” website, which was published from Oct 2013 to Nov 2014.

The original website was created and maintained by Laraine Shape, a realtor in Cincinnati, who stumbled upon information about Sears Kit Houses while researching other homes in her area.

Laraine quickly became a huge fan of this unique part of our Architectural history.

She loved to  take photos of the houses that had previously been located by other kit house researchers, and learned quickly how to spot them herself.  She would often call on homeowners, get invited to see the inside of the home, then get great photos to share with others through her website.

Laraine Shape passed away in Jan of 2015, following a brief illness.

I hope you learn something about Sears Modern Homes while browsing through these blog posts.

Feel free to share this site with others who might have interest, but please don’t use these photos without giving proper credit.

Remember……..

Laraine is watching.

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Beatrice Lask

Originally posted on Jan. 8, 2014 by Laraine Shape

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Laraine with Beatrice Lask and Cindy Catanzaro, fellow Sears House enthusiast

I recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting Beatrice Lask, the preservationist and architectural aficionado who performed an in depth survey of Sears Houses in the Cincinnati area in the early 1990′s.

The first (and only) Sears House survey of its kind in Cincinnati, Mrs. Lask’s research was performed as part of her university studies which culminated in a thesis titled Sears, Roebuck Catalogue Houses in the Cincinnati Area. The thesis, in which she identified nearly 500 Sears kit houses, is once again safely on file in the rare book section at the University of Cincinnati thanks to the efforts of Cindy Catanzaro.

According to Mrs. Lask, the purpose of her study was twofold;
“to compile a list of identifiable Sears houses in the Cincinnati area” and “to help the public and particularly Sears home owners become familiar with these houses and appreciate their unique qualities and historic value. Perhaps this knowledge will help protect against further indiscriminate alterations or demolitions.”

Her study was done over a two year period, using little more than a guide book published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation titled Houses by Mail, A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and a drive through Cincinnati…neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, street by street. She did not have the benefit of the internet for her studies. But according to Mrs. Lask, she enjoyed every minute of the task. “It didn’t seem like work to me,” she said.

Ms. Lask’s work first came to my attention in a 2003 Cincinnati Enquirer article titled SEARS Homes Come Into Their Own. In it, the writer noted that “Some people are insulted when Mrs. Lask tells them they live in a Sears home, until she explains. “Then they often say, `We wondered why it had such fine wood,’ or `I couldn’t believe each window screen was numbered to match each window,’ ” she said. “They wondered how such a modest home could have features like hardwood floors, . . . built in shelving, things you don’t usually find.”

When asked how many of the homes she was able to get inside, Mrs. Lask said “about one in four.” That means she had the opportunity to see at least 100 Sears houses in Cincinnati.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Mrs. Lask loves Sears houses. She radiates with passion when she talks about their distinctive features, quality materials and craftsmanship. And when Cindy Catanzaro, fellow Sears House enthusiast, Sears House owner and historian from Springfield, Ohio showed Mrs. Lask a photograph of the Osborn model located on Eastwood Circle in Madisonville her eyes lit up like a child’s on Christmas day. “That’s my favorite.” she said.

Cincinnati owes Beatrice Lask a debt of gratitude for having located and identified a piece of its history that may never have been found otherwise. I’m honored to have made her acquaintance and to have had the opportunity to chat with her about the work that wasn’t really work. It’s a day Cindy and I will both cherish.

Sears Four Family Apartment Houses in Wyoming, Ohio

This post was originally published by Laraine Shape on December 5, 2013

To a SEARS Roebuck kit home enthusiast, finding an authentic Sears four-family in great condition is like finding a crop of morel mushrooms to a
mushroom hunter. Pure gold. Imagine finding six of them within a mile of each other!

Welcome to Wyoming Ohio. A Norman Rockwellesque vision of tree-lined
streets and architectural eye candy like nothing you’ve ever seen. Everything from Victorian “painted ladies” to stately stone mansions. If you were looking for architectural heaven and found Wyoming, you’d be doing all right.

And when it comes to exceptional examples of Sears kit homes, it’s a veritable treasure trove. All told, Wyoming has about 2 dozen Sears Modern Kit Homes including the five four-family apartments shown here.

Here’s a look at the five apartment homes (dubbed The Atlanta) billed by Sears as

“A four-family apartment house with five rooms and bathroom for each family, that can be built at a very low cost and will make an exceptionally good paying investment. A light shaft in the center gives light and ventilation for the halls and bathrooms. A private porch provided for each family.”

 

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A Sears Atlanta at 414 Poplar Ave. Wyoming, Oh

 

 

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A Sears Atlanta at 35 Sherry Rd., Wyoming, Oh

 

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A Sears Atlanta (with enclosed porches) at 1100 Springfield Pike, Wyoming, Oh

 

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A Sears Atlanta (with enclosed porches) at 1114 Springfield Pike, Wyoming, Oh

 

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A Sears Atlanta (with enclosed porches) at 1056 Springfield Pike Wyoming, Oh.

 

And here’s number 6. It’s in Hartwell which is within spitting distance of Wyoming

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136 Sheehan in Hartwell (right next door to Wyoming)

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SEARS Roebuck Elsmore Model at 3630 GlendaleMilford Rd. in Evendale, Oh

This post was originally published by Laraine Shape on November 26, 2013

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The other day I was zooming down GlendaleMilford Rd. when I spotted a cluster of porch pillars out of the corner of my eye. A Sears house!

Turns out it’s a beautiful SEARS Roebuck Elsmore model complete with distinctive 5 piece eave brackets, original porch rail and Sears front door. SWEET!  Definitely no mistaking this one. It’s the real deal. Another one recently came available for sale in Wyoming and sold very quickly. In 3 days to be exact and for $2000 more than asking price.

The Elsmore was billed by Sears as ” a popular, inexpensive and graceful bungalow, well lighted and ventilated.”   Click here to see the original catalog image of this home.

Unfortunately the owner wasn’t home when I stopped to take pictures. Maybe next time. I’d love to see the inside

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Distinctive front door
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Porch pillars and rail
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Sears distinctive five piece eave bracket

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Recently sold Sears Elsmore model at 1540 Maple Ave., Wyoming, Oh

 

 

 

Sears Roebuck Hathaway Model at 7035 Grace Ave. in Madisonville, Ohio

This post was originally posted by Laraine Shape on November 17, 2013

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Reminiscent of an English cottage, the Sears Hathaway model was a sweet 4 room home with breakfast alcove and bathroom. It was billed by Sears as a “neat design” that will please those who need a smaller house than the one shown on the opposite page (of the Sears Modern Home catalog). “The living room has ample space for piano, davenport, phonograph, table, reading lamp, chairs and other necessary articles of furniture.”

This SEARS Roebuck sweetheart on Grace Avenue was built in 1929 and found by Beatrice Lask during her 1990 survey of Sears Houses in Cincinnati. It has seen some exterior updating in the way of siding, door and window replacement, but still maintains her original lines and charm. Do you suppose the breakfast alcove benches are still present?

Click here to see the Sears Hathaway model as it appeared in the 1923 Modern Home catalog

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Sears Osborn Model at 1722 Madison Ave. in Mt. Healthy, Ohio

This blog post was originally published on Nov. 13, 2013 by Laraine Shape

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Some days are perfect. Yesterday was one of them.

I got to tour a beautiful Sears Osborn model in Mt. Healthy, chat with its owner, Mary, (one of the nicest people you’d ever care to meet) and enjoy the company of a recently adopted cat who has made himself perfectly at home.

And who wouldn’t? The home has that warm, well loved,cozy feel that seems to be a rarity these days. I enjoyed every minute.

The home was built in 1926 with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and a side porch. Mary and her husband, Richard, have owned the home since 1974.

The fireplace was placed on the left side as you enter the living room rather than the right as shown on the old Osborn plans (the original glass doors have been replaced on the bookshelves).

Many of the original features remain although there have been significant changes including; porch enclosure, kitchen remodel and the addition of a 3rd bedroom, informal eating area and deck at the rear of the house. A rough stucco finish was added to the living room walls to give it a more “adobe” like feel. Lighting fixtures have been replaced (although the original dining room chandelier is in a box in the basement), wood and some hardware has been painted and carpet is covering the original hardwood floors, something Mary would love to change but hasn’t been able to convince her husband to do because he loves the feel of carpet.

All in all the home has retained the majority of its original integrity and it was an absolute pleasure to see.

And yes! We found blue grease pencil marks in the basement.  Click here for an explanation of by Sears Home expert, Rose Thornton, of how these got there.

Click here to see the original Sears Osborn model with floor plan

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Notes about this post

Laraine started blogging about Sears Houses at the end of October 2013.  After only two weeks, she had visited quite a few homes in her area, and even got inside several houses for personal tours.

If you have been following along, you will see that in several of her blogs up to this point, Laraine referenced Rosemary Thornton and links to her website.  Laraine also had links to Rose’s books about Sears Houses on her website.

But on Nov 12., 2013, Rose made a comment on one of Laraine’s previous blogs, about a house that Laraine thought might be a custom Sears Home.  Rose clearly stated that the house was not from Sears, and gave an indication of what it might be, in the opinion of another Sears fanatic, Rachel Shoemaker.

If you follow Sears Houses at all on the internet, you will find numerous references to these two women, who both have websites about Sears, and other kit houses.  They also are administrators of what they refer to as “a large closed group” on Facebook.  I myself, was a member (and for a time, an Admin) in that Facebook group, until I left due to the tone and commentary within that group.

Since I had maintained contact with quite a few other Sears researchers who were still in the group, I heard pretty quickly that someone had shared a link to Laraine’s blog about the possible custom house.  Not only was Laraine ridiculed for her blog post in the group at that time,  but Rachel, specifically, would continue to bring up the post for further insults over a period of time.  Rose was happy to join in the conversations condemning Laraine’s blog and research.

This type of commentary within that group was not new.  Over the years that I was a member, this type of thing would happen over and over again.  Apparently, those two women are under the impression that they, and ONLY they, are knowledgeable and capable of speaking about Sears Houses, which is surely not the case.

Laraine, herself, was unfazed by the criticism she received, after being told about it, but went on to do many more blogs of her own about the Sears Houses in Cincinnati.  She did, however, remove ads to Rose Thornton’s books from her website, and would never add links to her website again.

Sears Avalon Model at 196 Fleming Rd. in Wyoming, Ohio

This blog post was originally published on Nov. 8, 2013 by Laraine Shape

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If ever there was a sweet Sears Modern Home, the Avalon model is it. And here is a perfect example of one at 196 Fleming Rd. in Wyoming, Ohio…perched on a gorgeous rolling, treed setting of nearly 1 acre. The current owner has lived in the home since 1987 and had the good fortune of attending one of Beatrice Lask’s lectures at the Wyoming Historical
Society in 1991. Beatrice was Cincinnati’s Sears Kit Home expert and was responsible for unearthing nearly 500 of them in the early 1990′s as part of her Master’s Degree thesis project.

This home on Fleming was built in 1926 and is in pristine condition. It consists of 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, living room, dining room and kitchen. The original Sears model was billed as having 3 bedrooms and as being “warm and cozy enough for any part of the country.” The porch on this home is an absolute delight.

I’d love to see the inside details of this home. Maybe I’ll get lucky one of these days and the two adorable little “guard” dogs will let me into their domain for a few minutes.

1920 catalog