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.
Originally posted on Jan. 8, 2014 by Laraine Shape
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.
This post was originally posted by Laraine Shape on November 17, 2013
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?
This blog post was originally published on Nov. 13, 2013 by Laraine Shape
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.
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.
This blog post was originally published on Nov. 8, 2013 by Laraine Shape
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.
This post was originally published on Nov. 7, 2013 by Laraine Shape
Here’s an example of a Sears Vallonia model in Madisonville, Ohio. Billed as a “real prize bungalow,” the Vallonia was one of, if not THE, most popular kit home models offered by Sears. It was available from 1921 until 1940 and consisted of 4 bedrooms, (2 down and 2 up) plus an upstairs sewing room, 1 bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen. We have lots of these old Vallonia treasures here in the Cincinnati area. Click here to see the original Sears catalog offering of this delightful bungalow.
This post was originally published on Nov. 6, 2013 by Laraine Shape
Here’s a pair of Sears twins in Lockland – Josephine models. Aren’t they cute? They belong to the Church of Christ in Lockland, Ohio. They sit side by side on W. Wyoming Ave., the main drag that runs east and west between Wyoming and Lockland. The main church is next door, to the right, as you face these Sears houses. One was built in 1924 (407) and its sister at 405 was built in 1931 – seven years later. Both houses consist of 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. The Sears catalog offering promises “You will like the Josephine the longer you live in it.” Click here to see the original Sears catalog offering
This post was originally published by Laraine Shape on Nov. 3, 2013
This sweet little blue house with crisp white trim is a wonderful example of a Sears “Honor Bilt” Argyle model in Wyoming, Ohio. It was built in 1918 and consists of 2 bedrooms and 1 full bathroom. The 1923 Sears Modern Home catalog billed this offering as “a pleasing small bungalow with two bedrooms and a easy living floor plan”. It’s exposed beams, rafter tails, elaborated verge boards (decorative board at the verge of the roof) and built-ins make even the small Sears kit houses as desirable today as when they were built decades ago.
This post was originally published by Laraine Shape on Nov. 2, 2013
Here is a beautiful example of a Sears Matoka model in Wyoming, Ohio. This model originally appeared as Modern Home No. 168 in the Sears Modern Home catalog of 1911 and was later named the Matoka. It was described as being “pleasing but not extreme.” The original catalog offering gave customers the option of finishing the 2nd floor or not. If finished there would be an additional 2 bedrooms, making this a very spacious 4 bedroom home. According to the Hamilton County Auditor’s webpage, this particular home was built in 1927 and has 7 rooms including 4 finished bedrooms. Click here to see the original Sears catalog offering of this delightful bungalow. And click here to see another Matoka found by Sears Home expert Rosemary Thornton. Scroll down to the middle of the page.
This post was originally published on Oct. 31, 2013 by Laraine Shape
If you were flying down Madison Road, in a hurry to get somewhere, you’d never even know this circle of treasured homes was there. But turn onto the tree lined street and you’d know something was different about this sleepy, little neighborhood. What’s different is the cluster of 10 beautifully maintained and well loved Sears Roebuck kit homes. The Eastwood historic district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
For Sears home enthusiasts, driving down this street is like walking into a See’s candy store in California. Deliciously gawkable. If you go there, drive slow. Otherwise you might find yourself driving into someone’s lawn as you admire the eye candy.
Here are all 10 of the Sears houses on Eastwood Circle. Hope you enjoy the view.
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5054 East Eastwood Circle, 1933, Sears house, the Sunbeam model (original number and owner #20, Dickman, Fred B.). It is a one and a half story with a large porch and shed roofed sleeping porch above. Its solid pillars reflect a very cheerful Bungalow style. The clapboard siding is original, with original wood shingles above. It is 1117 finished square feet. It may have been built by Mr. Dickman.
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form filed in 2005: “5050 East Eastwood Circle, 1933, Sears house, the Mitchell model (original number and owner #18, Wynne, John). “English architecture with a touch of the popular California studio type. Two (intersecting) gables…(with a) stone and brick chimney.” This house has the original shakes in the gables but not the style of windows listed in the catalog. There were French doors lying in the coal bin. It has had vinyl siding added and windows replaced. It is 974 finished square feet. There is a letter “S” for Sears stamped in the foundation.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5046 East Eastwood Circle, 1933, Sears house, Maplewood with Osborn roofline, (original number and owner #16, Fisher, F.M.). This small, one and a half story has a matching double, detached original garage with the same flared roof ridge with a steep pitch. The prominent brick and stone chimney sits next to a front facing gable, which has one flared side sweeping closer to the ground
than the other. Stone faces this gable. “S” is stamped on the basement stonework, indicating a Sears house. The siding is covered in vinyl. It is 1534 finished square feet”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5038 East Eastwood Circle, 1932, Sears house, the Puritan model (original number and owner #14, Hannika, Elizabeth). This two story is in the Dutch colonial style with a “colonial doorway with colonial hood”. An addition was added during the 1970s to the south gable end. The wood siding is original and the wood siding on the addition was carefully matched. It has a gambrel roof. There is evidence of the original latticed porte cochere over the drive. The owner would like to restore that as well as the balustrade feature above the addition side. It is 1699 finished square feet. The garage is original.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5066 East Eastwood Circle, 1930, Sears house, the Crescent (original number and owner #24, Harvie, Arthur H.). This colonial has a centered portico covered with a prominent pediment. It is faced with original wood siding and shingles. The original wood porch posts have been removed. It is 1559 finished square feet.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration from filed in 2005: “5018 East Eastwood Circle, 1930, Sears house, the Osborn model (original number and owner #6, Kuns, Ray F.). This house is described in the Sears catalog as “stucco and shingle sided bungalow in Spanish mission architecture…(with) massive stucco porches and bulkheads.” It is trimmed with “red brick coping…(and) corbels and purlins.” All original features are still present. It is 1405 finished square feet. Charles Kratz , nephew of the developer, says there was an office behind the house that the owner had for a mail order motor model business. A secretary worked in this small structure. It is no longer standing. At one time the garage at 5024 East Eastwood belonged to this property”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5032 East Eastwood Circle, 1923, Sears house, the Verona model (original number and owner #12, Moeller, Phillip and Flora). Builder was Charles E. Dawson of the Dawson Zeh Co. It features a Colonial Revival style door and sidelights flanked by bay windows on either side. There is also a bay window centered above. The side of the attic floor has fanlights. This Dutch Colonial Revival style two story house has a gambrel roof. It has been resided in vinyl. It is 2280 finished square feet. The garage is original.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5061 West Eastwood Circle, 1933, Sears house, the Martha Washington model (original number and owner #21, Evans Wm. A.; Mack Swigert house from 19441949). This is a large, two – story Dutch Colonial Revival with fluted columns and sidelights and a fanlight on the front door. The front portico is covered with an arch topped roof. There is a central chimney. The rear has a recent (16 years ago) addition with a shed roof. The garage was also added at that time and is noncontributing. There is a gambrel roof. The material is vinyl siding. It is 2384 finished square feet.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5031 West Eastwood Circle, 1925, Sears house, the Alhambra model (original number and owner #11, Kratz, William H.). This was the house of the father of the neighborhood developer. When the present owner moved in, the house had a full porch, not asymmetrical like the plans. It also had brown vinyl siding and no sign of the originally intended stucco underneath. There was an asphalt shingle siding beneath. The original shaped parapets, surrounding the hipped roof, had been covered in siding and squared off. In 1999, the owners altered the siding and gables. It is 1854 finished square feet. The original siding on this house was a light – colored concrete stucco with small stones in it. This house is noncontributing to the district.”
From the National Register of Historic Places Registration form filed in 2005: “5023 West Eastwood Circle, 1932, Sears house, Wayne model with modified gable (original number and owner #7, Gruber, Fred, C.). This Sears house has a large front porch and a frontfacing gable roof. It is symmetrical, with a triple center window upstairs. There are large windows on either side of the door downstairs. The original clapboards are covered with vinyl siding. It is 1397 finished square feet. The garage is original.”
Notes about this post:
The Eastwood Historic District is probably the most well known area of Cincinnati in regards to Sears Kit Houses. The models are all within a block or two of each other, and are in excellent repair. There have been several newspaper articles over the years about this collection of homes. Anyone interested in Sears kit houses in the Cincinnati area should take a drive down Eastwood Circle.