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Posted: Mar. 12, 2017 12:01 am

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SANDYSTON — “The houses that Sears congenital — or did they?” will be the affair of a presentation planned for 1 p.m. on March 19 in the affair anteroom of the Sandyston Township Municipal Building, 133 Route 645, in Hainesville. Sponsored by the Sandyston Township Historical Society, the affairs is chargeless and accessible to the accepted public. Kittatinny Basin citizen Jeff Walter, an ardent genealogist and bounded historian, will present the program.

Walter’s absorption in pre-fab homes was generated by his family’s buying of a beach home at Kittatinny Lake. Aback his grandparents purchased the beach home in 1961, for $8,500, the agent abreast them that the 1928 home came from Sears Roebuck.

As Walter recalls, “it was accessible that aggregate central was purchased by a Sears’ enthusiast. The best accessories in the kitchen came from Sears, the boiler came from Sears, and aggregate bottomward to the doorbell came from Sears. If Sears didn’t advertise it my ancestor didn’t own it. The car array was a Sears Diehard but, unfortunately, the car was a Rambler. It there anytime was a Sears Tourister Automobile my ancestor would accept endemic one.” (Incidentally, Sears did absolutely accomplish its own band of automobiles from 1908-1912.)

Continuing, Walter says that, “I consistently asked how anyone knew that it was a Sears bogus architecture and consistently accustomed the aforementioned response: ‘My father, uncle or grandfathering told me.’ In the backward 1970s, the home’s buying anesthetized to my parents. The autogenous was about the aforementioned as its birth in 1928. One bedchamber still had the aboriginal art deco walnut furniture. The acme of anniversary accompanying headboard had an ‘S’ carved into it. Wow! Alike the beds came from Sears.

“As a genealogist, I absitively to administer the aforementioned assumption to researching our home as I did archetype my family’s roots. I visited the old Anteroom of Records in Newton and met the then-County Clerk Honey Ackerman. She proceeded to appearance me how to do a accomplishment search. We started with my parents’ accomplishment from my uncle and again aback to the Bauman family. The beforehand grantor was a being called Frederick W. Steadman.

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“By coincidence, two weeks afterwards my mother absitively to acclimate the kitchen. Upon affairs the advanced artisan abstraction from about the door, there was a discovery. Stenciled on the aback of the copse was the name Frederick W. Steadman, Montclair, N.J. Branchville, N.J. Now I knew that not alone did I alive in Frederick Steadman’s home, but I was additionally sleeping in his bed. The 1946 accomplishment declared that all capacity in the home were to remain.”

Now, Walter’s concern was absolutely aroused. He spent a ample bulk of time in abounding libraries, and attractive at altered homes in the breadth but he still could not analyze his Sears home. He photographed 16 houses in the Kittatinny Basin association that were pre-cut dwellings.

In the interim, Walter had larboard the breadth and did not acknowledgment until 15 years later, aback his ancestor anesthetized abroad in 2008, and he alternate home to affliction for his mother. The abode was adversity from years of carelessness and he instructed the architect to booty the abode apart. That’s aback the accurate character of their home was discovered. Aback the old window casings were taken out, the basal was marked: “Summer Cottage 305.” As Walter describes it, “Next the bank came out and the autogenous of the balustrade was apparent ‘Gordon-Van Tine Co., Davenport, Iowa.’ That’s how we abstruse that our basin advanced cottage was not a Sears. A archive of Gordon-Van-Tine homes in the 1920s appear a summer home cardinal 305 that showed an exact attic plan of our home.”

Walter’s analysis appear that this aggregation was one of the aboriginal to advertise pre-cut or kit homes. Their roots go aback to about 1865 in Davenport, Iowa. Starting as a broad building-materials close with a basic of $673, they acquired by 1910 with their aboriginal archive alms prefabricated houses — the aboriginal anytime offered by a bartering firm. In 1923, they offered 150 altered homes. They backward in business until 1940.

Upon researching Sears Roebuck, Walter apparent that they started affairs architecture food in 1895 and, afterwards 1900, they began affairs abode designs. The aboriginal Sears Avant-garde Homes archive appeared in 1908, alms all the genitalia allegation to body a house.

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From 1916-1933, Sears offered absolutely prefabricated homes throughout the country. From 1911-1933, they offered mortgage loans, while from 1929-1934; Sears offered absolute abode architecture by application with bounded carpenters. Over the years, Sears awash an estimated 100,000 prefabricated homes. Unfortunately, all acceptable things allegation appear to an end and the 1929 ‘crash’ that led to the Depression and the contributed home mortgages led to the end of the Sears Roebuck’s prefabricated homes.

As for the actual homes, Walter describes Sussex County as a basic abundance accession of kit homes. In Sandyston, the new home was delivered to the Branchville alternation annex on the milk train. Depending on the admeasurement of the home, it accustomed in one or two box cars. The crates, absolute bags of genitalia were loaded assimilate wagons and delivered to the site.

Concentrating his efforts locally, Walter begin two absolute Sears Roebuck Homes at Kittatinny Lake. Both were congenital in the aboriginal 1930s and both in appearance of anniversary other. The “Glyndon” was advertised as a avant-garde bungalow congenital forth apparent curve of high-grade materials, yet at a amount that is aural the ability of about every purse. They ranged in amount from $595 to $1,990. He again articular “The Maples,” a 1927 home bogus by Aladdin that retains abundant of its aboriginal charm. The baby amplitude of alley on which these two homes are amid on, additionally has seven added kit homes aural a 500-foot radius.

Walter describes, as the best amazing kit home that he has apparent to date is the “Westly” bogus by Sears Roebuck & Co. It sits in Sandyston, aloof off Route 206, in Stokes State Forest. “This accepted home aboriginal appeared in the 1913 Sears Catalog. This one still retains its aboriginal Sears block foundation, doors and windows.”

Walter concedes that of all the kit homes, the Sears Roebuck ones are the hardest to identify. In accession to houses, the catalogues offered garages, barns, schools, churches and alike outhouses. The 1926 Sears Roebuck archive offered 100 altered abode models as able-bodied as a “Simplex Portable Outhouse, 4 Ft. Square for $41. At that backward date, it still offered houses that lacked a bathroom. As for their mortgages, the absorption allegation was 6 percent with account payments alignment from $15 to $75 per month.

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As Walter advises, “the banal bazaar blast on Oct. 29, 1929, brought on the Great Depression and the alpha of the end of the Kit-Home era. Montgomery Ward bankrupt its apartment analysis in 1931. In the bounce of 1933, Sears Roebuck bankrupt its Avant-garde Homes Division, afterwards adversity a accident of added than $8 actor in uncollectible mortgages. They reopened that autumn with beneath designs and no mortgage financing. Their sales never rebounded and they bankrupt assuredly in 1940.

Thus, ends the adventure of the prefabricated or kit-homes era that alone lasted for about one-quarter of a century. But, today abounding of those homes still abide in Sussex County and Walter affairs to allotment his ability about them on March 19.

ººº

Jennie Sweetman is the history columnist for the New Jersey Herald. She may be contacted at jenniee@warwick.net.

Jeff Walter may be contacted at: jeffWmWalter@aol.com.

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