Steven Slosberg: Sears kit or not, 220 North Water St. Is a splendor
For a long time, neighborhood lore had it that the house at 220 North Water St. In Stonington, after Don’s Dock Marina, became of a curious and probably particular pedigree on the town: It becomes selected from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalog within the Twenties and shipped, in heaps of portions, here by way of teaching.
So an awful lot was this history accepted that when the house went in the marketplace no longer long ago, the listing became promoted thusly: “This is a fascinating Sears and Roebuck package house constructed in 1921 …”.
Well, seemingly no longer.
I want to mention right here that I’ve recognized the seller for many years, as I do his lawyer and the Realtor representing the vendor, and I’ve been in the house of a few events. My hobby in pursuing this is trying to pin down the Sears & Roebuck ancestry.
It has become out, after prowling around the attic and basement with a flashlight trying to find signature markings on plumbing furnishings and framing lumber, just like one of the cherished portions by Joseph Mitchell, the grasp reporter and storyteller for The New Yorker from the Thirties to the Sixties. He is remembered here for his two-part profile of Ellery Thompson, the Stonington dragger captain, posted inside the New Yorker in January 1947. But the story I’m recalling became first published as “The Cave” in June 1952 and then retitled “Up in the Old Hotel.”
Mitchell describes how he and the owner of Sloppy Louie’s, one in all his favorite eating places at New York’s Fulton Market, decided someday to explore the top and long-deserted flooring of the constructing that homes Sloppy Louie’s. The task is not without its risks, and the expected treasures, sadly, became out to be bedsprings, brass spittoons, and empty whiskey and seltzer bottles, and, quite clearly, years of dirt, soot, droppings, and the like.
My explorations were in far more neat, strong, and plainly appealing surroundings, even though they had been reputedly in vain.
According to Rosemary Thornton, writer of “The Houses That Sears Built” and a recognized professional on the problem, you stay in a Sears Roebuck Kit Home if:
It was built between 1908 and 1940;
Arrived utilizing a boxcar in a package with 10,000 to 30,000 portions of the house and a 75-web page training book;
Included plumbing furnishings with the mark “R” or “SR”;
Had Sears lumber identifying marks at the tall facet and 2-10 inches from ceasing of framing member;
Had transport labels with the address “925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois” or “Sears Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois.”
Followed exactly one in all 370 special housing designs, price among kind of $six hundred to $6,000 (but normally within the $1,000 to $3,000 range) and utilized 750 pounds of nails.
“Sears Roebuck promised that ‘a man of average abilities might want to assemble a Sears kit domestic in approximately ninety days,’” wrote Thornton. “In 1908, Sears expected that a contractor could rate $450 to construct a Sears domestic… Sears kits have been made with the finest materials, together with cypress for all exterior additives, and primary-growth, pinnacle-grade yellow pine for framing contributors. Kitchen and bath floors had been solid maple (tongue and groove).”
Sears wrote Thornton, sold a few 70,000 kit homes between 1908 and 1940. Other businesses selling such houses across the state on time blanketed Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Lewis Homes, Harris Brothers, and Sterling Homes.
Another manner to in all likelihood discover the house as a Sears package in eastern states changed into whether or not mortgages have been supplied by way of the Philadelphia Girard National Bank of Philadelphia and carried such a name: F.C. Schaub, Walker O. Lewis, William C. Reed, Edwards D. Ford, Fowler B. McConnell or John M. Ogden.
In keeping with the attorney, the supposition of approximately 220 North Water Street started quickly after the couple purchased the residence in 1973. The owner’s wife, who died several years ago, informed the legal professional it was a Sears kit house. “She had pix of 1 and perhaps a web page from the vintage Sears catalog,” he wrote in an e-mail. “… She stated it becomes absolutely devoted to the page within the catalog and had no departures/changes from it.”
Indeed, to the blissfully unobservant passerby, the residence does resemble Sears Kit foursquare version “The Castleton” or “The Hamilton.”
Nancy Dunne, who resided in Pawcatuck and grew up in a Sears kit home, the model “Vallonia,” in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., has a keen interest in those homes and published a hyperlink of 220 North Water St. With the Sears Kit Home FaceBook page.
One of the directors of the web page wrote returned:
“No [it is not a Sears house]. …” It is very excellent foursquare, but it is not a version or design Sears provided.” She brought: “Not all quality houses are ‘Sears’ or kit homes, and while most of the people of houses aren’t ‘Sears’ homes or package houses, they’re every bit just as first-class.
“The best distinction between a residence built from that time that isn’t a kit domestic or IS a package domestic is wherein and how the substances have been bought. They may additionally or won’t have been pre-reduce. There was no special wooded area that the lumber got here from. The choice and great may have been slightly higher; however, that changed into also to be determined at a lumber backyard or everywhere one purchased substances. Sears, as with any mail-ordered warehouses who published merchandise catalogs returned then and even now, outsourced their suppliers, bought from many makers.”
As she said, Sears kit or no, this is one robust and handsome house.
Steven Slosberg lived in Stonington and became a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached