Mary Lou DeMar called two Madeira Sears houses home


By Regina Villiers.   Originally published January 19, 2000 in The Suburban Life, added January 11, 2016

Russell and Mary Lou DeMar live in this Sears house, built by Russell's father, Howard, in 1928

Russell and Mary Lou DeMar live in this Sears house, built by Russell’s father, Howard, in 1928

Mary Lou(Jackson)DeMar, left, and her friend, Marilyn Hoffman, when they were children. Mary Lou, who lives in a Sears home, also lived in one as a child.

Mary Lou (Jackson) DeMar, left, and her friend, Marilyn Hoffman, when they were children. Mary Lou, who lives in a Sears home, also lived in one as a child.

Mary Lou DeMar, a Madeira artist, has a bunch of unusual circumstances in her life involving her family and the places she has lived.

She and her husband, Russell, now live in a Sears house on Maple Avenue in Madeira.  Living in a Sears house is a bit unusual, since Sears houses these days are getting to be on the historical side.

But Mary Lou has lived in two Sears houses in her lifetime.  When she was growing up, as Mary Lou Jackson, she lived in the Sears house at 7226 Miami in Madeira.  Not only has she lived in two Sears houses, but also she grew up to marry the son of the man who built both the houses.

Howard DeMar, who later became Madeira’s postman, was a builder at one time.  He built the house on Maple in 1928, intending to sell it, but the stock market crashed, and the Depression followed. He was unable to sell the house.  For several years, he rented out the house while trying to keep afloat financially.

Finally, around the time Russ was in the eighth grade, the house stood empty without a tenant.  The DeMars moved into it, where they lived the rest of their lives.

After the death of both his parents, Russ and Mary Lou decided to move into the house and make it their home.  The house is unchanged, except they have added a large, bright upstairs studio for Mary Lou, where she paints and holds classes for her art students.

The Sears house on Miami, where Mary Lou lived as a child, is now the home of Elizabeth Miller and the future home of the Madeira Historical Society.

This house, the “Crescent” model, is listed in the 1932 edition of the Sears house catalog,  “Homes of Today.”  It’s listed as a five-room house with bath and two porches, with an optional plan for two upstairs bedrooms.

Sears Roebuck and Co. once known as the “World’s Largest Store,” started in the home-building business in 1907 and issued their first house catalog in 1908.

Russ DeMar has given me a copy of the 1932 catalog, which gives a history of Sears houses.  Also, in April 1996, Bea Lask, who has done an extensive study of Sears houses, gave a presentation about them to the Madeira Historical Society.

Sears houses could be bought as kits, with everything furnished to complete a lived-in home, down to window shade and linoleum on the kitchen floor.  You could even get an electric refrigerator thrown in, if you wished.  All lumber and materials were sawed and cut to fit.  This made the houses more economical, because of little waste.  The houses were mass-produced in Sears home factories around the country, such as those in Port Newark, N.J., Cairo, Ill., and Norwood, Ohio.

In communities covered by Sears construction offices, a Sears house could be built by Sears workmen.  If you preferred, you could get your own builder or do your own building, with Sears engineers inspecting it along the way to see that it was properly constructed.

If you preferred, you could order the plans alone.  The plans cost $1.

The cost of a finished house, as advertised in their catalog, would be anywhere from $25 per month up, depending on the size of the house.  Your paid-for lot served as your down payment, and you could take up to 15 years to pay.

The houses were high designs and of quality materials.  At that time, the Sears name meant high quality.

The houses were advertised in the top magazines of the era, such as “Collier’s” and “Saturday Evening Post.”  But Sears relied on their houses catalogs for their principal advertising.

Sears stopped producing the houses in 1937, but they sold the stock on hand until 1940.  At that time, more than 100,000 families had bought their homes from Sears, from the 450 designs offered by Sears from 1908 to 1937.

Sears houses today are beginning to be known for historical significance and their enduring quality.   Owners of them take pride in their homes.

Mrs. Miller has always loved her Sears house.  She and her husband, Bruce, bought it and moved there in the 1940’s.  They reared their family there.

The DeMars enjoy their Sears home too.  With the addition, they have room for their music and art.  Russ’s quartet, the Four Star Edition, can rehearse there, and Mary Lou’s Tuesday art group can paint there.

There are other Sears homes in Madeira, and I would like to locate them.  If you live in a Sears home, please write or call me at this newspaper.