The Torrington was one of the fanciest and grandest models Sears ever offered. It was also one of their rarer models, with only one other example known to exist (read about it *HERE*). Finding an example has been quite the rarity, due to a multitude of factors. First, it was only sold for a short period; Houses By Mail, the unofficial “Bible” of kit home researchers such as myself, said that the Torrington was only sold between 1932-1934. However, I have not been able to find evidence that it was sold in 1933 or 1934; ergo deducing the only year of sale to 1932. 1932 was near the height of the Great Depression, and large, grandiose homes like the Torrington were likely going to be slow sellers due to the economic situation of the times; smaller and more economical homes like the Vallonia were more likely to be sold. Imagine my surprise when I found a (probable) Torrington whilst crawling through the real estate classifieds of a well-off suburb of Reading, PA, a town which never even had a Sears Modern Homes sales office!
The realtor really knew how to pull off this photo; they took it from the exact same angle as shown in the catalog (never mind the reversed floor plan). This really is a beautiful home, isn’t it? I personally find the stonework and slate roof quite appealing both visually, and from a longevity standpoint (both materials are renowned for their durability).
Sears’ ad copy stated that “The floor plans are full of surprises because they contain everything desired in a home of this size.” I agree with this, seeing as the home came with options that are commonplace in the present, but were rather rare at the time, such as an attached garage. While this was a relative rarity, Sears had offered attached garages on homes before this; the first model to offer one was the Ardara. This home’s floorplan appears to have modified to have it moved from the main level, to the basement level below a terrace/balcony off the living room, due to the sloping lot the home was built on. One can make out the garage in the lower left of the image above.
The original recessed doorway is fairly intact on this home, with an architecturally fitting red storm door and transom window having been added at some point. With sole of the various design elements (includng the red door), the exterior’s aesthetic hearkens to an English country estate, in the humble opinion of yours truly.
The living room appears to have remained fairly original over the years, with the original windows, french doors, hardwood flooring, and crown moulding remaining intact. The only thing that appears to be a more recent addition being the marble fireplace mantle. To my knowledge, Sears did not offer such an option for their home. Also, the mantel’s basic design was a fairly popular one in higher-end homes during the Victorian era, leading me to believe that it was either architectural salvage from an old Victorian mansion, or a well-executed reproduction of an old mantle design. In the end, it is quite attractive, and works well with the rest of the living room.
As with the living room, the dining room appears to have remained fairly intact as well. What appears to be original windows, trim, wainscoting, hardwood flooring, and french doors are all still here in this home.
The breakfast nook appears to still be used for its intended purpose.
The kitchen appears to have cabinetry dating from the 1950’s or 1960’s, which means that it is probably considered retro-chic these days. Personally, this reminds me of my maternal grandparents’ home, which still has the original 1960’s kitchen cabinetry.
In the original floorplan, these rooms would have been the garage. As noted earlier, due to the sloping lot, the location of the garage was moved, leaving a space which appears to serve the function of an entertainment/TV room. This differs from how the owners of the Torrington in Annapolis, MD utilized this space, as they turned it into a full-on library, complete with a nice little wood-burning fireplace.
The stairway and reception hall seem to have remained relatively original, with the railing, newel post, and banisters appearing to be original equipment.
The master bedroom has been carpeted over, but the radiator remains in this home. Radiators were the most expensive and effective heating system Sears sold in those days, and were considered an industry standard as the “best” method in those days. Such equipment was to be expected on a home as grand and sumptuous as the Torrington.
This bedroom appears to have one of the 7 closets touted in the ad copy visible.
This one has a radiator visible. I wonder if the radiator heating system still works…
This bedroom has a view of a built-in that was not visible in any of the others.
Now for some info on the owners, and some photos of their prior address…
With some help (okay, a lot) from researchers Lara Solonickne and Judith Chabot, I have been able to track down the original owners of this home. The original owners of the house were Paul L. and Erma Fleisher.
Paul and Erma had two daughters. Evelyn was one of them. She appeared to be a successful young woman from what we have been able to gather.
Their other daughter, June, died in either late April or early May of 1932, while the family was still living in their previous address, which was also in Wyomissing.
The Fleisher’s prior address was recently foreclosed, and gave me a treasure trove of images of their prior home. This allowed me to take a peek into their lives before the Torrington.
One thing I immediately noticed about the living room of their previous address was an arched fireplace mantel made of whitewashed brick. Is it a coincidence that both this home and the Torrington have an arched mantel? It probably is.
As with the Torrington, the radiators on this home are also extant, which is probably also a coincidence. Also notable is the fact that the original wood trim and hardwood are still intact (other than the trim being whitewashed). As with the Torrington, I wonder if the radiators are still functional…
As in the other rooms of this home, the trim is still intact, and so are the radiators. I’m guessing that there is probably some nice hardwood under all that carpet…
Unlike with the Torrington, the cabinetry in the Fleisher’s prior address appears to be from the 1980’s or 1990’s, which means that it is not yet considered retro-chic, and has probably is going to be ripped out soon, if it hasn’t happened already.
And we are back to where we started. Although the style would likely lead one to believing that the home was built before World War 1, tax records apparently have placed the build date of this building as 1922
Back to the Torrington…
With the three of us looking over digitized directories for Greater Reading from the 1930’s, we looked for the Fleisher’s, already knowing that they would likely be the original owners. We were able to track them living in the (probable) Torrington all the way back to 1934. Before that year, there was nothing; nobody lived at “52 Grandview Blvd” before the Fleishers in 1934. This year of 1934 also happened to match up with Wyomissing’s tax records, which also stated that this home had been built in 1934.
You can probably recall that I had stated early on that the Torrington was likely only sold in 1932, correct? Now you are probably wondering “How did this home get built in 1934, if Sears didn’t even sell it that year, or the prior year?” There are a couple hypotheses our little kit home research group has came up with that might help explain this situation:
- The home was purchased in late 1932, construction did not start until 1933 due to winter, and was completed in either late 1933 or early 1934.
- Sears may have had an option to custom-order a design from a previous year’s catalog. Competitor Lewis Mfg of Bay City, MI appeared to offer such an option; examples of this have been found in Syracuse, NY and Washington D. C. Admittedly, there is nothing to back this up, other than the fact that a major competitor offered the exact same option.
If you know of another Torrington, or any other kit home for that matter, please let me know in the comments section, or through the “Contact Me” form.
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