THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
Sears Roebuck House
From Jeffrey Bratko
Your Tales from the Old-Timer column of February 20 in the Peshtigo Times was pointed out to one of my relatives who clipped the story and sent it to my mother. It was a story about a Sears Roebuck house in Niagara. The picture and story was very interesting to members of my family because the home shown in the picture was the home of my grandparents for many years. Our family involvement with the home in your story began in the mid 1930s when my grandparents, Gus and Emma Tutas, purchased the home to house their growing family. They raised seven children in the house and four of those children are still alive.
My mother grew up in the house pictured in your story. Gus died in the late 1950s or about 1960 but Emma remained in the house until the mid 1990s. Eventually, Emma ended up spending the last couple years of her life in Maryhill Manor in Niagara, Wisconsin. The house was turned over to the State and a series of renters occupied it from time to time. One of the renters may have been a distant relative of Gus Tutas but I dont recall the details. I stopped by to look at the house a couple of years ago but it was empty with a for sale sign on the lawn.
From the 1950s through the early 1990s I visited the house in the article at least once or twice a year. As a child, it was the highlight of summer to travel with my family on the long drive from Chicago to Niagara to stay at grandmas house. I always slept in a bedroom on the second floor. The house remained essentially unchanged inside and outside for many decades.
At one point, perhaps in the 1980s, a vehicle crashed into the front porch (if my recollection is correct) and the porch had to be rebuilt. For many years my grandmother had a porch swing on the front porch and it was always a highlight of our visits to swing on the porch swing with grandma.
Behind the house in the picture in your newspaper you can see some large pines. I was always told that my grandfather or uncles planted those pines. It also looks like there is an apple tree remaining just to the left of the pines but that may be on the property next door. My grandfather had planted a number of apple trees on the property years ago and only a couple of barely living apple trees remained by the time my grandmother died in the late 1990s. Seeing that picture reminded me of the great apple pies she made with the apples from those trees.
My relatives did not have many answers when, as a child, I asked about the origins of the house. Someone seemed to recall it had been built by a prior owner who did the work himself but no one ever mentioned it was a Sears house built from a kit. I doubt they knew that fact. It was a wonderful house in many respects. At one time highway 141 was modest two lane road and a ditch separated the house from the road. However, eventually the highway was widened and the truck traffic became heavy and would shake the house quite often. Still, the house showed little ill effect from years of being shaken by semis and logging trucks.
I am not sure how much time that house has left. Some of the homes that were nearby years ago have been demolished. People these days do not want to live on the edge of a highway. The Sears home of the 1920s was cozy but people today prefer a more spacious home. I always thought it would be a good candidate to be moved back on the property to the back of the lot which is quite deep. There is a beautiful view from the hill behind the house.
Thanks again for filling in the early history of the house for our family and for reviving some great memories of that house and the people who lived inside it for many years.