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Indiana’s $1 Million $1,600 House

In all my travels, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose (a spacious foursquare offered by Sears Roebuck). That Hillrose was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 10 years old. The house was re-created several years ago by architects who carefully studied the old mail-order catalog in which it was offered. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. Of all the museums I’ve seen, the Hillrose is my favorite. The second floor is not true to the period, and is used for administrative offices.

To read more about this interesting project, click here.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

The people organizing my talk had made arrangements for me to give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose. There was seating for 30 people. I suggested we move the talk to a larger place, as i suspected we’d have more than 30 attendees. We ended up having the talk in the barn, and this was a real barn, with chickens and goats and sheep and cows. It was the first time my talk on Sears Homes was accompanied by bleating and mooing and clucking!  About 85 people showed up that night.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s cost exceeded $1 million. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s a bit of a jump.

In reality, there were many additional costs associated with re-creating a house based on nothing more than a catalog picture and a floor plan. And the workmanship required to make a true replica must have been very, very time consuming. And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

Hillrose

Hillrose as seen in the 1916 catalog.

Hillrose

By 1921, the price had nearly doubled. A portent of things to come for the Hillrose!

Hillrose

Hillrose, close-up.

Hilly

Hillrose in Prophetstown, IN.

Hillrose

Another view.

Hillrose

Close-up of the dining room bump out.

Hillrose

In the modern version, they put the house on a foundation instead of having it cantilevered.

Hillrose

From the 1916 catalog. Note the wild lambs getting ready to charge the little girl.

house

The old car tools past the Sears Roebuck chicken coop.

house

And for a mere $159, you could own this chicken coop.

House

And Sears sold live baby chicks, too!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s house, click here.

Or if you just want a few of her books you can click here.

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  1. Margaret Caviston
    August 9th, 2012 at 11:41 | #1

    Hello Rose,

    I stumbled upon your article while searching for more information about the Hillrose model of Sears kit. I am currently doing county survey of historic resources, and recently surveyed the actual house that is the model for the one in Prophetstown. If you would like to contact me, I would be happy to share more information with you!

  2. Jessica Roland
    December 16th, 2013 at 22:33 | #2

    Dear Rose,

    I’m trying to find out if my house is a Sears kit home.

    It is very similar to the Hillrose description and floor plan. 5 cross panel doors, french doors into library, sliding into dining room, ornamental hinges and molding/trim similar to pictures. There is a bay window in the dining room continuing to the bedroom up above instead of the bump out.

    The most notable difference is that the staircase is in the spot where the shed should be, the basement stairs are there as well. So the second floor has a different plan except for the front 2 bedrooms.

    Room dimensions and ceiling heights all seem to match, and I think there is a hidden chimney by the pantry where the original floor plan shows.

    I’d love to know what you think and how I can go about determining if our home is really a Sears house. I’ve been told there are many in our town (Atlantic, IA) that are kit houses.

    Thanks! Jessica

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