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There’s a Reason They Were Called Sears MODERN Homes

In 1908, a little ad appeared on page 594 of the Sears general merchandise catalog. It read, “Let us be your architect, without cost to you.” Interested buyers were invited to write in and request the free catalog, “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” The first houses ranged in price from $500 to $5000.

The mail-order homes were shipped by boxcar and came in 12,000 piece kits. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That was probably a little optimistic, but if you requested a Sears mortgage on your Sears kit home, there was a requirement that thee house be occupied within four months of purchase!

By the early 1910s, the specialty catalogs featuring these kit homes had a new title: “Sears Modern Homes.” And they really were modern homes.

In 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine reported that “watertight roof, walls and floor are an essential feature of a modern city house.”

Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books? She described life on the plains in soddies and tiny cabins in the 1870s ad 1880s.

The Midwesterners who built Sears kit homes in the early 1900s could have been raised in housing that would be considered extremely primitive by today’s standards.

Below is a picture of a soddie. These were very primitive and dark and dank; undoubtedly a fairly miserable way to spend the day, nine months out of the year. One look at these soddies (below) and you’ll fast understand why a pretty little Sears bungalow would be classified as a “Modern Home.”

To learn more about these Modern Homes, click here.

prim

Soddies were made of sod that had been cut into squares and stacked up. They were easy to heat, and they kept *most* of the rain off your head. Kinda.

W

Close-up of Soddie Life.

Living aint easy in one of these

Living ain't easy in one of these.

Cover

Cover of the first Sears kit home catalog. Notice the art deco lamps!

Cover

In the 1908 catalog, Modern Home #106 was offered for $1145, which was an outstanding value. In today's dollars, that'd probably be about $15,000. There's no bathroom, but it's still a lot better than a soddie!

Boo

Incredibly, I found this photo on eBay years ago. It's a Modern Home #106 with the fam seated in front of it! You can see why this house would be such a vast improvement over a soddie. It's really a stark contrast to a house made of dirt.

house

The family seated in front of their "Modern Home." I'm sure they were very proud of their beautiful little house.

To learn  more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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  1. Libby Mahaffey
    September 22nd, 2011 at 17:54 | #1

    It is my understanding that Dr. David Fairchild purchased and assembled in 1926 a Sears Kit home in Coconut Grove, Florida. Is there any way to confirm this?

    The structure is a one story and it has been added on to, though the original floor plan is discernible.

    Many thanks!

  2. September 22nd, 2011 at 18:57 | #2

    Send me a photo!

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