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Is My House a Sears House? The Nine Easy Signs.

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

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To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. Monica Hoban
    October 10th, 2012 at 15:52 | #1

    Rose I would like to have some communication with you. I live next door to the Magnolia in South Bend, IN. The poor house is in dire need of repair, about $100,000 worth. The house has been severly neglected by the current owner. My husband and I are considering purchasing the home and bringing it back to its former glory.

    I also found some pictures when I googled “Sears Magnolia” and found mismarked pictures, I am not sure if they are from your book of not. There is an old picture of a Magnolia that says South Bend IN, it is not our house. The picture is of a Magnolia that was built in reverse. The SB Magnolia was built according to the plan. There is a picture of the SB Magnolia and the caption is of the Magnolia in Alabama.

    At any rate, before we jump in way over our heads, I would like to have some communication with the expert!

    Thanks,
    Monica

  2. Molly
    June 25th, 2014 at 17:18 | #2

    Can I send you a photo of my 1928-1935 built Sears Kit home for identification? (Or you can look it up on google street view: 12 N Daisy, 23075)

    I have purchased two books already looking for the exact model and can’t find it. It looks almost like a Cornell, but the chimney is in the wrong location which changes the floor plan significantly.

    Our chiney is directly in the center of the building, whereas the Cornell is located along an outside wall. I do not think the builder used a Cornell and altered the original design because an identical house lives close-by.

    I have been searching for the exact floor plan and design photos to no avail because I can’t pin point the name or model number.

  3. January 3rd, 2015 at 23:48 | #3

    What about this month’s TOH ‘Save This Old House’ featured home?

    It identifies it as an 1894 Sears Queen Anne kit.

    That’s a number of years too early, given the information you present. I would love a peek at this design as originally advertised.

  4. Scott Piazza
    November 1st, 2015 at 16:50 | #4

    Hi Rose,

    I recently purchased a 1000 sq ft , 2 bedroom kit cabin which I am interested to find out if it is a Sears cabin. The house is located in Guernville, California .

    I am in the process of hunting for clues as per your photos. I have searched the web and not found a kit cabin that looks similar .

    There have been a number of changes made to the interior,but considering restoring it to a degree.

    Thanks for your help.

    Scott Piazza

  5. Abigail Landau
    November 3rd, 2015 at 20:26 | #5

    Hi Rose,

    My husband and I just purchased a house which to some extent is a Sears house, though it’s had additions and changes over the years and because of this, I’m having trouble identifying which original floor plan they must have followed.

    According to the past owners, it was built in 1909, the walls are lath and plaster and it’s a rather large house with a somewhat funny setup for the time including a second floor which I don’t believe was originally included seeing as there is no upstairs bathroom.

    There are other changes which are just making the process quite hard. Please contact me with suggestions and any other help and I’ll share more of the information - there is a lot!

    Thank you,
    Abigail

  6. Patsy N. Costello
    February 10th, 2016 at 18:30 | #6

    We are currently looking for Sears mail-order homes in the Hyde Park, NY 12538 area to document for our Town of Hyde Park Historical Society.

    Someone seems to think they have a “Winston” home, but I purchased your book but cannot find it in the book.

    It is from 1929. Can you tell me where to find the details showing it.

    Patsy

  7. February 11th, 2016 at 00:02 | #7

    Hi Patsy,

    I’ve sent you an email. I don’t know much about Hyde Park but if you send me a photo of a particular house, I can probably help you.

    Rose

  8. Kristy
    February 11th, 2016 at 14:42 | #8

    @Molly
    This sounds so much like our home built in 1925. Did you find out which home yours is?

  9. February 11th, 2016 at 17:53 | #9

    @Kristy
    Hi Kristy (and Molly),

    The house that Molly referenced at 12 N. Daisy is a darling little house, but it’s not a Sears Cornell. I don’t recognize it as a kit home.

    Rosemary

  10. Chuck Nash
    June 5th, 2016 at 17:19 | #10

    Rosemary,

    There is a house behind my old home place that appears to have been built in 1935 using the concrete blocks produced by the Sears Amazing Block Wizard. I have pictures of the house, but do not see it featured in any of the Sears plans. How can I send pictures to you for verification, yea or nay ? I am Smithville, TX, 45 miles SE of Austin. I am thinking of restoring the house (it was a victim of ARSON in 2009). Any help would be appreciated.

  11. June 12th, 2016 at 14:14 | #11

    Hi! I just happened onto this site! I love old houses and architecture so I got to exploring. I think my house, built in 1920 is the Winona! It looks very much like the one you have pictured and the size is the same also. I will have to send a pic. What gives it away are the roof supports in the front of the house near the roof. We have those exact supports. Weird! Funny, I always hated those things. LOL My house may have been a Sears house originally. Thanks for the info. It was fun exploring your site! BTW I am in Southern Indiana. ;)

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