Posts Tagged ‘kit houses by sears’

The Niota: 1200 Square Feet For $942

April 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Not a bad deal to buy 1,200 square feet of kit house for less than $1,000, even in 1916!

The Sears Niota - despite its being a good value and a cute house - was not a popular model for Sears.  And yet, according to a small promotional ad that appeared in the 1916 catalog, the Niota had been built in Elmhurst, IN, Westerville, Ohio, Indianapolis, IN, Napleton, MN and Springfield, MO.

And in Wood River, Illinois, too.

The house was offered in StoneKote, which was Sears own stucco-type covering. As with most of the kit homes, buyers could opt for stucco, block, brick, stone or wood. Today, way too many of these homes are now covered with substitute sidings (such as aluminum or vinyl), which makes identification even more difficult.

To read more about the many Sears Homes in Wood River (and Amoco), click here.


One might hope that those columns are a unique feature to help in identifying the Sears Niota, and yet sometimes, they get removed (1916 catalog).


Niota catalog 1916

The kitchen was so small you'd have to step out to the porch to change your mind. Lots of rooms on this first floor, and they're all pretty modest.


niota fp

At least the bedrooms have closets. That's a plus.



Close-up of the Sears Niota.


niota wood river

And here it is, in Wood River, Illinois. Notice that those unique columns have been chopped off at the roofline and also covered in that hideous house-hiding PVC material, known as "vinyl siding." The original columns - poking through the porch ceiling as they did - were probably prone to roof leaks and all manner of maintenance problems.


Niota more

Niotas were built in several places in the Midwest. It'd be fun to see pictures of these Niotas.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about my Aunt Addie, click here.

*   *   *

The Kit Homes of Lake Mills (Wisconsin)

July 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Before my father’s death on June 10, 2011, I’d never heard of Lake Mills. Heck, before my father’s death, I never knew I had an Aunt Addie (who lived and died in Lake Mills)!  And I most certainly never knew that she’d been shot (allegedly) by her famous, wealthy, older husband Enoch.

While making plans for a trip to Lake Mills, I learned that it’s a little more than two hours north of Chicago. My first thought was “Sears Homes!”

And indeedy do, I’ve already learned of three kit homes there in Lake Mills.

The first is from Sears, the second is from Gordon Van Tine and the third is from Montgomery Ward. In fact, Gordon Van Tine was the supplier of Wardway Homes (which explains why Montgomery Ward and GVT catalogs were identical).

Mail-order kit homes were just that - kits ordered from a mail-order catalog. These houses arrived as 12,000-piece kits (yes, 12,000 pieces) and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Sears (one of six kit home companies doing business on a national level) promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days!

Each kit included everything you would need to finish your dream home, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 10 pounds of wood putty, 72 coat hooks, roofing shingles, door knobs, lumber, windows, flooring…well you get the idea. It really was a complete kit.

The houses were delivered by train and most kit homes could fit in one well-packed boxcar. Today, these early 20th Century catalog homes are typically found within 1-2 miles of railroad tracks, just because the logistics of hauling all those pieces of house was so problematic!

And one last fact - about 90% of the people living in these homes had no idea about the unique origins of their home until I knocked on their door (or blogged on my website) and told them! My raison d’être is to help folks learn more about this historically significant (and nearly forgotten) piece of America’s architectural heritage.

And thanks to Dawn Stewart and Sandy Spann of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, for supplying these photographs of the three kit homes in Lake Mills, Wisconsin! And thanks to Rebecca Hunter for telling me about the Newbury!

Enjoy the photos below! And leave a comment! :)

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.


Sears Newbury, as it appeared in the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog.


Notice the swoop in the roof as it extends over the wide front porch. On the rear, there's a small cornice return, and it's on a different plane that the front roof.


The Newbury in Lake Mills is hard to see due to the mature vegetation, but that bellcast (swooping) roof is easy to spot. And you can see the small cornice return on the rear. Sears kit homes came with 12,000 pieces and the Newbury was "Ready Cut" meaning that all framing members were pre-cut and ready to nail into place. However, masonry was not part of the kit and was obtained locally. The catalog page shows a stone chimney but this Newbury has a brick chimney. That's an inconsequential difference. (This photograph is courtesy of Sandra Spann and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. Copyright 2011, Sandra Spann.)

To read more about this Newbury in Lake Mills, click here!


As seen in the 1921 catalog, this is a very unusual house, and the house in Lake Mills is a beautiful match with only one difference - that original railing across the dormer is missing.


And here's a photo of Gordon Van Tine Home #705 in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. It's a beautiful house in wonderful condition and a spot-on match to the original catalog picture! Look at the windows on the side, and how they're just the same in both the Lake Mills house and the vintage catalog picture. My oh my, that does indeed warm the cockles of my heart. Photograph is courtesy Dawn Stewart (copyright 2011) and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.


These mail-order kit homes (such as the GVT 705) could be ordered "reversed," and what's shown above is the mirrored image of the catalog page (note page number on upper right). This really is a beautiful match to the house above! These catalog images are from the 1921 Gordon Van Tine catalog.

Just in case you wanted to see them side by side.

Just in case you wanted to see them side by side.

Check out this floorplan!

Check out this floorplan!

The next one is Montgomery Ward #123 (shown below). This house is really distinctive, mainly because of that second floor bay window!

Lake Mills

Montgomery Ward sold about 25,000 kit homes during their 20+ years in the kit home business. Not surprisingly, the majority of these homes are probably within a 300-mile radius of Chicago (where Montgomery Ward was located).


Look at the window! The house in Lake Mills (on Water Street) is a very good match to this catalog image (1914). Note the placement of the window directly beside the front door. And also note those supersized cornice returns on either side of that second-floor bay window. The front porch has a hip roof, with three round columns. All these features are also in evidence on the house in Lake Mills (see next photo).


Easy as 1-2-3 to identify! This is Montgomery Ward Home #123, in Lake Mills, WI. Photograph is courtesy Dawn Stewart (copyright 2011) and may not be used or reproduced with written permission.

Now this next one…I’m not so sure about. Read the caption below for more info.

Do you think you have a kit home in Lake Mills (or nearby)? Leave a comment below!


This one, I'm not so sure about. I found it whilst driving via Google Maps and made a note of it, but when I went back to get a better look, I couldn't find it!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To learn about Addie Hoyt, click here.

* * *

The Built-in Breakfast Nook: Practical, Easy to Build, and Darn Cute

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify” (and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough”).

Thoreau would have loved the early 20th Century breakfast nook!

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have.

Bungalows were beautiful but a little cramped, especially compared to an Italianate Victorian! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was  easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than dealing with the big fancy wooden table in the dining room.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook! Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

The first is from the February 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal. It appeared in an article titled, “If a Woman Must Work From Home.”

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

caption here

This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.


Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.


A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

cOn page 34 of the catalog, this "cozy corner dinette" was offered for $14.95. Not a bad deal. And it's made of clear western white pine and needed a small space of 5'6" by 3'8". Nice looking, too.


Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.


caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!



This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!



This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.


The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

nookie ps

Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.


As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to

* * *

Alhambras in Lavender

February 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

On my recent trip to South Carolina, I found this awesome Alhambra lurking on a not-so-busy road in Gaffney. I’ve seen a lot of Sears Alhambras in my time, but this was far and away one of the prettiest. My home in Norfolk is pink, so anyone willing to paint their house lavender has my heart-felt admiration. And it actually looks quite lovely.

No time today for more words. Enjoy the pretty pictures.

Sears Alhambra from the 1924 catalog

Sears Alhambra from the 1924 catalog

Sears Alhambra, close-up

Sears Alhambra, close-up

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

Sears Alhambra in Gaffney

To learn more about Sears homes, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

*  *  *

Sticks and Stones and All-Brick Sears Homes

January 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

From time to time, people write me and say, “I thought this was a Sears House, but it’s all brick, so I know it can’t be a kit home.”


Sears Homes could be ordered with cypress or cedar shakes or clapboards, with stucco, or with masonry, such as cement block (not common), brick (very common) or stone (also not common). If you wanted wood siding, it was shipped from the Sears Mills in Cairo, Illinois, Newark, New Jersey or Norwood, Ohio. If you opted for masonry (block, stone or brick), you purchased it locally, to save on freight charges. Masonry weighs a lot.


Inside rear cover of the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.


Small graphic that appeared in the 1933 Sears Modern Homes catalog, below the page featuring the Sears Lewiston.

Sears Homes

At a "small extra cost" you can add brick to your Sears Galewood.


Sears Auburn in Clifton Forge Virginia with half brick and half wood. Most Auburns were all wood, so this is an interesting alteration. Note, it is solid brick and not just brick veneer.


Close-up on the brick work of the Auburn in Clifton Forge.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read more about the Sears Homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

* * *