Posts Tagged ‘sears prefabricated kit homes’

Oh No! It’s Not a Sears Kit House!

May 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last weekend in Raleigh, I gave a talk on Sears Homes. More than 200 people attended the talk and about 50 folks came prepared with photos of their own “Sears Home.”

About 75% of the time, I am not able to identify the house in their photo as a Sears Home. However, I’m usually able to identify the houses as a kit home from another company (such as Aladdin or Gordon Van Tine or Wardway).

Also - as is typical - some people were puzzled as to why their house wasn’t a match to any of the 370 designs that Sears offered. These folks had grown up hearing that “Grandfather bought the house from the Sears catalog and patiently waited for it to arrive at the train station,” and then went to work building his “Sears House.”

So what’s going on?


You have to begin with a simple question.  What is a Sears house?

A Sears house is a kit home, wherein both blueprints and materials were purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog during their years of operation; 1908 - 1940.

Sears began selling building supplies in 1895, but they did not sell kit homes until 1908. Building supply catalogs from Sears offered almost everything you needed to build a house, but the first Sears Modern Homes catalog, offering the package deal, did not appear until 1908.

Sears did sell house designs - blueprints - in the early 1900s.

In fact, both Sears and Montgomery Wards promoted and sold an identical 4 x 6-inch booklet titled Practical Homebuilder with 115 different blueprints priced from $2.50 - $8.00, for houses that would cost $500 - $3500 to construct.  But these were not Sears Modern Homes or even a precursor to Sears Modern Homes.  Practical Homebuilder was created by Frederick Drake & Company and imprinted with the Sears or Wards name on the cover page and sold through their general merchandise catalogs.

I suspect that - in many cases - “Grandfather” purchased his blue prints from the Practical Homebuilder booklet (imprinted with the Sears Roebuck name and logo), and then ordered all his lumber from the Sears Building Materials Catalog, and then waited for his “Sears House” to arrive.

Again, to be a true “Sears House,” both blueprints and (at least some of the) building materials should have been purchased from the Sears Modern Homes catalog between 1908-1940. If any one of those three elements are missing: Blueprints, building materials or timing (1908-1940), it’s not a true Sears kit home.



The 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog is very rare and one of the hardest to find today.


This image appeared on the back page of the very rare 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This image appeared on the back page of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog. I've put a blue star on the houses that are either extensively customized Sears designs, or are not identifiable as a Sears Model at all. Of the 15 images shown here, nine of these houses do not appear to be "Sears Homes."


This house presents a beautiful example.

This house presents a beautiful example of a house that is *not* a true Sears kit home. It is not one of the 370 models that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business. In fact, it looks a lot more like the Aladdin "Virginia" than any thing Sears ever offered. And yet, the building materials came from Sears, and it's possible even the blueprints were ordered out of the Sears catalog.



Mr. Turk was pretty pleased was pretty pleased with the transaction.



I'm not sure what to think of that front door.


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s newest book, click here.

To learn about kit homes from Montgomery Ward, click here.

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Kris Kristofferson; The Original Axe Man!

June 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Recently, I’ve been scanning my old Sears Modern Homes catalogs so that it’ll be easier to share the many delightful images contained within their aged and brittle pages. An added bonus is that I’m learning ever more about this fascinating piece of American history.

For instance, this blurb on the inside cover of the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog is quite loquacious, thoroughly explaining the many benefits of wood (see below). When I zoomed in on the images, I was surprised to discover that one of the first axe men employed by Sears and Roebuck was Kris Kristofferson!


Before he became a famous singer, Kris Kristofferson worked as a lumberman for Sears and Roebuck. Here he's shown working with a fellow axeman, wrestling a log into place!


The original graphic, as it appeared in the 1938 catalog. Dick Clark learned his longevity secrets from Kris Kristofferson, who appears to be in his late 20s here.


Fascinating prose about the many benefits of wood.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Fences Make Good Neighbors, and So Does a Little Space

February 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

This photo appeared in the 1938 textbook, “Social Living; Principles and Problems in Introductory Sociology.” It appears that this book is geared for high school students.

It’s shown as an example of how *not* to build neighborhoods. The houses are mighty close together. I’d love to know if these houses in Queen Village (Long Island) are still standing, today.

If you know the fate of these 1920s homes, please leave a comment below.

On an even more interesting note, on page 482 of this little book it states, “None can deny that the city is still the place of noise and dirt, gloom and disorder, haste and confusion. It neglects many things that are quite essential to the highest type of human welfare.”

Some things never change.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

UPDATE:  I just learned - thanks to a new friend on the internet - that this neighborhood is located near Braddock Avenue and Lyman Street, Queens, NY 11428. Better yet, you can ‘drive’ the streets via Google and see what these houses look like now. Fun!  :)

Books house

This photo appeared in a 1930s book titled "Social Living."

To read another fascinating blog about old houses, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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