Posts Tagged ‘the prefab houses of sears’

The Kit Homes of Chapel Hill, NC

May 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Chapel Hill is a city full of hazards for a house hunter such as myself.

First, there are the trees. Lots and lots of mature trees, which makes it difficult to see the houses.

Secondly, there are bushes. Ligustrums, Photinias, Hollies, Nandina and Wax Myrtles are everywhere. And they’re really big, too!

Third, it’s a college town, full of students who think nothing of stepping off the curb in front of a slow-moving Camry. That was just scary.

And last, the streets are very narrow and labyrinthine, winding to and fro.

And that’s how I missed the Ardara (or so I tell myself). There’s a famous Sears House in Chapel Hill, built in the 1920s and still occupied by its original resident! I’d love to get a high-resolution photo of this house, because I never saw it!  :(

Perhaps next time I’m in the area, someone will drive me around. That makes house-hunting much easier!

However, I did see that the town has a “Rosemary Street,” and better yet, of the three kit homes I found, two of them are on Rosemary Street!

Now that’s a fine town!


In North Carolina, I've found far more Aladdin kit homes than Sears. Aladdin (like Sears), sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, NC so it's not surprising that there are so many Aladdins in this part of the country.



The Brentwood (shown above) was one of Aladdin's biggest houses. It's a classic "Arts & Crafts" design, and was offered in the 1910s and 1920s.


chapel hill

Located on Rosemary Street, this Brentwood is in incredibly beautiful shape. The owners obviously love their home. After discovering this house, I did something that I *never* do anymore. I parked the car and walked up the driveway and knocked on their door. I'm highly allergic to people, and yet, this sweet thing was worth it. No one answered, so I'm hoping if they read this blog, they'll leave a comment. I'd love to see the inside some time. This house is in amazingly original condition and has been beautifully maintained. The owners get my award for "Most Beautiful Aladdin Brentwood in the United States."



A comparison of the Aladdin Brentwood (catalog image and Chapel Hill house).


The Harris Brothers

Harris Brothers was yet another kit home company, based in Chicago.


Due to that darn landscaping, I could not get a good photo

Due to that darn landscaping, I could not get a good photo but if you look closely at the fireplace chimney, windows and porch overhang, you can see that this is a Harris Brothers N-1000. And it has the rounded porch (as shown in the catalog page).


The Aladdin Inverness

The Aladdin Inverness had a very interesting roofline!


And that roofline makes it easy to identify!

And that distinctive roofline makes it easy to identify! Notice the three brick pillars that just kind of sit there, with no purpose in life (other than serving as a plant stand).


And here it is!

Also located on Rosemary Street (yay!), this little house is a perfect example of the Aladdin Inverness. Even has the three brick pillars out front! This house is near downtown. I wonder if the folks in Chapel Hill know that it's a kit house?


ahoseComparison of the two houses. Pretty sweet, huh?


And the one that got away...

And the one that got away. Somewhere in Chapel Hill is a Sears Ardara. I'd love to get a photo of this house. I can't believe I missed it!


To learn more about the kit homes in North Carolina, click here.

To read about the large collection of Aladdin kit homes in Roanoke Rapids, click here.

Or if you’re tired of reading about houses and want to read about my shiny new horseless carriage, click here.

Did you enjoy the blog? Please leave a comment!

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The Calumet: 20 Rooms in 12!

March 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Sears always had an interesting way of ciphering. The Calumet was a four-apartment kit “house” with 12 rooms. The “20 rooms in 12″ was a little misleading.

The eight mystery rooms were “bedrooms” which were really teeny-tiny closets. Inside those eight tiny closets were eight fold-away beds (Murphy beds). The “bedroom in a closet” idea was heralded as a great space-saving device and a money-saving device too. After all, there’s no need to buy rugs and pictures and chairs and night stands when you sleep in a closet.

Who needs a bedroom anyway?

I’ve only seen one Calumet and that was in Bloomington, IL and it had been greatly altered.

The typical Sears Home was a 12,000 piece kit that was bundled and shipped in one boxcar. The Calumet was probably a bit more than 12,000 pieces. It was 2,800+ square feet, but it also had four kitchens and four bathrooms and a lot of steps, railings and porches. And a lot of doors.

And eight beds.

And all for a mere $3,073.

To learn more about Murphy Beds, click here.

Twenty rooms in 12 promised the header on this page.

"Twenty rooms in 12" promised the header on this page.


The beds came with this kit apartment.

The built-in wall beds came with the Sears Calumet. They were hidden behind nice-looking French doors! I wonder how long these primitive metal-framed beds survived in these old four-plexes?



Only three rooms per apartment, but they are fairly spacious. And note the small windows in the "bedroom" (closet).



Close-up on those wall beds in the dining room and living room.


The Cinderella was another Sears House that promoted use of stowaway beds. Note the

The "Cinderella" was another Sears House that promoted use of stowaway beds. Note the text at the bottom of this page: "You are saved the expense of two extra bedrooms in your house, as well as the additional expense of rugs and furniture..."


And what exactly do you get for $3,073?

And what exactly do you get for $3,073?


Close-up of the Calumet as shown in the 1918 catalog.

Close-up of the Calumet as shown in the 1918 catalog.


Sears Calumet in Bloomington, IL.

Sears Calumet in Bloomington, IL.


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about multi-family Sears kit apartments, click here.

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Lost in Lynchburg! (Virginia)

February 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

My friend Rebecca is working on a new project and asked me to find this 1910s kit home in Lynchburg, Virginia. Most folks have heard of Sears Kit Homes, but in addition to Sears, there were six companies selling kit homes through mail order. Their names were Gordon Van Tine, Montgomery Ward, Aladdin, Harris Brothers, Lewis Manufacturing and Sterling Homes.

According to Rebecca, there’s a Sterling Windemere in Lynchburg. She found a testimonial in an old Sterling Homes catalog and the location listed for this house was Lynchburg. I’ll be driving up to Lynchburg soon to find this house. If anyone knows the address or area, it sure would be helpful to have that!

Please leave a comment below with the address or write me at

Note, one of the distinctive features of this house is that paired staircase landing window (midway up the side wall). That’s a fairly unusual feature, as most landing windows were single. Also note the grouped columns (three on the corners), with the brick foundations. And note how the second-floor windows come right up to the eaves of the house. Lastly, there’s a hipped dormer in the attic with two small windows. On the home’s front (first floor), the door is to the side and there are three windows in the living room.

There are a gazillion foursquares in Lynchburg, but I’m hoping to find THIS foursquare! Thanks for your help!

Sterling Homes The Windemere from the 1917 catalog

Sterling Homes "The Windemere" from the 1917 catalog.

Heres a photo of a Sterling Windemere in Bay City, Michigan. Photo is courtesy of Dale Patrick Wolicki.

Here's a photo of a Sterling Windemere in Bay City, Michigan. Note the paired windows on the stair case landing. Photo is courtesy of Dale Patrick Wolicki.


This image is from the 1917 Sterling Homes catalog. It was to be a demonstration of how quickly (and easily?) a Sterling Windemere could be erected on a lot. After two days of work, the house was sheathed in.

photo s

This picture shows how close the house was to completion by the fourth day.


Proving the superiority of Sterling pre-cut homes, this Windemere was built on this lot in just 11 days. Note, this did not include the fireplace chimney and windows. This view shows the other side of the Windemere which (unfortunately) is quite non-descript.

Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. Heres a picture from the cover of their 1917 catalog.

Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. Here's a picture from the cover of their 1917 catalog.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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