Wickline, David, MAIN STREET USA, IMAGES OF 66, 80th Anniversary Edition, Roadhouse 66 LLC, July 2007.
Many individuals, especially those in the country, had few choices and built their own homes with the help of family and neighbors. Sears Catalogue Homes provided an excellent service to those individuals. They began publishing their home catalogue in 1908. In the 32 years the company prospered, they sold 70,000 in North America.
Though we might think of kit homes as cheap, they were not. They were well-built of good quality lumber and reasonably priced, and assembling the homes themselves allowed people to save considerably. Many of these homes still stand today and are in well-established neighborhoods.
|The drawing and floor plan came from|
Here is an example of an Honor Bilt home, the Magnolia. It was built between 1915-1920 for between $5,140 to $5,972. The price didn't include cement, brick, or plaster. Excavation was the owners expense. Each kit home came with a 75 page instruction booklet.
Note that it has two bathrooms upstairs and a lavatory downstairs. It's interesting that the kitchen, in the early model, didn't have built in cabinets.
In 1912, Sears began financing their homes. Their terms were usually 5-15 years at 6% to 7% interest. Sales peaked just before the Great Depression in 1929 which led to a rise in defaults. Sears was forced to liquidate $11 million in homes. After a slow recovery, the decision was made to wind down sales of homes though they continued to be built through 1941 and 1942. The last catalogue was published in 1940.
Modern HVA systems were later made available, as were kitchens and bathrooms. Large quantities of asphalt was available and easy and cheap to install. Dry wall instead of plaster over lath wall boards made construction easier and added fire protection. It's important to note that even back in these earlier times, homeowners were required to abide by city building codes.
These two homes did not sell well so Sears didn't offer them again. The higher prices may have been one factor, but both plans required a wider lot size of 75 foot, standard for Chicago was 25 feet.
This added on to Aurora home in Cincinnati, Ohio sold in 2010 for $265,000. It is pictured below.
|Photo Courtesy of Senior Life Newspapers|
and SEARS HOMES OF CHICAGOLAND
While traveling Route 66 in 2010, we located this 1913 Sears Catalogue home in Chelsea, Oklahoma. It is the Hamilton model and cost $1600 and was the only Sears home west of the Mississippi.
I enjoyed researching Sears Modern Homes and would love to be able to see more than the one we saw in Oklahoma. Maybe we can fit searching for Sears homes into a vacation one day soon.
There is a lot of information about Sears home on the web. Ebay has catalogues for sale, but most are reproductions so be careful when shopping. Next month my post will be tips on how to tell if your home is a Sears kit home.
Happy Reading and Writing!