Sunday, August 31, 2014

Modern Homes

What is a Sears "Modern Home?"
From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold 70,000 to 75,000 houses through their mail-order "Modern Homes" program. Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles … from elaborate multistory houses to simple three-room and no-bath cottages.
1908 Catalog

Entire houses would arrive by railroad, from precut lumber, to carved staircases, down to the nails and varnish. Families picked out their houses according to their needs, tastes, and pocketbooks. Sears provided all the materials and instructions, and for many years the financing, for homeowners to build their own houses.
Here are a few catalog covers featured through the years (photos borrowed from Internet):


No official tally exists of the number of Sears mail-order houses that still stand today, but it is thought that thousands of these houses have survived in varying degrees of condition and original appearance.
There are strict standards used to authenticate a house as an original Sears kit house, including presence of part numbers or other markings on wooden elements such as joists or rafters; mortgage financing from mail order companies; correspondence, blueprints, shipping labels; oral history; measurements of the outside dimensions of the house; floor plans; and room dimensions.
I recently heard, from a very reliable source (and former owner), that there are at least four Sears Craftsman houses here in Vicksburg. The houses are located on Chambers Street, and appear to have been well loved and maintained through the years.

If you would like to know more about the "kit houses," here's the link to the Sears Archive website:

And here's a link to a website that tells you how to identify a Sears kit house: 

It amazes me that the beautiful house shown on the cover of the 1908 Modern Homes Catalog would be perfectly "at home" in one of our upscale neighborhoods today.

I hope reading this has inspired you to pay more attention to the houses in the neighborhoods where you live.  Who knows!  You may live IN, or next door to, a "Modern Home" and not even know it!


Dot said...

I found this information very interesting especially since I am a Sears retiree. Nice blogpost.

Pat said...

Janie, How interesting! I remember my mother talking about the Sears houses.

Now I will be more aware when driving through our "old town"

Pat in Tallahassee

Fairhope Supply Co. said...

I adore these homes, and have actually lived in one, although, it had been renovated so much by the time we moved in, you could barely find the original footprint. Great info - thanks!