The number one question I’m asked again and again – Can you tell me if my house is a Sears Kit Home?
First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!
The nine easy signs follow:
1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic. Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.
2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).
3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”
4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.
5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.
6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.
7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.
8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).
9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.
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Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction
The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.
See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089
Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.
Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.
Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.
"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.
Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.
Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.
Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.
About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.
Close-up of the columns.
And in the flesh...
Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.
Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.
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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!
Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!
And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.
Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.
And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.
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My uncle and aunt built the Lynn Model #13716 on the lot known as 1373 Park Avenue, Crete, Illinois. Their son, Larry Weseloh, Watertown, SD., has all the documentation. I didn’t see a photo or illustration of that model in your book. Do you have any information on the “Lynn”?
I am about to close on a property that has a Sears home on it – it was built in 1920
(I believe it is the Modern Home No. 52).
I’ll be tearing down this home to build on the lot. It seems such a shame to demolish the existing building as it’s in good shape and it’s a part of America’s unique history.
Would you know anyone or any organization in the western suburbs area of Chicago, Illinois, that might want the home?
Thanks in advance for your reply!
I agree, it is a *shame* to destroy and demolish a structure that was made with quality building materials and lumber from first-growth forests – the likes of which we will NEVER see again in this country, especially to replace it with a contemporary structure made with inferior components?
Please help me understand – why are you destroying that house?
I own what I think to be a Sears Garfield model. I have checked all the beams and there are some numbers there. I also have the unique columns on the porch, indicative of a sears home. There were some changes made in the home when it was built. it is no longer a two family. I believe it was built with the changes and not changed after building, as I am the second owner…it has not passed through many hands, and therefore, it is in predominantly original condition. Are there any other Garfields out there?
Hello I also have a Garfield. design that is slightly different from the design. @Kathleen Dougherty
Rosemary ~ Did you ever get a reply to your query of the second person who submitted their “shameful” post regarding buying a lot with a Sears home on it in good condition so that they could tear it down to build something inferior? That just makes me nauseous.
Thank you for this very interesting information.
Are there any Sears homes that a person can see inside in this area? We would like to see one.
I think I have a Sears Crescent home my floor plan is the C3259A Model #3084 or 3086. I spent time at the court house but can find records dating no further back than1910, and no architect or grantor names that match Walker O. Lewis a. When I bought the house it was advertised as having been built in 1915. I am coming to this conclusion because my house roof line, chimney, front door and floor plan match the ones on the web perfectly. Where do I go next?
There are 5 houses in town that have the floor plan of the Sear’s Jefferson. At courthouse unable to find any info in deeds records. Where else should I look?
My great-grandfather built our kit home. I’m trying to figure out which model our house is. I found a board stamped with I309. Any advice?
I was told I have a Sears home by my remodeler when he looked at the framing of my house. The exterior walls are back to back boards rather than insulation. It was built in the 1950’s. How do I verify this?