In 1978, soon after my first husband and I were first married, we sat down and looked through a Jim Walter Homes catalog. The idea of building a kit home was hugely appealing to us. In the end, we decided to buy an existing home, but throughout the years, the idea of building our own sacred space held a special appeal.
In 1999, I was asked to write an article about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, Illinois. As a freelance writer scrambling to make a living, I gladly obliged. Once I laid eyes on those 156 Sears Homes in a 12-block area, I was completely and hopelessly in love. The 1000-word article that should have taken a few hours took a few weeks. The editor asked for “a couple photos” and I submitted 96 photos. This was back in the days of film, and those 96 photos represented FOUR ROLLS of film!
When that first article appeared, I was suddenly “the expert” on kit homes. I didn’t know that much about kit homes, but I did have a passion for the topic. I went looking for a book on the topic and found very little. “Houses by Mail” (a field guide to Sears Homes) was a fascinating book, but had very little textual history. And that’s how I came to write “The Houses That Sears Built.”
Within 90 days, my book was featured in The New York Times and then I was asked to appear on PBS’ History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News and more. From there, it was off to the races.
And that’s the “back story” of how I came to be an expert on kit homes.
Now, I’m interested in learning more about Jim Walter Homes, based in Tampa, Florida. For the last six weeks, I’ve been tirelessly searching eBay for ephemera from this company but I’ve found nothing. If anyone has any ideas on how to get some info on Jim Walter Homes, please drop me a line! I’m also interested in finding pictures of existing Jim Walter Homes.
To contact me, please leave a comment below!
To read more about Sears Homes, click here.
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Read your article and I wanted you to know I own a Jim Walters home in Oracle, Arizona.
I, too, am a kit home lover. Have purchased many catalogs and am always looking for additions to my collection.
I have heard of Jim Walter homes but have not seen one. Any light you can shed would be appreciated.
Was a Jim Walter home a kit home? Pre-fab?
I am now the owner of what may be the first actual Jim Walter home ever built in Texas.
I know nothing other than it was moved from its original location to its present location maybe 16 years ago.
It is old, it is rustic, it is our wonderful wooden guest house.
All one room with a small wall in which the toilet and water heater are tucked behind. It is still standing.
It is still standing strong and it exudes a certain simplistic charm that had obviously been lost over the years. I love it though.
I have some photos I can share if you are still collecting information.
I have yet to figure out when it was built but I only found out this week that it was a Jim Walter home… and a first at that!
I am currently in the process of moving a Jim Walter home to my property. I bought it from the original owner/builders grandson.
The house was built in 1957. The house is exactly original as built it is 820 square feet. If you would like me to email you some pictures let me know.
Hi! I’m looking for information about Jim Walter homes for a poem I’m writing.
Do you mind sharing what you have found out?
Better yet, what have you written about them that I could read?