Is Your Neighbor’s House a Sears Kit House?

Next time your neighbor invites you over for high tea, take that opportunity to go into their basement and inspect his/her framing members for marks.  More than 90% of the people living in these homes don’t realize what they have. Incredibly, most of these Sears Homeowners tell me – after learning about the unique history of their house – that they’d “never noticed all those numbers” on their floor joists! Or, they saw them and had no idea what they meant.

Below are pictures of marked lumber in Sears Homes!


This mark - so bold and pretty - was invisible to the eye of the homeowner. She'd lived in this house for 20 years and was totally surprised to see this mark on *all* of her floor joists. This is a typical mark found in a Sears Home. It's a letter and a three-digit number. A is for 2x4, B is 2x6, C is 2x8 and D is 2x10. The numbers - together with detailed blueprints and a 75-page instruction book - told the novice home builder how all those pieces and parts went together.


Another 2x10 in another Midwestern basement. The number is typically found 2-6" inches from the end of the joist, and can also be found on the butt end of the lumber.


Sometimes, the marks are easy to spot - if you know where to look.


Sometimes, they're not so easy to see. This is a 2x4 on the underside of a staircase in a Sears Sunbeam in Beckley, WV. The mark is very faint. Look at the wide part of the 2x4 and you'll see "A 105" directly below the large nail.


See it now?


Close-up of the mark (also enhanced).


At this Sears Vallonia in Columbia, Illinois, the builder was so proud of his Sears House, he turned the treads and risers wrong-side out, so everyone could see those marks.


The floor joist on this Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC says "2089" and has a family name written beside it. When the lumber was bundled up and prepared for shipment in Cairo, IL, the model number and buyer's name was scribbled in blue grease pencil. Finding a model number in blue grease pencil on a joist is also an effective means of authenticating a Sears Home.


Those 12,000 pieces of house were shipped via boxcar, and the shipping crates were wooden, and were marked with the homeowner's name. Oftimes, the old crates were re-used to build coal bins or basement walls. This plank was salvaged from an old shipping crate and nailed to a basement wall in an Osborn in Sidney, IL.


This is a mark found on a newer (post-1934) Sears Home.


Shipping labels can also provide proof that you have a Sears kit home. Often, the words "Sears and Roebuck" do not appear anywhere on the label, but contain only Sears address: 925 Homan Avenue, Chicago, IL. Shipping labels are often found on the back of millwork.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

*   *   *


  1. Marion McKeon

    I think I live in a Montgomery Ward home.

    When we put in a new front door, the carpenter found a board that says Montgomery Ward, Davenport, Iowa.

    It also says Mr. Edward C. Eckman. 46948. Berlin, Conn. PO/ KensingtomConn. Percival Ave.

    My house is located at 193 Percival Ave, Kensington, Ct. The board is 80″ long. I will try to send a picture.

    If you only deal with Sears homes, could you please direct me to a Montgomery Ward site. My “board” is hanging up in my living room. I was so excited when we found it.

    Thank you for your help. Marion McKeon

  2. Rachel J Shoemaker

    @Marion McKeon

    Hi Marion, Your house is a Wardway Allerton You can see the catalog image here:

    Materials for Montgomery Ward came from the Gordon, Van Tine Company in Davenport, Iowa.
    Mr. Edward C. Eckman was the buyer of your house.

    A few months ago I identified a Gordon Van Tine 514 in Lawrence, Ks. The 514 was what Gordon Van Tine called this same house. You can see real estate listings with several photos and you check them out to see the similarities! The GVT 514 is at 907 W 6th St, Lawrence, KS