In 1908, a little ad appeared on page 594 of the Sears general merchandise catalog. It read, “Let us be your architect, without cost to you.” Interested buyers were invited to write in and request the free catalog, “Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans.” The first houses ranged in price from $500 to $5000.
The mail-order homes were shipped by boxcar and came in 12,000 piece kits. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have one assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days. That was probably a little optimistic, but if you requested a Sears mortgage on your Sears kit home, there was a requirement that thee house be occupied within four months of purchase!
By the early 1910s, the specialty catalogs featuring these kit homes had a new title: “Sears Modern Homes.” And they really were modern homes.
In 1917, American Carpenter and Builder Magazine reported that “watertight roof, walls and floor are an essential feature of a modern city house.”
Remember Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books? She described life on the plains in soddies and tiny cabins in the 1870s ad 1880s.
The Midwesterners who built Sears kit homes in the early 1900s could have been raised in housing that would be considered extremely primitive by today’s standards.
Below is a picture of a soddie. These were very primitive and dark and dank; undoubtedly a fairly miserable way to spend the day, nine months out of the year. One look at these soddies (below) and you’ll fast understand why a pretty little Sears bungalow would be classified as a “Modern Home.”
To learn more about these Modern Homes, click here.
To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.
To buy Rose’s book, click here.
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It is my understanding that Dr. David Fairchild purchased and assembled in 1926 a Sears Kit home in Coconut Grove, Florida. Is there any way to confirm this?
The structure is a one story and it has been added on to, though the original floor plan is discernible.
Send me a photo!
I actually was raised and still live in this sears 106 house. My parents bought it when I was 5 yrs and I’m now 42.
It’s all still original with exception of part of bedroom made into bathroom and an add on in back of house…