The number one question I’m asked again and again – How do you identify 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.
"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.
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.
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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Rose I would like to have some communication with you. I live next door to the Magnolia in South Bend, IN. The poor house is in dire need of repair, about $100,000 worth. The house has been severly neglected by the current owner. My husband and I are considering purchasing the home and bringing it back to its former glory.
I also found some pictures when I googled “Sears Magnolia” and found mismarked pictures, I am not sure if they are from your book of not. There is an old picture of a Magnolia that says South Bend IN, it is not our house. The picture is of a Magnolia that was built in reverse. The SB Magnolia was built according to the plan. There is a picture of the SB Magnolia and the caption is of the Magnolia in Alabama.
At any rate, before we jump in way over our heads, I would like to have some communication with the expert!
Can I send you a photo of my 1928-1935 built Sears Kit home for identification? (Or you can look it up on google street view: 12 N Daisy, 23075)
I have purchased two books already looking for the exact model and can’t find it. It looks almost like a Cornell, but the chimney is in the wrong location which changes the floor plan significantly.
Our chiney is directly in the center of the building, whereas the Cornell is located along an outside wall. I do not think the builder used a Cornell and altered the original design because an identical house lives close-by.
I have been searching for the exact floor plan and design photos to no avail because I can’t pin point the name or model number.
What about this month’s TOH ‘Save This Old House’ featured home?
It identifies it as an 1894 Sears Queen Anne kit.
That’s a number of years too early, given the information you present. I would love a peek at this design as originally advertised.
I recently purchased a 1000 sq ft , 2 bedroom kit cabin which I am interested to find out if it is a Sears cabin. The house is located in Guernville, California .
I am in the process of hunting for clues as per your photos. I have searched the web and not found a kit cabin that looks similar .
There have been a number of changes made to the interior,but considering restoring it to a degree.
Thanks for your help.
My husband and I just purchased a house which to some extent is a Sears house, though it’s had additions and changes over the years and because of this, I’m having trouble identifying which original floor plan they must have followed.
According to the past owners, it was built in 1909, the walls are lath and plaster and it’s a rather large house with a somewhat funny setup for the time including a second floor which I don’t believe was originally included seeing as there is no upstairs bathroom.
There are other changes which are just making the process quite hard. Please contact me with suggestions and any other help and I’ll share more of the information – there is a lot!
We are currently looking for Sears mail-order homes in the Hyde Park, NY 12538 area to document for our Town of Hyde Park Historical Society.
Someone seems to think they have a “Winston” home, but I purchased your book but cannot find it in the book.
It is from 1929. Can you tell me where to find the details showing it.
I’ve sent you an email. I don’t know much about Hyde Park but if you send me a photo of a particular house, I can probably help you.
This sounds so much like our home built in 1925. Did you find out which home yours is?
Hi Kristy (and Molly),
The house that Molly referenced at 12 N. Daisy is a darling little house, but it’s not a Sears Cornell. I don’t recognize it as a kit home.
I have been looking up various Sears kit homes to distinguish which model I have. There are three houses in a row on our street that have the same home from the street but inside each one they are different. My home was built in 1926 in Historic Bloomsbury in Five Points Raleigh, NC neighborhood.
I have been thinking about adding exterior charm to our home and make it not so white. I was thinking about adding charcoal gray shutters and trim. I am trying to identify which home we have so I can look through the archives and see if this was true to style for our home. I love the charcter and charm our home has and want to continue to preserve it.
Our address is 1911 Alexander that would help 😉 thanks
I’m an architect in Little Rock, working on a series of positive articles on two neighborhoods here, attempting to hold off demolition.
Currently writing on boyhood home of General Wesley Clark, which is a craftsman cottage. I am still trying to date it. In a bio of Clark, there is mention that it is a Sears House but no further information. I would like to confirm that it is a kit and determine model but despite much searching, I have had no luck..
There is a house behind my old home place that appears to have been built in 1935 using the concrete blocks produced by the Sears Amazing Block Wizard. I have pictures of the house, but do not see it featured in any of the Sears plans. How can I send pictures to you for verification, yea or nay ? I am Smithville, TX, 45 miles SE of Austin. I am thinking of restoring the house (it was a victim of ARSON in 2009). Any help would be appreciated.
Hi! I just happened onto this site! I love old houses and architecture so I got to exploring. I think my house, built in 1920 is the Winona! It looks very much like the one you have pictured and the size is the same also. I will have to send a pic. What gives it away are the roof supports in the front of the house near the roof. We have those exact supports. Weird! Funny, I always hated those things. LOL My house may have been a Sears house originally. Thanks for the info. It was fun exploring your site! BTW I am in Southern Indiana. 😉
We are working on a large home near Gordonsville Va that looks like a Magnolia it’s on Magnolia rd, called Magnolia farm, while working on it we found a stamp on a beam (Magnolia 1939)?????
I have recently landed in my family home that was my Grandfathers and one day I hope to be passed on to my great great grandchildren or cousins. I am curious about a few things. It is a sears home and was built in 1014 and when I went to look up the house it was called a Dayton style and was not out til like 1020 or so and I am lost on this because of the time. I went to the basement and seen it is a sears home from the boards under the house. And does anyone know how I could clean the dark woodwork in the house to bring it back to life. And where I can get a couple of door knobs to go with the house that turned up missing over the years. I am so excited to be home that I can not think right to find all this out. I use to look it all up dreaming of being in the house but now it is reality and I am losing my mind trying to think where to start. What sites.
Sorry about that I missed my number because of a kitten sleeping under my chin… 1914 and around 1920… I wish older because I love old things. I want it all restored and one more thing the best one to get paint off the woodwork so I got my original wood work in here.
I recently purchased a summer cottage in Rocky Point NY. The estimated year of construction is 1925. We have been trying to identify the original owner, I’m the third, and was told the first owner won the house in a sears promotion. The house is small and has been modified a bit so is there any way to know if sears constructed this or had such a promo like this in 1925 without ripping the rafters apart for wood identification?
We’re told our church which was erected in 1935 and was a Sears-Roebuck kit. I’m trying to finds pictures or plans that might authenticate our history.
Attempting to determine whether an old house is, in fact, a Sears home. Owner says it is. Any sales records in an archival department at Sears? This particular home is in Drewryville, Virginia, at 11468 Depot Street. That’s right, next to the old train depot!
I am trying to determine the name of my home. When we had the roof was done on the back of the cedar shingles were Sears labels. Also the mill indicates its a Sears home. The house is in Tonawanda NY and is a tudor style, built around 1929. It looks like a Lynnhaven, the same high peak,but the bottom is brick and the upper tudor.
In case no one has responded to you since last September – Here’s a response: I just finished a 2-term tenure on the Historic Preservation Commission in my town (Chicago suburb).
Julius Rosenwald, the owner of Sears, lived in my town, Highland Park, so I have a particular interest in the intersection of historic architecture and local history.
You should be able to find out when your property was subdivided to become an individual lot.
The tax records for your property will tell you when the property went from an empty lot to having a structure. The tax assessment would go up when a structure is added. The old tax bills may be available at your local library or county seat office.
The research process isn’t fast! Your local building department in your town or county should have building permit records. Some communities only have permits after the 1960’s, but some have permits that are way older.
County records are usually quite old and interesting to see they’re hand written. You’ll likely need help using these really old records–unless they’re all digitized. You can also google Sears Kit Houses–there are several books that list all the styles with small illustrations.
This would also be a good way to identify your house. Good luck!
Would you be able to tell me the names or numbers of the Sears homes that were sold as block homes?
I believe there were 5, one being the Chelsea. Also do you have any information as to Sears homes sold in and around Camp Verde Arizona? I read you have been to several states but did not know if Arizona was one of them.
Thank you in advance for your time and effort to answer my email.
Hi. Can you tell me if a house I am buying is a Sears home, please?
It was built in 1953. There are no numbers stamped on the framing but it has Homart plumbing fixtures, wall tiles, and ventilator.
I didn’t see anything like it in the 1949 Homart catalog that you have posted.
I can send a photo if you tell me where to send it. Thanks.
The info at the top of the page says Sears Homes were built until 1940.
Can you tell me what model my Sears home is? It was built in 1908.
I can send you a picture to an email.
I believe I have a Sears Home. I think it is the Sunbeam model, except the roof line (ridge) goes opposite of what catalog shows.
Can I send a picture somewhere?
Yes, please send a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s my new email! 😀
Yes, please send a photo to email@example.com. 😀
My Dad was born in a Sears bungalow in 1915.
The house is long gone but I remember the floor plan and the exterior.
Is there a source where I could peruse floor plans so I can find the name of it for posterity?
I have some clients getting ready to close on a Sears home today, I’m wondering if you know if there is anywhere that does historic plaques for these homes.
I’d love to get them one as a gift!
Thanks so much.
Hi, Hillary, I’ve often wondered the same myself. I have recommended that Rosie (or someone) start an “official” registry that would sell plaques.
Please share with us the link to the house you’re closing on.
I own a Sears kit home (the Osborn) in St Marys, Pennsylvania.
My question concerns the attic and the “mini” bathroom, seven cedar lined closets, living area and children’s built-ins bedroom above the porch.
Was this an “option” Sears provided for the extra living space as a miniature of the downstairs floor plan? All radiators appear to be original and style mirrors the downstairs.
Any help would be appreciated.
Tom (the Osborn in St Marys)
An article on “Catalog Kit Homes” in the September 22, 2017 edition of the Wall Street Journal brought back memories of the Sears kit home we owned. I looked it up on the Sears archive web site.
I know for a fact it is a Sears home as the seller had ordered it from Sears in the mid-1930’s. I’m almost certain it is The Alden, #3366, with bay windows in the front and a screened-in porch off of the living room.
It is still an active residence, in great shape, located at 12 Eastern Parkway in Auburn, NY.
We purchased this home in 1970 from the original purchasers, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Mosher, when I took a new job in the area.
Mr. Mosher had just retired from the Columbian Rope Company in Auburn and was planning to relocate to a vacation home in the 1000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence River.
Our home had a screened-in porch off of the living room. We have painting of it in our living room today as it was one of our favorite homes.
At the time, we purchased it we had four children.
In 1973 the fifth child arrived and we had an addition put on the back of the home to enlarge the kitchen, add a fourth bedroom, enlarge the half bath on the first floor to a full bath, and add a family room behind the kitchen.
I recall the contractors commenting on the balloon construction of our home and some of the difficulties they had incorporating the new addition. We sold the home in 1975 when I took a new job in Indiana.
I looked at the long list of homes registered on the Sears web site and could not find another Alden. I wonder why, as it had a very good layout and was a great home for a young couple with five children.
Can you tell me if there are any Sears homes in Hunterdon County in New Jersey?
Looking to have one on a holiday tour.
My house was built 1920 it has similarities to the Fullerton home can some tell me if there are some Sears kit homes in Whiting, Indiana.
Maria, it’s likely that there are several Sears kit homes in Whiting, Indiana, as that was the site of an early Standard Oil refinery, and we know that Standard Oil placed a huge order with Sears for “$1 million worth of Sears Homes” in 1918.
When I replaced the windows, I noticed that there are numbers written in blue grease pencil (on the casing).
I didn’t know anything about Sears kit homes until I started trying to identify the style of home.
Unfortunately, I destroyed the bathtub. I wish I had known about Sears Homes earlier.
Now living in a Sears home – chimney has April 1914 written on bricks – Rochester, Massachusetts.
Can you direct me to best way to research.
I believe it belonged to the Dexters – and heard the local Minister lived here in earlier days.
I believe it was altered to a floor and a half.
Thank you in advance for your help.
We have a Sears Craftsman home in Saegertown, PA. We are looking to find out which home it is so that we can have the original plans to build on and refurbish.
We know that the original owner passed away in 1925 and my family bought, “as is” in 1959. The dormer was removed when a new roof was put on in 1992 and a fireplace and porch/bathroom were added in 1967. I have pictures of the place as far back as 1970 but nothing further back.
I have joined your facebbok page as well. “The Wayfair” and “The Rest” are almost the exact same floor plan but we have a Front Gable roof instead of the hip.
Also, there are no columns but those may have been removed before we bought. Any help what-so-ever would be appreciated.
Were Sears homes built as early as 1896?
Hi! The Shadowlawn house in Concord, NC is located on Grove Street! I just road by and saw it!
Good evening, Rose
I have a Vallonia in East Granby, CT. It was built 1923 and I assume it came from the 1921 or 1922 catalogue.
I haven’t found numbered rafters, but it does have other identifying features like the door hardware and a shipping label on the back of door trim we removed from the French doors between the living room and the dining room.
Where can I send pictures for authentication? And how could I add it to the register of Sears kit homes?
Also I believe there are other Sears kit houses in East Granby and I’d like do an inventory of them. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
I own the Mitchell in Elgin IL. I’m happy to be part of history. I want to paint this house but what color?