Sears started offering kit houses in 1908, but when was the first Sears Home sold?
Well, for years, we believed that the first order for a Sears House wasn’t actually received until 1909 (based on info gleaned from the Sears archives in Hoffman Estates, IL).
But now, it seems that that information may not be correct.
When Dr. F. M. Malone purchased his Sears Modern Home #102 in late 1908 or very early 1909, it was probably one of the first Sears Homes built in the country and yet (to complicate our life even further) he customized this design a bit!
The Sears Hamilton (Modern Home #102) was a traditional-looking foursquare and with the passage of 100 years or so, this simple (and yet spacious) house would be mighty hard to differentiate from other foursquares.
So, where is Dr. Malone’s home? Somewhere in Capleville, Tennessee.
If I were queen of the world (and that moment should be arriving soon), I’d find this house, contact the owners and present them with a plaque that reads, “One of the first Sears kit homes built in the country.”
That is a pretty cool designation.
UPDATE: I was contacted by Dr. Malone’s granddaughter (see first comment below), and she reports that this house was razed many years ago. While I’m grateful for the update, I’m saddened to know that the house is now gone.
The Sears Hamilton was offered in the first "Modern Homes" catalogs (1908) and Dr. Malone must have snatched it up immediately. He ordered it (about an eight-week lead time) and had it finished and photographed in time for it to appear in the 1909 catalog.
One of the distinctive features of the Hamilton is this indented porch on the rear of the house.
That's the biggest kitchen I've ever seen in these original Sears Homes.
A diminutive version of the Hamilton (also known as #102) was offered by Bachmann Toys for model railroading (in the 1980s). Nice example o f Sears Modern Home #102!
The 1909 Sears Modern Homes catalog is probably the rarest of these catalogs. It's in this catalog that I found Dr. Malone's testimonial on the Sears Hamilton. These catalogs had about a six-week lead time, and most of the testimonials in this catalog speak to the quality of Sears building materials (because there were so few house sales in those early days). Dr. Malone's testimonial was one of four testimonials that actually described the building of a "Sears Modern Home." In that his house was finished by 1909, in time to appear in this catalog, it must have been ordered in late 1908 or very early 1909.
It's the most thorough and loquacious testimonial I've seen in these old catalogs.
And here is "Picture #9" also known as Dr. Malone's Sears Hamilton. Likely, this is one of the first Sears Homes built. In fact, I'd be so bold as to guess it was probably one of the first 20 Sears Homes built in the country.
What the heck is that on the second floor? Is it a sliding glass door? Sure looks like it. But this came from a 1909 catalog, well before the advent of such inventions. And look at the front porch roof. Dr. Malone had a good time making it difficult to identify this house as a Sears Hamilton (from the street, anyway).
Is Dr. Malone’s house still standing? Do the current owners realize they’re living in a piece of America’s architectural history? Do they know that they own one of the first Sears Homes built?
Inquiring minds want to know!
To learn more about the Sears Hamilton, click here.
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