Last week, I visited Needham, Massachusetts and spent time with my daughter, Anna Rose.
After a Saturday morning breakfast, we were driving back to her house when I saw a house that caught my eye on Webster Avenue. As she pulled up to a nearby stop sign, I hopped out of the car (much to my daughter’s surprise), and said, “Circle the block and pick me up in a few minutes!”
Not only had I spotted a Sears House, but it was a Sears Ivanhoe, one of their biggest and best kit homes! Unfortunately, due to the many trees, I was not able to get a good photo, but there’s definitely a fine-looking Ivanhoe hiding behind all those trees!
Later in the day, I drove around town a bit more, but didn’t see any other kit homes. Then again, I probably only saw 30% of the pre-WW2 neighborhoods in Needham. And Needham is a very difficult community to navigate! The streets are very narrow and the traffic is very heavy.
Did I miss a few? I’m betting that I did.
If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?
In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.
In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days! When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.
This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.
Do you know of more kit homes in the Boston neighborhoods? Please leave a comment below!
To read about another kit home I found in New England, click here.
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I’d love to hear from folks in Needham. Are there other kit homes in the city? Please contact me by leaving a comment below!
Want to learn more about the superior quality building materials that were used in Sears Homes? Click here.
To learn more about kit homes in Boston, click here.
To learn more about Anna, click here.
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Hi my name is Michael and I live in Boston, Massachusetts.
I live in a 1925 Sears ‘Starlight’ which is still intact. By intact I mean that the floor plan, bathtub, radiators, windows, etc., are all original.
There was an enclosed porch added but the 3 support pillars are still visible.
In the 50s an extra 10x 10 room was added at the rear. The attic is still unfinished, although the dormer window at the front makes it appear finished from the street.
The basement was half finished (half storage) by me about 10 years ago. I found out we had a kit house when I contacted the city about a permit around that time.
I am sure there must be other kit homes in this part of Boston (Roslindale/West Roxbury). Neighbors told me it was originally built by a German named Mr Werner who worked as a tailor in Boston.
We are the 4th owners, it has been a great home to raise a family in, we loved it on first sight back in 1996. I am having trouble adding pictures here if you want to see it on Google the address is 96 Orange St, Roslindale, MA 02131.
Nice! That name is familiar. I think there might be a testimony for him. I’ll keep an eye out for it.
The Ivanhoe in Needham had a full renovation three years ago, with a hidden two story addition.
All period details intact, new blends seamlessly with old.
See video tour on YouTube: search 783 Webster Street, Needham MA.