A Sad Story That Needs a Good Ending: Carlinville’s “Standard Addition”

In the early years of the 1900s,

About 1918, Standard Oil purchased 192 kit homes from Sears & Roebuck. Carlinville ended up with 156 of these homes (offered in eight models). The 12-block area where these homes were built (in an old wheat field) came to be known as Standard Addition. Sears proudly touted this sale to Standard Oil as "the largest order ever placed," and pictures of Carlinville appeared in the front pages of the Modern Homes catalog for many years. This letter (shown above) appeared on the back page of the catalog until 1929.



Standard Addition's homes - some of which were not wholly finished - appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. Of the 192 houses sold to Standard Oil, 156 ended up in Carlinville, 24 were sent to Wood River (where Standard Oil had a large refinery) and 12 ended up in Schoper, IL (site of a large coal mine). Pictured above is the Warrenton model (left) and the Whitehall (right).


In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood first appeared in the Searsm Modern Homes catalog.

In 1921, images of the completed neighborhood appeared in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.


house house house 1921

Close-up of the "birdseye view" from the 1921 catalog. From left to right is the Gladstone, Roseberry, Warrenton, and Whitehall. And look at that darling little building behind the Whitehall. Is it still there?



These homes were occasionally featured in "The Stanolind Record," an employee newsletter put out by Standard Oil. This image appeared with the caption, "Carlinville is coming out of the mud," which simply meant that streets would soon be laid, replacing the muddy roads.


All of which brings me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition is at great risk of being lost.

And all the photos above bring me to the point of this blog. Standard Addition - this unique, historic and one-of-a-kind community - is at great risk. This "Roseberry" on Johnson Street caught fire in early 2013 and has not been razed yet. Derelict houses (such as this) contribute heavily to blight, and once blight takes root in a neighborhood, reversal can take decades. At best, this house poses a threat to public health and safety. At worst, it's an anchor that's dragging this historic neighborhood further into the muck. Would you want to live next door to this? How many months before this house gets torn down?


Last month

Last month, a suspected meth lab was discovered in the 1000-block of Johnson Street, in the heart of Standard Addition. Once a house is used for "cooking" meth, making it suitable again for habitation can be expensive.


Full story here: http://www.sj-r.com/breaking/x1367241203/Two-suspected-meth-labs-found-in-Carlinville


And theres also the problem on insensitive remodeling.

And there's also the problem of insensitive remodeling. And it is quite a problem.



As built, these homes were very small (less than 1,100 square feet) but there are ways to increase square footage without diminishing the historicity of these unique homes.


In short, it’s time for the state legislature and/or city council to step in and figure out what legislation is needed to protect this one-of-a-kind historic collection of Sears Homes in Carlinville. I’ve remained “astonished* that there is no signage, no billboards, no announcements of any kind welcoming the flat-lander tourist to come visit “Standard Addition.”

At the very least, there should be billboards in St. Louis, Alton (by the casino), Edwardsville and other “hot spots” inviting people to come see this fun collection of kit homes. There should be a website, self-guided driving brochures, maps, etc, promoting the area.

But there is nothing,

In my 14 years of experience in this niche field of America’s architectural history, I’ve never come across another collection of Sears kit homes quite like Standard Addition.

One week ago today, I drove through Standard Addition, admiring the pretty houses and dismayed by the blighted ones, and I glimpsed, more now than ever, something must be done to preserve and protect this neighborhood.

Before it’s too late.


To learn more about the eight models in Standard Addition, click here.

To learn more about the building of Standard Addition (and the female supervisor of the project), click here.

In 2003, CBS Sunday Morning News came to Standard Addition.

To read about Illinois’ own ghost town (Schoper, IL), click right here.

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  1. Matt Rinker

    Thanks for posting this Rosemary. I like the old pictures. I always try to find our home in those old pictures, but have never been successful.

    I don’t like to brag, but the addition to our Warrenton is a good one, that can’t even be seen from the front of the house. They even took the time to make the roof-lines similar.

    I sure hope Carlinville does something about these bad apples in our neighborhood, but something tells me they won’t. They are more concerned with their Victorians. Its a shame really.

    Okay, I will get down off of my soapbox now. If you do have any more old pictures of the Standard Addition from when it was being built, please post them. I would still like to find ours.

  2. Dale Haynes

    Thanks for the story about Carlinville. I just wish something could have been done to preserve these houses before they started getting makeovers.

    But anything I can do to help I will try.

    On a more personal note the addition put on our home is ugly, but we didn’t build it. But we do plan on making amends in the future.

  3. Debbie

    Have you talked to anyone about this in the Carlinville area? Media, local government, tourism bureau?

    Your expertise and concern could bring some much needed attention to this problem and area.

  4. Scott Herron

    Hi Rosemary,

    I saw an article in our local paper when you visited Staunton, VA in May. I thought there was contact information in it but unfortunately not.

    I was curious if you had ever heard of a kit home company named National Homes Corp in Lafayette, Indiana and had any information on them.

    Our first home which we purchased in 1987 has a plaque with the National Homes company name and a serial number but I have not found a lot of information about the company. I believe our house was built in 1952 or 1953 and we’ve spoken with the son whose parents built it and he remembers the parts coming in on a train car.

    I would love to have more information on the company.


  5. Rachel Shoemaker

    @Scott Herron They were prefabricated homes. You can often find catalogs for them on ebay. If you go to archive.org you can see a few there I believe.

    The catalogs will show you quite a bit about them and you might even find your model! And if you do, let us know 🙂