I’m a bit obsessed with architecture, especially residential architecture. In particular, I adore residential design of the early 20th century, so you know when I discovered this website full of advertisements for the Sears Roebuck Kit Homes, I felt like I’d discovered the holy grail.
Between 1908 and 1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 70,000 – 75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program. Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles, ranging from small vacation bungalows (Simplex Sectional) to 1-4 bedroom houses (Standard Bilt) to small mansions (Honor Bilt). Some of their early styles were even available with an optional outhouse.
Sears shipped home kits via boxcar. Each kit included a 75-page instruction book and came in 10,000–30,000 pieces. Sears Roebuck promised that “a man of average abilities could assemble a Sears kit home in about 90 days.” I am both enchanted by the idea and worried that these houses will be falling down any minute now. In 1908, according to Sears, if the owner decided to hire professional help instead, a contractor would cost about $450 start to finish. The house kits ranged from $600 to about $2,500. I’m sure, depending on the location, some of them must be worth more than a million now. How’s that for a return on your investment?
If you want to know whether your house is a sears kit home, there’s a great online guide to help you.