My obsession with home architecture and floor plans is a never-ending journey of research, fascination, and amazement. This is partly due to my love of history, especially anything nostalgic (a very subjective idea). Sears Roebuck fits that definition of nostalgia. There was a time when they ruled the mail order catalog business, sold good-quality items that no one else carried, and fulfilled a need for basic necessities. My how far they’ve fallen!
In researching small, green, cottage house plans, their name popped up in my Google search. I wasn’t surprised, for not only did they sell skates, clothing, gardening equipment, tractors, harnesses for work horses, and sod, they also sold kit home plans.
Sears Roebuck dates back to 1886 when Richard Sears began selling watches to supplement his income. A year later, he joined up with another watch-maker, Alvah Roebuck. A couple years after that, they launched their first catalog. But it wasn’t until 1908 that they began selling home kits. Why would they not? They sold just about everything that belonged in and around a house, might as well sell the whole house too!
Sears homes were truly kit homes, they would use existing home architecture (they weren’t reinventing the wheel), included precut lumber, fitted framing, and then ship all the construction elements by railroad to the new owner. Everything was included in the shipment, even the nails. Their designs were fabricated so that only one carpenter was needed to put the home together. It was called “Balloon Style” framing. Customers could order designs “as-is”, redesign a floor plan or combine a couple of the plans Sears offered, or draw up blueprints specifically to their needs and Sears would precut the lumber and supply all the materials needed. Homeowners were in complete control of their home design. Sears wasn’t the first company to sell prefab homes, but they sold more than any other, about 100,000 over their 32 year span.
The last of the Sears Roebuck homes were sold in 1940. Unfortunately, their Modern Home program failed due to the Great Depression negatively affecting their home financing department (Does this sound familiar? Everything old is new again?!…housing bubble…). Yet, many of the Sears kit homes still stand today, particularly in Libertyville, IL. There are also many books dedicated to the floor plans Sears sold during its hey-day, including Homes in a Box: Modern Homes from Sears. Reconstructing the floor plans probably wouldn’t be that difficult for today’s prefab home builders.
I might have to look into purchasing or researching Sears kits home plans for sale.
Do you live in an area that is known for Sears Roebuck homes? Do you know anyone who lives in one of these homes? You may now be curious as to if your home is a Sears Roebuck Modern Home. If you are, use this link for further research, it’s a start.