Sears Roebuck Houses
Offered between 1908 and 1940
The Belmont - Sears Kit Home in Brick
The Sears Roebuck mass-merchandising, mail-order company was founded in 1886 and quickly became one of the largest such operations in the world. Between the last decade of the nineteenth century and the beginning of World War II, its name became synonymous with American retailing. While most people know that Sears sold nearly everything for the home from its mail order catalog, few realize that it also sold the house as well. They started to offer building supplies and house plans in 1895. Between 1908 and 1940 Sears operated a "Modern Homes" division that supplied building plans, materials and kit houses shipped by rail to all corners of the nation.
Foursquare Kit House by Sears
In 1908 Sears commenced issuing a yearly catalog of house plans and construction supplies. This continued until 1940. The first catalog contained 22 plans for houses of moderate size and offered to supply specifications and materials. In 1913 Sears brought out a line of panelized buildings called "Simplex" houses. 1916 saw the first Sears "kit-house" offered for sale. This package included the entire house, with numbered parts and instruction booklets, paint and nails. Sears is often credited with inventing the mail-order kit house but that distinction goes to the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan who began the practice in 1906. (see the Aladdin listing in the Archives section for more details). Records are scarce in this area, but estimates place the total output of kit homes between 1900 and World War II at nearly one-half million. In the twenties, the colorful "Sears Honor-Bilt Modern Homes" catalogue contained over one hundred house models and numerous summer cottages and garages in a variety of the most popular styles.
Dutch Colonial Kit Home by Sears
One of Sears', and indeed the nation's, biggest selling models was the common bungalow. This compact, affordable house began as a vacation style home in the 1880s but grew into a major housing type in cities and suburbs in the years before World War I. Bungalows came in a wide variety of types and styles that included Arts & Crafts, Spanish, Colonial and English Tudor. The house is often distinguished by its roof type as well, having labels such as Pyramid, Double Front Gable and Airplane to describe it. Sears was not the only company to offer plans and kits for bungalows. In this period there were at least seven companies were advertising nationally. They include Montgomery Wards and Harris Homes of Chicago plus three Bay City, Michigan companies, Aladdin, Lewis and Sterling. The Gordon-Van Tine company of Davenport, Iowa rounded out the list. All offered bungalows in a vast assortment of sizes, styles and price ranges. Sears was likely the leader in total sales and in visibility purporting to have sold over 100,000 homes in the 1908 to 1940 period.
The images in this section are all drawn from the pages of the Sears Roebuck "Modern Homes" catalogs and represent what we believe to be a complete rendering of all the bungalow models offered by the company in its history. Interior views of specific models, when available, are also shown.
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