Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Still Looking for Sears Houses in these States

I recently wrote about the states with the highest number of identified Sears houses on our national database of Sears homes. To date, the database includes houses from 42 states including Alaska, the District of Columbia and the Province of Ontario, Canada. That leaves 8 states where we don't have examples of Sears homes in the database. Those states are:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • Washington
Why don't we have any houses from those states? 

Hawaii is easy - it's a long ways away (over 4,200 miles from Chicago to Honolulu!) That doesn't automatically rule out any possibility that kit houses could have been built there. In fact, we know of several examples of kit houses that were shipped long distances, most famously the over two hundred Aladdin homes that went by ship to Birmingham, England during the Great War (World War I). Still, shipping costs over such distances probably only made sense for large orders of homes. 

Back in the lower 48 United States, you can see a pattern from the states that are listed - all but Mississippi are "out west". The cost to ship a house was based on the distance from Sears facilities in the Midwest and Northeast to the closest railroad depot to the property where the home or homes would be built. The further away the depot was from the Sears factories and warehouses, the higher the shipping costs. 

Sears competed on price and quality for building materials with local lumberyards and suppliers. Through bulk purchasing of materials and in later years, providing pre-cut lumber, Sears was able to provide a better house at a cheaper price to its customer than they could get buying the materials locally. But unlike some of its competitors, Sears didn't have facilities on the West Coast of the United States. That meant that much of the price advantage that Sears normally was able to pass along to customers was offset by higher shipping costs when quoting prices to customers on the West Coast. 

The lack of local sales offices for Sears Modern Homes Division may have been a contributing factor to a lack of sales in those states. Sears didn't have any sales offices west of Kansas City, Missouri. Local sales offices often helped boost sales in an area as customers were able to interact directly with Sears staff about their prospective houses. 

Finally, an easy to miss factor but an important one is that during the time period when sales of kit homes were highest, most of these states were, and in some cases continue to be, sparsely populated. Even though most of them were growing quickly percentage-wise, in absolute population, the number of new residents in these states was dwarfed by the growth occurring in the major US cities of the East Coast and Midwest. As a general rule, the more development that occurred in an area during that time period, the more likely we are to find kit houses, especially in the suburban areas of those major cities. 

All that said, I'm sure there are Sears houses to be found in most of those states - I think Hawaii may be the exception. If you know of any Sears houses in those states, let us know in the comments. We would love to add them to our list and cross them off this list!

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca Hunter's "Putting Sears Homes on the Map" book has listings for Mississippi, New Mexico and Wyoming. I'm a bit surprised we haven't located any for Washington State. We've still got a lot of work to do in some areas.

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