Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the Beginning

I'm sure that every "Kit House Hunter" has a story about how they first got interested in kit houses. In my case, my 1926 Sears Hamilton was the inspiration for the journey into discovering kit homes. When I purchased my house in 2003, the previous owners passed along a binder that included a collection of photos and articles about the house and Sears houses in general. While some owners don't know that they own a kit house, in my case, I was one of a long line of owners who knew that our house was a Sears kit house.

Sears Hamilton

Photo of our 1926 Sears Hamilton under construction

I was very fortunate to purchase a house that had been well-cared for over the years. Much of the original details of the Sears house could still be found throughout the interior and exterior of the house. Even though the house maintained much of its original character, the house systems had been updated over the years too. It's nice to have a 1920s era house that includes central air conditioning! 

Sears Hamilton

Recent photo of our 1926 Sears Hamilton
24740 Taft Rd, Novi, Michigan

Even though I knew of the heritage of the house, it was a number of years before I really started taking an interest in the story of Sears houses. In late 2012, my wife Wendy had the idea to see if we could find other Sears Hamiltons in our area. We had read that Sears had sold around 70,000 homes during the time that it offered homes through its Modern Homes catalogs. We were sure that there had to be some other Sears houses near us. 

Sears Hamilton

Catalog image of Sears Hamilton (1931)

Fortunately for us, we found a listing for another Hamilton in Ypsilanti, Michigan at the Sears Archives list of Sears homeowners. One cold winter day, we drove to Ypsilanti to find another Sears Hamilton. Even though it had some small differences from our house, we were quite excited to find our first Hamilton! 

Sears Hamilton

Sears Hamilton in Ypsilanti, Michigan
260 South Mansfield, Ypsilanti, Michigan

After finding our first Hamilton, we realized that we had been bitten by the kit house bug!

After doing a little more research online, we discovered that in the early 1990s, Grace Shackman and Rob Schweitzer had written a series of articles on kit houses in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area. Those articles included a list of house models and their locations in and around Ann Arbor. Armed with that list, we made another trip to an equally cold and snowy Ann Arbor. 

With a copy of "Houses by Mail: A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and Company" to guide us, we drove through the historic neighborhoods of Ann Arbor spotting one Sears house after another. After seeing and photographing a couple dozen houses from the list (and a lot of others that looked to us like kit houses), we decided that we wanted to find more! 

From that first trip to Ann Arbor to find kit houses, Wendy and I started down the road of becoming "Kit House Hunters". Almost 3 years later, we've "found" and photographed hundreds of kit houses from Sears and several other kit home manufacturers not only in southeast Michigan, where we live, but in states across the county. This blog will be a place where we can share some of our "discoveries" with those of you interested in learning more about kit homes.