Monday, November 28, 2016

Where are the Sears Houses?

The national database of Sears houses recently cruised past 5,500 identified Sears houses. To mark that accomplishment, I thought it would be a good time to take a deeper dive into the database to see what those 5,500 plus homes can tell us about Sears kit houses. While there are some limitations to how much we can extrapolate from this information, it does give us an outline of where Sears homes were built. Let's look at the numbers!

As of this date, Sears houses have been located in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Province of Ontario, Canada. The following is a breakdown of the states that have the largest number of identified Sears homes.

1. Ohio (1300+ homes): Anyone who knows the history of the Sears Modern Homes division won't be surprised to see Ohio at the top of the list. Norwood, Ohio, an enclave of Cincinnati, Ohio, was home to the Norwood Sash and Door, a Sears-controlled company that provided all the doors, windows and millwork for tens of thousands of Sears homes. Its presence in the Cincinnati region helps account for many of the Sears homes found in Ohio. Another reason that Ohio is at the top of the list is thanks to the work of two kit house researchers - Bea Lask and Cindy Catanzaro. Bea's groundbreaking work documenting 500 Sears houses in the greater Cincinnati area helped provide the first major addition to the database of Sears homes. Cindy has carried on Bea's work not just in Cincinnati but in cities and towns of all sizes across Ohio. Cindy has methodically worked through mortgage records in various Ohio counties to track down the location of Sears houses. That work to identify and document Sears houses has helped push Ohio to the top of the list.

2. Illinois (900+ homes): Chicago, Illinois was the home of Sears, Roebuck and Company and as you might expect, many of their kit houses can be found in the suburbs of Chicago as well as the cities and towns across Illinois. The work of famed kit house researcher Rebecca Hunter to document the Sears houses in her hometown of Elgin, Illinois turned up over 200 Sears houses. She has gone on to located hundreds of Sears houses in Illinois as well as locations all over the United States. Lara Solonicke of the "Sears Homes of Chicagoland" has added to Rebecca's work, locating Sears houses throughout the Chicago suburbs including examples of rare and custom models by Sears.

3. Michigan (700+ homes): Home to several sales offices for Sears Modern Homes, the majority of Sears houses that have been identified have been found in southeastern Michigan. As I've previously shared, many of these homes - over 400 to date - have been authenticated through mortgage records. Sears had fierce competition for kit house sales in Michigan with three major kit house competitors - Aladdin, Lewis and Sterling - located in Bay City, Michigan.

4. New York (500+ homes): New York is a big state and Sears houses have been identified in just about every corner of the state from the boroughs of New York City and its suburbs to upstate New York and all the way west to the Niagara region. New York is home to a number of unique neighborhoods of Sears houses including places like Grandyle Village, Hampton Manor, and Massapequa Park. As impressive as the number is, I think that there are many more Sears houses still to be found in New York.

5. Pennsylvania (450+): The main eastern sales office for the Sears Modern Homes division was located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While we've only located a handful of homes within the Philadelphia city limits, there's quite a few Sears houses located in the Philly suburbs (as well as in communities in adjoining states). The other main cluster of Sears houses that have been located in the state is in and around Pittsburgh. One of the researchers active in our group has identified hundreds of homes in and around Pittsburgh.  The local Sears sales office maintained an active presence even during the lean years of the 1930s and there are likely many more houses still to be found.

6. Maryland (250+): Most of the houses documented in Maryland have been in the Washington DC suburbs of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Communities like Cheverly and Takoma Park are home to dozens of authenticated Sears houses. But examples can be found from Baltimore to the far western reaches of the state.

7. Washington DC (250+): As I've shared previously, researching mortgage records combined with the work of local kit house researcher Catarina Bannier, has allowed us to identify and in most cases, authenticate over 250 homes in Washington DC. While technically not a state, the District of Columbia is home to enough Sears homes to be worthy of a mention!

As you can see from the numbers, the top states are located in the Great Lakes states of the Midwest and the Northeastern states. This is the pattern we would expect to see based on the location of Sears sales offices and the Sears-owned facilities that provided the materials to build Sears homes. As impressive as the current total of 5,500+ homes in the database, it still represents less than 10% of the number of homes that were likely sold by Sears during the 30+ years of the Modern Homes program. As more homes are discovered, we may see changes to the order of states or even which states top the list!

The national database of Sears Modern Homes is the collective work of a number of kit house researchers located across the country. The sources of the information in the database include the personal work of those researchers, the work of other kit house researchers, publicly available resources including newspapers and websites and information provided by home owners and other members of the public with an interest in kit houses. 


  1. AAH I still have more to enter! At the next benchmark, I have faith that Illinois will beat Ohio!!


  2. Ahhh......Ohio.......the heart of it all. Thanks for making me look so important, but you know there were many researchers involved in locating the houses in Ohio. Bea Lask, of course, Donna Bakke, Laraine Shape, Judith Chabot, and yourself. And Nigel. We all spent hours working the Cincinnati area, which is so much fun since you can't hardly turn a corner without stumbling onto a Sears House. Oh, and Lara, I think I have more that aren't on the list, too. :)

  3. Pennsylvania isn't far behind New York. Looks like I found my New Year's resolution! ;)

  4. No mention of the sears homes in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood, in Akron, Ohio! Its the neighbor seats built!

    1. We've visited Goodyear Heights and photographed the houses. From the research that we've done, the materials for the houses may have been purchased from Sears. But the houses don't match any of the designs that Sears sold in their catalogs.

  5. The reason Elgin Il had so many may be that the Elgin watch co.paid 3 times national pay average.