Thursday, December 10, 2020

Model Homes - Sears Roebuck

Sears Maplewood
Lansing, Michigan
Image courtesy of
Modern residential builders often advertise their model homes to help spur interest in their new developments. Staffed with sales people, these homes - often with all the bells and whistles included - are open to the public to explore in the hope of enticing prospective homebuyers. Things weren't much different in the kit house era of the 1920s - 1940s. In some cases, developers of new subdivisions of the era built and featured a kit house (or houses) as an example of the style of home that could or would be built in the new development. 

Kit house companies also teamed up with some of their customers who allowed their new homes to be used as model homes. Often times, this meant opening one's new house to visitors from near and far, sometimes thousands in number, over a period of a couple weeks. Presumably, once the tours were done, the house would be made like new. Not as common but also done were models that were built without a prospective customer in mind. These model homes are notable because they often pop up in searches about the kit house companies in historic newspapers. Let's take a look! 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Where are the Sears Houses - November 2020 Edition

Sears Lynnhaven - Bay City, Michigan

It's been about five months since the last update of "Where are the Sears Houses". While this odd year continues on so does the search for Sears houses. While many of us took advantage of the summer weather to enjoy a bit of relief from being cooped up all spring, we still managed to find and add houses to the list, pushing past the 13,000 house mark. That means it's time for another update of "Where are the Sears Houses?" Here is the breakdown of location of houses by state based on approximately 13,000 homes in the database. Let's take a look!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

How Many Sears Houses? 1940 - 1942

"Sears Modern Homes" catalog (1940)

Back in 2013, my fellow kit house researcher Lara, who blogs at Sears Homes of Chicagoland, made a comprehensive effort to answer the eternal question of "How Many Sears Homes Were Built?" One would think that this would be a relatively easy question to answer - Ask Sears Roebuck! But even Sears doesn't know exactly how many houses they sold through their "Modern Homes" program. Because Sears purged the paperwork associated with the "Modern Homes" program, the records that would have answered that question definitively have been lost to time. The answer given by the Sears Archives is around 70,000 - 75,000 homes. After quite a bit of research and best guesses to fill in blanks, Lara came up with a total of between 63,000 and 65,000 homes. I think Lara's research is pretty spot on. But one area where there was very little information was the time period from 1940 - 1942 when Laura estimated that Sears sold around 700 homes. I think that number is low and I'll run through the numbers to explain why I think that's the case.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Where are the Sears Houses - June 2020 Edition

Sears Puritan and Sears Ashland
9 and 11 Sears Avenue
Elmsford, New York
It's been six months since I posted the last update of "Where are the Sears Houses". None of us could have predicted what would have transpired over the past 6 months. But if I had been told that we were all going to have to stay home for 3 months straight because of a coronavirus, surely that would have meant a lot of new Sears kit house finds, right? You would have thought so.

But while many of us found ourselves with a lot of free time on our hands, that didn't translate into new kit house discoveries. Amongst our group of kit house researchers, the last few months have been a grind of finding houses one by one. It seemed like it was going to be another 6 months before we reached 12,500. But then just as quickly, our luck changed...

Friday, May 15, 2020

McClure Dutch Colonial in Ann Arbor, Michigan

1752 Jackson Ave - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Michigan was home to three of the largest kit house companies - Aladdin, Lewis and Sterling - all based in Bay City, Michigan. Saginaw, Michigan, located upriver from Bay City, was the home of one of the smaller kit house manufacturers, the McClure Company. McClure isn't well known, even among kit house researchers. One reason for that is the short period that McClure sold homes - less than 10 years - from 1917 - 1926. Another is that very little information is available about the McClure homes and the homes that they sold. In my research, I've only seen 3 copies of catalogs for McClure homes. But through various sources, I've been able to track down a number of examples of homes from McClure, a couple of which I’ve previously shared here. The latest is this McClure Dutch Colonial that is currently for sale in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

McClure Homes - A Timeline

The McClure Company sold kit houses to customers in the Midwest and Eastern United States. Examples of homes from McClure have been documented in at least six states and Washington DC. Newspaper ads and articles imply that McClure houses were built in other states but examples from those states have not yet been documented.

The McClure Company was based in Saginaw, Michigan. It had an established history in the lumber and manufacturing business prior to entering the kit house manufacturing business. Nationally, McClure was best known for silos that they marketed and sold to farmers in the United States. Located upriver from Bay City, Michigan, the home of three of the largest kit house manufacturers - Aladdin, Lewis and Sterling - McClure appeared to use its experience in the lumber, mail order and manufacturing business to sell kit houses from 1917 to around 1926. In addition to its headquarters in Saginaw, McClure appears to have used its mill in Cairo for fulfilling orders. That facility predated McClure entrance to the housing business.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Authenticated Houses - Part 1

Authenticated Sears Crafton
Yorktown Heights, New York
I'm starting a new series on the blog to help highlight kit houses that I have been able to authenticate. My hope is to do this on a bi-weekly basis, sharing houses that I have authenticated since the last update. Kit house researchers use a variety of ways to authenticate houses and I'll be sharing the methods I've used to authenticate the houses as part of this feature. By highlighting these houses, I hope to be able to assist some homeowners in identifying their kit house and showing that they own the real deal! I also hope to show other kit house researchers and those interested in researching their houses how we go about doing that. On to the houses!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Kit House Presentations

Catalog images of Sears Stratford
(1929 Special Supplement)
Images courtesy of Antique Home
Interested in hearing us speak about kit houses? Check out our list of upcoming presentations. Interested in having us present? Contact us to schedule a presentation in your community!

2023 Scheduled Presentations

View a list of previous presentations.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sears Modern Homes on Wikipedia

One of the things I've learned in reading articles online and in print about Sears homes is that one of the most frequently consulted sources about houses from Sears is Wikipedia. Whether it's cited or not, it becomes quickly apparent when an author has done their research using the Wikipedia entry for Sears homes. I've spent some time trying to ensure that the entry is factually accurate so if that's an author's only source of information, they could do a lot worse. Still, it's bothered me that for years, the entry was titled "Sears Catalog Homes". While the article content made clear that the homes sold by Sears weren't limited to catalog sales or examples from the catalog, the title left a different impression. So I'm pleased to see that the title for the entry was recently updated to "Sears Modern Homes". I think this change is a good one for a couple of reasons:

1. It reflects the fact that "Sears Modern Homes" was the branding used by Sears for the houses that they sold through their "Modern Homes" catalog. 

2. By removing the reference to "catalog" in the title, it makes the title more consistent with the article content, which reflects the numerous ways that the "Modern Homes" were sold - through mail order catalog, from "Modern Homes" offices and by salesmen employed by Sears Roebuck. 

It may seem like a small change but hopefully, it will ensure that the "Modern Homes" name appears in more articles in the future and more readers will learn about all the ways that Sears sold their "catalog" homes.