November 18, 2014

A White... er... Red Beauty in Oak Park

Kit home researcher Andrew Mutch was kind enough to share a Sears home testimonial from a poster he recently bought on eBay.

Testimonial letter by H.F. Meacham of Oak Park, Illinois. Scan courtesy of Andrew Mutch.

Photo of "The Preston" that Meacham sent into Sears. Only one shutter has been attached at this point. Scan courtesy of Andrew Mutch.


November 11, 2014

Kit Homes of Palatine

On a recent drive through Palatine, I spotted some kit houses from Sears Roebuck and Harris Brothers.

111 S. Benton, Palatine. This Sears Mansfield was built between 1930-1933.

The Sears Mansfield from the 1929 Brick Veneer Honor Bilt Homes catalog.

November 4, 2014

A Innovative English Tudor That Would Grow with Your Family

International Mill & Timber Co. of Michigan started selling Sterling Homes about 1915. In 1916 the company came up with the idea for an expandable kit house. This "delightful" Tudor Revival plan consisted of three separate units. You could buy all three at once, or build your house in stages.

The base unit was the Manse. It was a small 18' x 26' two-story house. It consisted of a living room, kitchen, and two bedrooms.

If you added the second central unit, the house was now called the Mansion. To add this second unit, the windows on the right side of the Manse were turned into doors. The living room in the Manse became a huge dining room.

The Manse on the left. The Mansion on the right. Those four windows on the Manse become doors on the combined floor plan.

October 28, 2014

It's Two, Two, Two Houses in One

Sears encouraged customization of their standard kit houses.  "Your ideas and suggestions--what you want--are welcomed and made practical at a price you can easily afford."

Typical customizations would be to reverse the floor plan, modify closet configurations, add a sun room off the side, or make a house a few feet wider. Sometimes Sears would combine the exterior facade of one model with the interior floor plan of another.

The Sears catalog says that reversing a floor plan is no big deal.

Based on the customer's requirements, Sears staff architects would customize the standard plans and maximize the usage of standard sizes of materials and millwork so that the customer would save on the cost of building materials. The lumber arrived to the customer pre-cut based on the custom specifications.

There is a house in Mount Prospect I have driven by for years. I always looked at it and thought it resembled some Sears models, but it was too big and not quite a match to any of them. Now I can say with reasonable certainty that it is a customized Sears house--a hybrid of two models.
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