March 28, 2023

Five Reasons You Think You Have a Sears House... but You Don't

Many people believe they have a Sears house. The vast majority of them do not.

Sears houses are rare and they are typically found in certain states (Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania having the most). 

So why do so many people insist their house must be from Sears? There are five reasons that are brought up continually.

1. "My house has markings on the boards."

Millions of houses in the U.S. have marked lumber. Lumber mills started marking cut lumber with rubber stamps or stencils around the turn of the century. This information could include the grade of the lumber, the name of the lumber company, or the size of the piece. The mere existence of marked lumber in your house does not mean your house is a Sears house. 

What a stamp in a Sears house generally looks like.

2. "Everyone says my house arrived by train."

Building materials for any house, kit or otherwise, could be delivered by train, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, Sears houses were not always delivered by train.  

3. "The neighbors say my house is a Sears kit."

Oral history is often wrong. Sometimes, misinformation is passed along for decades. For instance, someone told President Jimmy Carter that his childhood home was from Sears Roebuck and it wasn't. 

4. "My house was built in the 1920's so it's probably a kit house of some sort."

Kit houses are uncommon. In the case of Sears Roebuck, about 0.61 percent of houses constructed in the U.S. during 1908-1942 were from Sears. If your house was built in the 1920's, the odds are strongly against it being a kit house.

5. "There are a bunch of houses on my street that are the same so they must be kit houses."

There is no logic behind the rationale that identical houses mean they must all be kit house models. Any builder could construct the same house numerous times. 

A real Sears Mitchell in Crete at 1365 Elizabeth.

1 comment:

Architectural Observer said...

Reason #3 is one I hear a lot. There are several Wardway/GVT houses in my area but everyone seems to think they are Sears houses. Relatively few people know of the other kit house options that were available in the past so, over time, the term "kit house" seems to have become synonymous with Sears Roebuck. History has a way of becoming murky and distorted, sadly. Thanks for this insightful list!

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