I Unknowingly Bought A Sears Kit Home — Here’s What I Discovered Inside It

As most house aficionados know, in the early 1900s, Sears (yes, those stores known for selling jeans, tools, and everything in between) got in on the home selling game, resulting in hundreds of Sears “kit” houses and craft homes being built across the United States.

I’d never heard of them before until I bought one. I sent a picture of the house I was interested in buying to my mom, who is a historian of sorts, and she recognized it right away as a Sears kit home. Excited that my new home might have a bit of neat history to it, I started digging to learn more.

I discovered that the Sears Modern Homes program sold 447 ready-to-build, customizable house varieties via catalog to buyers between the years of 1908 and 1940. They reportedly sold around 70,000 houses, and an estimated 70 percent of them are still standing. These “kits” came with almost everything that would be necessary to see the final house built, including nails, flooring, doors, and even the paint (though cement and plaster were not included, nor were electrical, heating, or plumbing systems).

I fell in love with the house for its quaint touches, but once I moved in, I really began to spend time getting to know the charming details — and understand just why these homes are highly prized for their style, workmanship, and durability. Above all, I love the kitsch factor that represents a chapter in American history when things were built well and affordably.

In the case of my home, the style is quite singular. Once I was able to distinguish its notable exterior features, such as columns in the front and the small windows situated on the roof’s peak, I noticed quite a few others like it throughout the rural Pennsylvania neighborhood where it has stood since 1920. Our house, along with many like it, has been remodeled over the years.

Ours has an addition placed in the back, and offers a large pool in the backyard. The layout is extremely user and family friendly, with a spacious attic and basement, decent-sized bedrooms all located on the same floor, and roomy closets throughout the home. The place boasts original glass doorknobs, unique-looking windows and shutters, a solid wood banister, and original doors. It also has ornate woodwork on the front porch and maintains its original sliding “pocket” doors on both sides of the kitchen. (I guess so one can bake in private?)

My mom thought our home bore resemblance to the Castleton model, but it appears to have features of the Hillrose as well. As these homes were highly customizable, it wouldn’t surprise me if the original 1920 owner mashed the two together.

Though many Sears kit homes have been customized and heavily remodeled over the years, some markings identify that the house is. For instance, in a Sears kit home often has stamped wood in unfinished areas like the attic. I looked in some unfinished areas of my home to see if I could find any of these markings, and I haven’t been able to locate them, yet. While I’m certain that it’s a Sears home due to my mom’s identification and to the fact that it bears a stunning resemblance to the images I’ve found of the Castleton model, I do intend to research the mortgage document history to confirm that it’s a Sears, Roebuck and Co. home. I may even opt to list in the National Registry of Historic Houses, as other kit house owners have done.

My home is large, sturdy, and lovely inside and out, and is adorned with many quaint features. The lumber used on many of the Sears homes was virgin wood, pine in some cases (I believe this to be the case with our house), resulting in a strong home that’s built to last. I would have never guessed a house ordered from a catalog in the ’20s would fit that bill, but I’m sure glad it has.

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