Behind the picket fence of the 50,000 catalog homes that still stand across America

Sears may have filed for bankruptcy, with hundreds of stores already shutting or soon to be closing.

But its legacy will live on through thousands of houses that were purchased for as little as $800 at the beginning of the 20th century, and are still standing. 

More than 70,000 Sears Catalog Homes were sold between 1908 and 1940, and 50,000 are still standing.

Buyers purchased these homes straight out of a mail-order booklet and then assembled them. The entire home came in flat-pack form.

There were hundreds of designs, from the tiny Goldenrod – a simple, three-room cottage without a bathroom for summer vacationers – to the stately four-bedroom Magnolia.

The properties came pre-cut and ready to assemble. Even today many are still standing, primarily located in the East Coast and Midwest although some homes have been found in Florida, California and Alaska. 

A Reddit user decided to restore his great-grandparents Catalog home to its former glory on its 100th anniversary

A Reddit user decided to restore his great-grandparents Catalog home to its former glory on its 100th anniversary

A Reddit user decided to restore his great-grandparents Catalog home to its former glory on its 100th anniversary

A Reddit user decided to restore his great-grandparents Catalog home to its former glory on its 100th anniversary

Sears’ legacy around the United States will live on in the form of the 50,000 flat-pack homes that were sold between 1908 and 1940. One person decided to restore his great-grandparents Catalog home to its former glory on its 100th anniversary in 2016

More than 70,000 Sears Catalog Homes were sold between 1908 and 1940 - bought straight out of a mail-order booklet and assembled by the customer

More than 70,000 Sears Catalog Homes were sold between 1908 and 1940 - bought straight out of a mail-order booklet and assembled by the customer

More than 70,000 Sears Catalog Homes were sold between 1908 and 1940 – bought straight out of a mail-order booklet and assembled by the customer

A page from the Sears, Roebuck and Company mail-order catalog is shown in front of an original catalog bought house in Glasford, Illinois. Trisha and Michael Robertson's home, was originally purchased for $725 through Sears mail-order homes

A page from the Sears, Roebuck and Company mail-order catalog is shown in front of an original catalog bought house in Glasford, Illinois. Trisha and Michael Robertson's home, was originally purchased for $725 through Sears mail-order homes

A page from the Sears, Roebuck and Company mail-order catalog is shown in front of an original catalog bought house in Glasford, Illinois. Trisha and Michael Robertson’s home, was originally purchased for $725 through Sears mail-order homes

The exterior of the Sears Catalogue mail order house. The materials would be delivered, and then whoever was purchasing the kit would have them shipped to the building lot

The exterior of the Sears Catalogue mail order house. The materials would be delivered, and then whoever was purchasing the kit would have them shipped to the building lot

The exterior of the Sears Catalogue mail order house. The materials would be delivered, and then whoever was purchasing the kit would have them shipped to the building lot

 The Sears house at 384 Main St. in Saco, Washington state. These days, homes, including the kit houses, are being torn down and replaced by McMansions

 The Sears house at 384 Main St. in Saco, Washington state. These days, homes, including the kit houses, are being torn down and replaced by McMansions

 The Sears house at 384 Main St. in Saco, Washington state. These days, homes, including the kit houses, are being torn down and replaced by McMansions

Families would pick out their homes from the catalog. The materials arrived into town by train and was taken to the plot of land by horse-drawn wagons. The home was then erected by the family, friends and neighbors.   

All of the materials and blueprints needed to build a house would arrive by mail. The pieces would then fit  together in a logical fashion so buyers could either build the houses themselves or hire contractors. 

‘You would order everything from your light fixtures, to your lamp, the wall covering, kitchen cabinets, the whole thing, whether you get a garage or not. And then it just shipped to you,’ preservationist Eric Dobson told NPR

Sears stopped issuing its Modern Homes catalog after 1940 but many of the houses are still standing in 2018.

Sears house enthusiast Andrew Mutch believes as much at least 50,000 of the 70,000 that were sold have survived thanks to their durable materials.

‘You realize you live in an example of what Sears was able to accomplish back in the day when they were the biggest catalog seller in the country,’ said Mutch to NPR. Mutch owns a Sears home outside Detroit. 

‘I associated Sears with this big, iconic brand that everybody knew. It wasn’t some obscure store. Every town had a Sears store,’ Mutch says. ‘It had been there forever.’ 

Unfortunately, there is no accurate figure because all the sales records at Sears were destroyed during a corporate house cleaning so it is difficult to give an exact number.

A 1925 Colonial-style home in Washington, D.C., that sold last year for $1.06 million had humble beginnings as a Sears kit home. Owners who recently purchased the home said it was solidly built 

A 1925 Colonial-style home in Washington, D.C., that sold last year for $1.06 million had humble beginnings as a Sears kit home. Owners who recently purchased the home said it was solidly built 

A 1925 Colonial-style home in Washington, D.C., that sold last year for $1.06 million had humble beginnings as a Sears kit home. Owners who recently purchased the home said it was solidly built 

From 1908 to the 1940s, Sears, Roebuck sold an estimated 70,000 kit homes in about 370 different styles, from Colonials to bungalows. In the 1920s, prices ranged from about $600 to $6,000, which is roughly $8,400 to $84,000 in today's money

From 1908 to the 1940s, Sears, Roebuck sold an estimated 70,000 kit homes in about 370 different styles, from Colonials to bungalows. In the 1920s, prices ranged from about $600 to $6,000, which is roughly $8,400 to $84,000 in today's money

From 1908 to the 1940s, Sears, Roebuck sold an estimated 70,000 kit homes in about 370 different styles, from Colonials to bungalows. In the 1920s, prices ranged from about $600 to $6,000, which is roughly $8,400 to $84,000 in today’s money

The inside of the Sears home in Washington D.C. Once purchased, all of the parts, lumber, windows, cabinets, nails, paint and were shipped across the country for assembly on the customer's lot

The inside of the Sears home in Washington D.C. Once purchased, all of the parts, lumber, windows, cabinets, nails, paint and were shipped across the country for assembly on the customer's lot

The inside of the Sears home in Washington D.C. Once purchased, all of the parts, lumber, windows, cabinets, nails, paint and were shipped across the country for assembly on the customer’s lot

In the first half of the 1900s, seven national companies sold kit homes from catalogs, but Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were the best known. Today, nobody knows exactly how many of the homes remain

In the first half of the 1900s, seven national companies sold kit homes from catalogs, but Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were the best known. Today, nobody knows exactly how many of the homes remain

In the first half of the 1900s, seven national companies sold kit homes from catalogs, but Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward were the best known. Today, nobody knows exactly how many of the homes remain

One of the bedrooms of the Washington D.C. Sears home. Real-estate agents say they're seeing more listings emphasizing a kit-home provenance

One of the bedrooms of the Washington D.C. Sears home. Real-estate agents say they're seeing more listings emphasizing a kit-home provenance

One of the bedrooms of the Washington D.C. Sears home. Real-estate agents say they’re seeing more listings emphasizing a kit-home provenance

The homes are said to have a 'solid feel' despite being constructed oftentimes by the homeowners themselves 

The homes are said to have a 'solid feel' despite being constructed oftentimes by the homeowners themselves 

The homes are said to have a ‘solid feel’ despite being constructed oftentimes by the homeowners themselves 

One analyst commented, 'Construction has changed and people's desires have changed, and not many people want an 800-square-foot little six-room cottage anymore'

One analyst commented, 'Construction has changed and people's desires have changed, and not many people want an 800-square-foot little six-room cottage anymore'

One analyst commented, ‘Construction has changed and people’s desires have changed, and not many people want an 800-square-foot little six-room cottage anymore’

'Own Your Own Home' advert as printed in the Sears catalog makes a convincing argument to potential homeowners 

'Own Your Own Home' advert as printed in the Sears catalog makes a convincing argument to potential homeowners 

‘Own Your Own Home’ advert as printed in the Sears catalog makes a convincing argument to potential homeowners 

There were hundreds of designs, from the tiny Goldenrod - a simple, three-room and no-bathroom cottage for summer vacationers, to the stately four-bedroom Magnolia, the properties came pre-cut and ready to assemble

There were hundreds of designs, from the tiny Goldenrod - a simple, three-room and no-bathroom cottage for summer vacationers, to the stately four-bedroom Magnolia, the properties came pre-cut and ready to assemble

There were hundreds of designs, from the tiny Goldenrod – a simple, three-room and no-bathroom cottage for summer vacationers, to the stately four-bedroom Magnolia, the properties came pre-cut and ready to assemble

Today many are still standing, primarily located in the East Coast and Midwest although homes have been found as far as Florida, California and Alaska

Today many are still standing, primarily located in the East Coast and Midwest although homes have been found as far as Florida, California and Alaska

Today many are still standing, primarily located in the East Coast and Midwest although homes have been found as far as Florida, California and Alaska

The majority of Sears mail-order homes arrived into town by train and were taken to the land by horse-drawn wagons 

The majority of Sears mail-order homes arrived into town by train and were taken to the land by horse-drawn wagons 

The majority of Sears mail-order homes arrived into town by train and were taken to the land by horse-drawn wagons 

Sears stopped issuing its Modern Homes catalog after 1940 but many of the houses remain to this day

Sears stopped issuing its Modern Homes catalog after 1940 but many of the houses remain to this day

Sears stopped issuing its Modern Homes catalog after 1940 but many of the houses remain to this day

A row of Sears homes is seen in Carlinville, Illinois. Despite being from mail order, the houses retain a sense of individuality

A row of Sears homes is seen in Carlinville, Illinois. Despite being from mail order, the houses retain a sense of individuality

A row of Sears homes is seen in Carlinville, Illinois. Despite being from mail order, the houses retain a sense of individuality

Carl Brown stands in front of his home, holding a Sears catalog that shows the floor plan for his home. The four bedroom two-story house was restored in the 1990s after years of serving as apartments

Carl Brown stands in front of his home, holding a Sears catalog that shows the floor plan for his home. The four bedroom two-story house was restored in the 1990s after years of serving as apartments

Carl Brown stands in front of his home, holding a Sears catalog that shows the floor plan for his home. The four bedroom two-story house was restored in the 1990s after years of serving as apartments

The Sears houses offered what was then the latest in home technology, such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity.

The largest and most expensive Sears model was the Magnolia – seven of which are still standing.

One of the biggest concentrations of catalog homes is in Carlinville, Illinois where Standard Oil Company bulk bought in 1918 to house its mineworkers at a total cost of approximately US $1 million. 

The homes originally cost between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand. Sales peaked in 1929 when the least expensive model was under US $1,000 while the most expensive was under US $4,400 ($13,687 and $60,225 in 2013 dollars respectively).

The Matha Washington model for example, originally sold for $2,688 to $3,727 (or the equivalent of $35,713 to $49,518 today), but in 2016 one sold for more than $1 million.

The houses came in eight different models, took nine months to build and were completed in 1919. The order led to Sears naming one of their models after Carlin.

Other notable properties include the cemetery office at Greenlawn Cemetery, in the Newport News, Virginia, which was a 1936 Sears Catalog Home.

The exterior of Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast in Florida was built in 1913 and is now an historic landmark

The exterior of Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast in Florida was built in 1913 and is now an historic landmark

The exterior of Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast in Florida was built in 1913 and is now an historic landmark

The exterior of a two-bedroom, craftsman-style bungalow built from a Sears house kit in Boston

The exterior of a two-bedroom, craftsman-style bungalow built from a Sears house kit in Boston

The exterior of a two-bedroom, craftsman-style bungalow built from a Sears house kit in Boston

Another page from the  Sears catalog where people could order the kit home of their choosing

Another page from the  Sears catalog where people could order the kit home of their choosing

Another page from the  Sears catalog where people could order the kit home of their choosing

Sears house enthusiast Andrew Mutch believes as much as 70 per cent of the more than 70,000 sold have survived thanks to their durable materials

Sears house enthusiast Andrew Mutch believes as much as 70 per cent of the more than 70,000 sold have survived thanks to their durable materials

Sears house enthusiast Andrew Mutch believes as much as 70 per cent of the more than 70,000 sold have survived thanks to their durable materials

The Sears houses also offered what was then the latest in home technology, such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity

The Sears houses also offered what was then the latest in home technology, such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity

The Sears houses also offered what was then the latest in home technology, such as central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity

One of the biggest concentrations of catalog homes is in Carlinville, Illinois where Standard Oil Company bulk bought in 1918 to house its mineworkers at a total cost of approximately US $1 million (not pictured)

One of the biggest concentrations of catalog homes is in Carlinville, Illinois where Standard Oil Company bulk bought in 1918 to house its mineworkers at a total cost of approximately US $1 million (not pictured)

One of the biggest concentrations of catalog homes is in Carlinville, Illinois where Standard Oil Company bulk bought in 1918 to house its mineworkers at a total cost of approximately US $1 million (not pictured)

This two bedroom Sears style kit house was built in the 1920's in Leonardtown, Maryland

This two bedroom Sears style kit house was built in the 1920's in Leonardtown, Maryland

This two bedroom Sears and Roebucks style kit house from the 1920's in Leonardtown, Md. is free if the new owner moves it from the site is not finding many takers. (3/20/98) (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

This two bedroom Sears and Roebucks style kit house from the 1920's in Leonardtown, Md. is free if the new owner moves it from the site is not finding many takers. (3/20/98) (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

This two bedroom Sears style kit house was built in the 1920’s in Leonardtown, Maryland

Ruth Voss of Marshfield, Wis., holds up a copy of an old Sears Roebuck and Company Modern Homes catalog page showing a drawing of her home with the actual home in the background. The house is listed for $883 in the catalog and was built in 1914

Ruth Voss of Marshfield, Wis., holds up a copy of an old Sears Roebuck and Company Modern Homes catalog page showing a drawing of her home with the actual home in the background. The house is listed for $883 in the catalog and was built in 1914

Ruth Voss of Marshfield, Wis., holds up a copy of an old Sears Roebuck and Company Modern Homes catalog page showing a drawing of her home with the actual home in the background. The house is listed for $883 in the catalog and was built in 1914

Rebecca Hunter, author of Putting Sears Homes on the Map, says many of the smaller homes, including the kit houses, are being torn down and replaced by McMansions.

‘Construction has changed and people’s desires have changed, and not many people want an 800-square-foot little six-room cottage anymore,’ she says. 

‘The whole kit home phenomenon is pretty unique to architecture in the United States of America. So therefore I feel very strongly that we must save at least a percentage of these houses,’ she says.

Hunter is continuing to find and researching Sears houses and other kit homes. 

Sales peaked in 1929 when the least expensive model was under US $1,000 while the most expensive was under US $4,400 ($13,687 and $60,225 in 2013 dollars respectively)

Sales peaked in 1929 when the least expensive model was under US $1,000 while the most expensive was under US $4,400 ($13,687 and $60,225 in 2013 dollars respectively)

Sales peaked in 1929 when the least expensive model was under US $1,000 while the most expensive was under US $4,400 ($13,687 and $60,225 in 2013 dollars respectively)

The houses, which included eight different models, took nine months to build and were completed in 1919. The order led to Sears naming one of their models after Carlin

The houses, which included eight different models, took nine months to build and were completed in 1919. The order led to Sears naming one of their models after Carlin

The houses, which included eight different models, took nine months to build and were completed in 1919. The order led to Sears naming one of their models after Carlin

The largest and most expensive Sears model was the Magnolia - seven of which are still standing (not pictured)

The largest and most expensive Sears model was the Magnolia - seven of which are still standing (not pictured)

The largest and most expensive Sears model was the Magnolia – seven of which are still standing (not pictured)

Back in the day: Color S. O. Wilkin, store manager at Sears Cherry Creek store, gets a briefing on Sears' nation­al color coordination program from Marjorie Vaughan. Through the program, homeowners can decorate both the interior of their homes, furniture, wallpaper, carpets, drapes and even towels and rugs with the outside to match

Back in the day: Color S. O. Wilkin, store manager at Sears Cherry Creek store, gets a briefing on Sears' nation­al color coordination program from Marjorie Vaughan. Through the program, homeowners can decorate both the interior of their homes, furniture, wallpaper, carpets, drapes and even towels and rugs with the outside to match

Back in the day: Color S. O. Wilkin, store manager at Sears Cherry Creek store, gets a briefing on Sears’ nation­al color coordination program from Marjorie Vaughan. Through the program, homeowners can decorate both the interior of their homes, furniture, wallpaper, carpets, drapes and even towels and rugs with the outside to match

Last week, Sears filed for bankruptcy, an anchor of retail life for generations of Americans, filed for bankruptcy on Monday and said it was closing 142 stores, the latest marquee victim of the online era.

Once a pioneer to the department store industry, in recent decades the company struggled in a quickly shifting retail environment, battered by competition from big-box stores and then by the meteoric rise of Amazon and other e-commerce players.

Sears Holdings Corporation, also the parent company for Kmart, which merged with Sears in 2005, now has 687 stores remaining, including Kmart locations.

The company been drowning in debt exceeding $5 billion and could not make a $134 million payment that had been due.

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