Between 1908 and 1940, if you wanted a house, didn’t have a lot of money, but were prepared to provide the labor, you could order a build-it-yourself kit from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Your ready-to-assemble Sears Modern Home would arrive in 30,000 pieces at the nearest railway station—everything you needed from precut lumber and shingles to doorknobs, varnish, and nails. Masonry wasn’t included, but the instructions told you how many concrete blocks you’d need for the foundation of the model you’d chosen.
The Sears Archives point out that Sears wasn’t first in the mail-order house business, but they were the largest. By the time Sears stopped selling the kits in 1940, they had sold more than 100,000 homes in 447 different styles and three levels of quality. A number of the houses are still standing and are prized as part of American history.
This Sears Modern Home, one of several in the Washington metropolitan area, is the Crescent model. It was introduced in 1926, when it sold for $1,351 to $2,410 ( $15,182.00 to $28,081 in today’s dollars).