Assembly Required

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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).

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5 Responses to Assembly Required

  1. transall says:

    Bonsoir,

    Histoire très intéressante.

    Nous avions plutôt entendu parler des maisons que l’on déplaçait, mais c’est la première fois que je vois un article sur ce type de construction.

    Merci pour cette information.

    Amitiés,

    Didier

  2. Jenny says:

    I love those houses – there are a few around here too!

  3. Elisabeth says:

    I had vaguely heard about those before. Back in the early 80’s, we had friends who had a huge and absolutely gorgeous house in Middletown, Delaware, which the husband had basically built himself – with just the help of some of his students (he was a high school teacher) – from a kit. The only things for which he had hired contractors was for the plumbing and electrical wiring.

    I remember asking him how he had managed to accomplished this feat, to which he simply replied: “I just read the directions.”

  4. passante says:

    “I’d also like”:

    You’re right. I was going by a Web site that listed all the Sears houses in Northern Virginia. I assumed they’d done their homework (always dangerous). It looks more like a Windsor. But if you know what it is, please let me know.

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