Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Top 10 Sears and Roebuck Company Houses by Mail

1. From 1908 – 1940 Sears Modern Homes program offered over 500 ready to assemble “designs” from mansions to bungalows and even summer cottages. Sears was not the first or only company to sell pre-fab homes. Aladdin Homes was the first.

2. There is a large collection of Sears Modern Catalog Homes still in existence The Crescent Hills section of Hopewell VA has 44 homes. Elgin, Illinois has the largest known collection over 200 homes.

3. These homes were built on the speculation and
 dream of M T Broyhill and associates, during the mid-1920’s and 1930. Marvin Broyhill purchased the land and subdivided it into lots. He brought in water, electricity and sewer. Sending letters to plant executives of prominent industries in the area and older neighborhoods, he advertised “strictly high class homes” to be built.

4. Customers selected these homes out of a Sears catalog. You could vary the design and materials.

5. Sears stood by its reputation for quality and great pride in the homes it manufactured and sold.

6. Marketing techniques included sales kits, and photo displays used by salespeople to sell the house.

7. Everything arrived pre-cut, complete with a set of specifications and instructions to aid in construction. I met one of the owners. He has live in one of the houses for 20 years. It’s solid; he said he needs to replace his windows but other then that it is a beautiful home. He said in the basement in the rafters you can see numbers on the wood to match the pieces to the instructions.

8. Sears had an attractive finance plan and a personalized service where customers could modify the floor plan, exterior and materials used. The depression caused a lot of people to default on these lenient loans and this caused Sears to not only lose money but also became a public relations nightmare when many of these homes were repossessed. The program ceased in 1940.

9. When a sale was confirmed, everything involving construction and completion was enclosed with a shipping schedule and origin sheets and mailed to the customer. According to Marvin Broyhill III, he recalled a conversation he had with his grandfather’s younger brother Pete. The pre-fab houses arrived by rail and included blueprints.

10. There is a Sears home enthusiasts section of the Sears Archives website if you are interested in looking into this further. Sears records are long gone, so they can not tell you if you live in a home that was part of the Modern Home Program but they do offer suggestions on how to obtain that information. The lists mentions homes in Pennsylvania. Rosemary Thornton, the author of The Houses That Sears Built offers this “How to Identify a Sear Home Kit” at


  1. There is a Sears home up the road from me in West Chester. Several years ago a small group of stores was built on the land and the township required that the home be moved and preserved. It was moved and fixed up but it is still vacant. I'm not sure who owns it but it is still vacant after 5 years. I had heard that it arrived by rail. MA - Do you still check that gmail accout on your profile? I sent you an email!

  2. Yup, I check it every day. I will be sending you my home email. Great to hear from you. Water crosses the road haha. Take a picture of the house I'll add it to the collection on here. There is also one in Havertown but I have not seen it yet.

  3. Oy just saw this layout. It looks different on my end. I will try to improve it.

  4. House #5 looks like a house in Havertown that was on my street when I lived there. Are you sure that isn't the Havertown house that you mentioned that you did not see? Really looks like it... Don't know what you mean by "layout"....probably a display thing. Looking forward to your email......

  5. Hi, Mary Ann! Just so you know, most of these photos are not of Sears houses.


  6. Thanks for your comment Lara. These pictures and homes are located in Hopewell, VA and the tourist center provides a brochure and identifies the locations. I also googled Sears homes in Hopewell, VA and found this website that lists the same homes. I am not sure who is accurate. You or the Tourist Center in Hopewell. I only followed the tour. Feel free to compare. Again thanks for your concern I was not trying to mislead anyone or claim I was a Sears homes historian but I do believe they are and so do many other people. I did speak to one of the home owners during my visit and he said there were markings in the basement of his home indicating it was a Sears model kit.

    1. Yes, Hopewell continues to misidentify many houses despite the fact that multiple architectural historians have informed them of the errors. However, they do have some Sears houses and several kit houses from other manufacturers. But many of the ones labeled Sears are not.