Cataloguing The Catalog Homes

Preservationists, historians, and amateur urban sleuths are scouring U.S. neighborhoods to identify and protect as many of the 70,000 to 100,000 "kit" homes made by Sears, Roebuck and Company as possible.
May 15, 2006, 9am PDT | Alex Pearlstein
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Sold from 1908 to 1940, styles of the Sears homes "ranged from the elaborate, nearly $6,000 Magnolia, to the three-room, no-bath Goldenrod, sold in 1925 for $445. (Outhouses sold separately.) One of the larger Sears models, constructed in Takoma Park, Md., sold last year for about $900,000, according to a local real-estate agent."

While it is unclear how many of the Sears homes are left (Sears did not keep sales records), "The possibility that thousands of Sears homes are still standing around the country has only further piqued the curiosity of buffs, keeping them on the lookout for the so-called 'kit' homes. The blitz of teardowns in neighborhoods across the country in recent years has added a sense of urgency to their quest."

One of the few telltale ways to confirm the existence of a Sears home? In the house's basement, a tiny stamp of a letter and a three-digit number was marked on beams to help facilitate assembly.

[Editor's note: Although this article is only available to WSJ subscribers, it is available to Planetizen readers for free through the link below for a period of seven days.]

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Published on Monday, May 15, 2006 in The Wall Street Journal
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