Kit Houses

Sears Block 1

Sears Modern Homes catalog, 1914


Courtesy of Internet Archive

Sears has become synonymous with kit houses in popular culture. By the 1890s, Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck and Company was well-established as a mail-order company with massive catalogs that offered everything from jewelry, clothing, appliances, and home goods to sports equipment, musical instruments, hardware, and farm equipment.

It launched its Modern Homes program in 1908, selling only plans and building materials until its first catalog of ready-made buildings in 1916. Over the course of forty years, the company sold close to 80,000 mail-order homes in over 400 styles.



(Left) Sears Modern Homes, 1926. Courtesy of Historic New England. (Right) Sears Modern Homes, 1927. Courtesy of APT Building Technology Heritage Library.


There were three tiers of buildings in the Modern Homes program. Honor Bilt homes were of the highest quality with lumber guaranteed knot-free. Standard Bilt Homes were of simpler design without the guarantee. Farm buildings, outhouses, garages, and summer cottages comprised the Simplex Sectional tier. Regardless of the tier, the company pledged sturdiness and dependability.