Honor Bilt MODERN HOMES
|A few catalog covers (1918 through the 1920s) for Sears Honor Bilt Modern Homes catalogs.
Here are some good facts to keep in mind:
- Sears Modern Homes kits were sold from 1908 through about 1942, and they were not "pre-fab". They were homes built with normal construction methods, of solid, strong, excellent materials. Before 1916, the framing lumber in a Sears kit was shipped in a standard length, requiring the home builder to measure and cut on site, just like normal construction. After 1916, Sears began pre-cutting the framing lumber, and ink stamping the boards with a letter/number combo, to help the homebuilder follow the instructions to construct the house. The letter in the letter/number combo indicated what dimension lumber the piece was (2 X 4, 4 X 6, etc.). The kits included absolutely everything you would need to have a finished product (even bathtubs and windows and shingles and faucets and lighting fixtures, for example). The only thing that Sears did not ship, was masonry products (like plaster and brick and stone veneer), but they would hook you up with a local supplier for that. For more information on lots of facts and figures about Sears Modern Homes kit houses, check out blog posts by researcher Andrew Mutch, at his blog, Kit House Hunters. There is also some good, basic information in the Wikipedia article about Sears Modern Homes, here, as well.
- There were other major kit-house companies during the era when Sears sold kit houses: Aladdin, Bennett, Gordon-Van Tine, Wardway, Sterling, Lewis, and Harris, for example. You can read more about them, here, on Wikipedia.
- Enameled Steel house kits were NOT Sears kits. Those were from a slightly later era (late 1940s), and were marketed by the Lustron Corporation (there were some other companies, as well, but most of any that you'd see, would have been from Lustron). These are NOT IN ANY WAY affiliated with Sears. Here is a Wikipedia article about them; here is a Wikipedia article with a list of addresses of known Lustron houses; here is a Google map made by someone, placing all of the Lustron houses that he knows of. There are a couple of Face Book groups for folks interested in learning more about them, as well (one here, and another one here).
- Sears Homart Kits, were another brand of Sears kits, sold only for a short period, post WWII. I'm no expert on them, but I do know that they were very different from the homes sold by Sears in their long-lived Sears Modern Homes era, and they had only a small number of models. Homart kits were pre-fabricated, and shipped in sections, that the homeowner bolted together. Often, people who find that they have one of these houses, refers to it as a Sears kit house. I guess they are kits, and they are from Sears, but they are not what most of us are referring to when we say, "Sears kit house". There are some of these in the St. Louis area. The Homart kits that Sears sold, were available from about 1946-1952 (depending on your source). You can read more about them here, here, here, and here.
- Gunnison pre-fab kit homes. St. Louis is home to a small neighborhood of pre-fab kit homes made by the Gunnison homes company, in 1949. Gunnison began selling their home kits in 1936, and continued for decades after that. Again, this is not my area of expertise, but I do know that some people who are aware of houses in this neighborhood in St. Louis, think that they are Sears kit houses. They are not, and are in no way affiliated with Sears. These Gunnison homes are on some blocks of Wanda Avenue and Haven Street (this link will take you to a Google map of the neighborhood). I found them through this 1949 newspaper article in the St. Louis Globe- Democrat. This blog post by Cindy Catanzaro, who writes the blog, Sears Houses In Ohio, explains a good bit, and shows some interesting things about Gunnison pre-fab houses. Here is a 17-minute promotional video about the making of Gunnison pre-fab kit home parts, at the factory. Here is a 1950 catalog of Gunnison Homes, on Flickr.
- Manchester Buildings Pre-Fab kit houses. There was also a St. Louis maker of pre-fabricated houses, who operated as "Manchester Buildings" (again, remember, pre-fab houses were shipped to the homebuilder with sections of the walls already fabricated, and they were, then, ready to be bolted together by the homebuilder. Sears Modern Homes kit houses were NOT pre-fab houses, though their Homart kits were). Manchester marketed the houses as "Permanent Sectional Portable Buildings". Manchester had a small booklet of pre-fab kit houses available, in the 1920s and at least as late as 1930, and they also sold garages, and probably chicken coops. Here is my blog post about their catalog-cover model, the Oakdale model, in Glendale, and three other models, all on the same street as a Sears Crescent, in Rock Hill, Missouri, St. Louis County.
|Kirkwood homes that were originally thought to be Sears houses, but are not.
1) They are actually pretty rare, making up only about 2% of the homes constructed during their era
2) Unless you can recognize the many models offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalogs, houses built from kits are indistinguishable from those built through the standard process using a construction company. (See below for clarification on that concept.)
|Read about this house, here, on my blog.