Recently, someone here in Van Alstyne asked me if I would do some research on their old home. After getting the information from them on what they knew, I noticed one of the things written was that the home was believed to have been a Sears Roebuck home. Many of us are familiar with the term, but let’s take a deeper look at the Sears homes and see if perhaps you might live in one.
Sears Modern Homes were sold between 1908 and 1940. The homes were sold through their mail order program and throughout the duration of the program more than 70,000 homes were sold. There were a variety of styles that the buyer could choose from, dependent upon their budget and financial means. Honor Bilt models were the most expensive of the modern homes sold by Sears and consisted of the finest quality, in regards to material. Standard Built homes were second in line, followed by The Simplex Sectional, which were usually geared for summer cottages as they were small and usually only a couple of rooms. Many of the smaller models had no bathroom included, although an outhouse could be purchased separately.
Customers could choose from several blueprints that were included in the before-mentioned three categories. Customers also had the option of submitting their own blueprints, at which point Sears with send them the precut material for the customer to construct. Sears homes were shipped on boxcars and came with an instruction book on how to assemble the house. The kits contained 10,000 to 30,000 pieces.
How to tell if your home is a Sears home
There are various ways to tell if your home was a mail-order Sears Modern Home. Perhaps one sure-fire sign is to inspect your home for stamped lumber. The best place to look for this is in the attic or basement where the beams are exposed. The lumber was generally marked 2-to-10 inches from its end. Just because you do not see any markings, however, does not mean that your home is not a Sears home. Not all lumber was marked and not all Sears homes had marked wood. You can also look on the back of moldings and trim work for shipping labels. Another way to see if your homes is a Sears model is to compare your home’s blueprint with the blueprints of Sears Modern Homes.
While Sears homes did not include plumbing, electrical and heating, it could be purchased from the company separately. From the 1920s to 1940s, the plumbing fixtures from Sears bore a stamped symbol of an “R” or an “SR.” Sears homes were also known for their unique column arrangement on the front porch. Throughout this time, there were several companies who offered kit homes. So if you’ve been told that your old house was a Sears home, it could be possible that it actually came from another company who sold kit homes, however kit homes have synonymously became known as Sears Kit Homes as the company was so popular.
In regards to the Van Alstyne area, there is one Sears home that I know of. It is located just south of Van Alstyne off of Highway 5 on the west side of the road. In fact, there are three old houses clustered together here. The large white one, closest to the road is a Sears home that was ordered and constructed by Robert and Eva Henley Jay. The other houses here were moved in at a later date from other locations. The Jays later moved into Van Alstyne across Cooper Street from the new entrance of the Van Alstyne Public Library.
As for the house that I was asked to do research on, I think it is highly likely that it too is a Sears kit home. This is based on the fact that it has many characteristics of Sears Modern Homes. However, more research, such as that mentioned in this article, needs to be conducted before it can definitively be said that it is a Sears Modern Home.
Dusty Williams is a ninth generation Grayson County resident, author and local historian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.