Sears Roebuck & Co homes were sold as kits and available “already cut.” They were primarily shipped on boxcar railroads and able to be easily assembled on-site with all parts, materials and instructions included. Typically, the new homeowner built their homes along with family and neighbors or hired their own contractor, but Sears also offered construction services to help with construction.
One of those homes, an Honor Bilt style home, is right here in Chatham and currently on the market. This “Dover” style Honor Bilt home was built in 1931 and cost between $1,613 to $2,311 at the time.
The Sears, Roebuck and Co catalog advertised that “Our home building service will furnish every detail to help you have a home as attractive as the Dover. We guarantee quality and quantity, and our ready-cut system of construction conserves your building dollars.”
This Dover home in Chatham at 88 Center Avenue looks very similar to when it was built in 1928, with slight modifications over the years. It’s an Americanized English type colonial story and a half cottage with a convenient floor plan, 2 bedrooms and 1 full and 2 half baths, hardwood floors, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, living room w/ fireplace, two-car garage and a private yard with patio.
There are reportedly more than 447 different housing styles with three different lines of homes--Honor Bilt, Standard Built and Simplex Sectional. The Honor Bilt homes are considered the most expensive with the finest quality sold by Sears and were featured in a Sears Special Supplement published in 1928. There were 14 house styles ranging from Craftsman to Bungalows and Mediterranean to English Cottage.
Sears’ Modern Homes catalog was discontinued after 1940. It’s believed that between 1908-1940 Sears, Roebuck & Co has sold between 70,000-75,000 homes through their mail-order catalog/Modern Homes program.
Although unverified, it’s believed that all sales records were destroyed during a corporate house cleaning and only a small percentage of these homes were documented when built. According to Sears Archives, “no official tally exists of the number of Sears mail-order houses that still survive today.” Which leaves us questioning, how many more of these Sears Roebuck homes exist in Chatham today?