Friday, October 8, 2010

Looking for Sears Kit Homes in Ypsilanti

Dusty D heard from a very kind reader whose grandparents had a Sears kit home in town. As you know these came in on the train as a kit complete with a "keg of nails." You built it yourself.

What I love about the descriptions for the various model homes, many of which are floating around online, is the combination of the glowing promise of aspiring to the American dream of home ownership (this one is styled "The Aristocrat of Bungalows"), made cheaper by good old American hard work and sweat equity, and the down-to-earth details. Here are some from this 1917 model, the "Ashmore":

"$2,870: At the above price we will furnish all the material to build this six-room bungalow, consisting of mill work, medicine cabinet, buffet, kitchen cupboard, lumber, lath, shingles, porch ceiling, flooring, finishing, lumber, building paper, eaves trough, down spout, sash weights, hardware, and painting material. No extras, as we guarantee enough material to build this bungalow. Inside floors, trim, doors, etc. furnished in clear red oak for $220 extra. Price does not include cement, brick, or plaster."


Medicine cabinet and sash weights included. $2,870 in 1917 would be $47,600 today. More info on the Ashmore.

Now, are there any Sears homes in Ypsi? There was at least one; it seems possible if not likely that there were more. Dusty D is on the case, but would very much appreciate any tips from kind readers--and of course Id be sure to credit you for help in the piece. Let's find those Sears kit homes!

18 comments :

BF said...

There seem to be a lot of modern options still, here are a few:

http://www.domes.com/dome_brochure.pdf (This was one I considered about 25 years ago.)

http://www.allkithomes.com/c/steps.html

http://www.ozkithomes.com.au/

http://www.timberframe1.com/imageGallery/ (Ok, ok, not so much a kit, but timber frame homes are cool...).

Dusty D said...

Those are really cool. The dome house is beautiful inside but I worry about the heat bill. I like the modesty of the small Oz homes, which aren't so different from our own little house.

Hey, I've found two Sears kit homes in Ypsi thus far: the Fullerton home and a possible candidate at 111 E. Forest.

The search goes on!

cmadler said...

How do you identify a Sears kit home (or a prospective one)?

jml said...

There may also be Aladdin Homes in this area, since they were manufactured in Bay City.

Dusty D said...

As an owner? There will often be identifying marks on things like the backs of baseboards or on attic boards or beams.

Also, another reader wrote me to say "The two things that usually make me suspect a house is from this Sears Honor-Bilt series is the supports of the large roof overhangs and the front porches. Especially the large pyramidal wood vertical supports holding up the porch roofs. If you look through the catalogs you'll see a real consistency in these two elements."

There are a whole row of homes with those pyramidal supports in town. I can think of a whole string of them along River just north of the former Thompson Building.

Arika said...

I always wonder if our house is a Sears Kit? It's a foursquare type of style and was built in 1927.

We're @ 1127 N Congress.

TeacherPatti said...

I know someone who has one and I've been in it! I'm better friends with her brother and SIL but I can see about putting you in touch if you want.

jml said...

Another group of kit houses that may be in the area are the Aladdin houses. They were based in Bay City.

Many of the Aladdin homes were quite basic (in 1908 they offered a 2 room house, both rooms 8' x 10'), and quite a few from the early years didn't have bathrooms.

Dusty D said...

Arika: Very cool! I am reading through the homes catalogs right now to familiarize myself with the styles of homes and how they look. Would you like to email a pic of your home's facade to ypsidixit at gmail? If you are comfortable with that, I will look for it as I continue to go through catalogs.

Dusty D said...

jml: Someone else also mentioned these to me; Aladdin homes were made until the 1980s! I'm trying to pin down if they (Aladdin) used Michigan timber from the northern part of Michigan; probably, but not yet confirmed. Montgomery Ward also made 'em as you know...

Dusty D said...

p.s. I love that 2-room home; would love to see the plans for that. Would the "kitchen" just be in one corner, wherever the stove is? Was the cookstove the only source of heat? Goodness, that's a tiny house! Cool to learn about; thank you.

Dusty D said...

...that's a 160-square-foot house, or, roughly one-quarter the size of my already small house! Jeepers! And yet, it was likely a big step up for someone in 1908...wonder if any of those still exist; I'd love to see one.

jml said...

The link above has Aladdin catalogs in pdf format. The 1912 catalog said Aladdin had mills in Michigan, Florida, Missouri, Texas and Oregon, the last for fir. But they said:

And nowhere in the world is there better pine to be found than in the great State of Michigan.

At 10'x16', that house is smaller than most motel rooms. I suspect they've mostly been added on to over the years, although there may be a few hunting cabins around.

(sorry about the double post, should have waited...)

Dusty D said...

Thank you jml; I appreciate your sharing that catalog! I have some work ahead of me to familiarize myself with the available styles so that we can smoke out more kit homes in Ypsi!

Russ said...

My thanks to JML for the Aladdin Homes link! There's a house in the 1922 catalog that is a dead ringer for a house in the town that I live in now. I have always suspected that it was a "Kit" house but thought it was a Sears Honor-Bilt house. I was never able to find it in any of their old catalogs.

I am totally amazed that this business seems to have flourished as well as it did back in the early part of the 20th century! I was familiar with the Sears offerings for some time but never realized that there were so many other manufactures too. All seem to have extensive lines and choices to pick from. Was there a housing shortage back at that time that so many were trying to fill? Homes are about the biggest investment in any individuals life, followed by autos, etc. Was there really this demand for the Biggest of personal purchases? There must have been something there or there wouldn't have been these offerings from the manufacturers and maintaining their work force and inventories.

Regards,

Russ

Dusty D said...

Russ: That is exciting to hear from another potential kit home owner! Have you poked around in your attic to see if you can find any timbers stamped with numbers? Or found any old shipping labels &c. pasted on, say, the underside of basement stairs or the like? Very cool!

I have read that one big draw concerning these kit homes was that the owner could save roughly a third of the home purchase price by buying a kit. And in an era when I imagine many more people had trade skills, it was perhaps comparatively easy to enlist one's cousin/brother-in-law/dad to put 'er up instead of hiring a carpenter.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe my home to be a kit home. It seems to be a cross between an Honor Built "Sheridan" and a "Vallonia". The floor plan in the Vallonia is almost 100% identical to my floor plan. When we had new siding put on our home in 2006 and the work men took off the old aluminum siding all the details of the Vallonia was there. The work men commented on the front porch bean that is one solid piece of cedar that goes the whole length of the porch. We have also found a few hints inside our home. Susan & Paul Metler
We are the 5th family to live in our home since it was built. I checked the old city directories for our home address and the first time it showed up was either 1937 0r 1938. Drive by and see what you think, our address is 401 Holmes Road, right where Stanley Street meets Holmes Road.

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