From 1908 to 1940, Sears
Roebuck and Company ordered, manufactured and sold homes to hundreds of
thousands of Americans. They offered quality homes at a reasonable
At first, the mail order business was slow and it was
not certain if selling homes would be profitable. Sears began to see a
profit with the printing of their first publication, Book of Modern
Homes and Building Plans. Soon, Sears set up sales offices where buyers
could browse and purchase plans. Sears homes followed architectural
styles rather than set precedent. They took already popular designs and
made them widely available to the public in different sizes and shapes.
Buyers chose plans depending on their own style and affordability and
also had the opportunity to modify the plan or bring in their own.
Everything from fixtures to furniture was also available to buyers to
complete the Sears look.
An efficient delivery and construction system was set up to allow easy assembly. Materials were usually shipped by rail and shipments were staggered according to building schedule. Because rail was the most popular form of transportation, Sears homes can mostly be found in the Northeast and Midwest, where rail lines were more frequent. Sales were strong in the early Depression years but lagged by 1933. In 1934, Sears closed the Modern Home Department. It briefly reappeared from 1935-1939 and only offered fabricated houses by General Houses Inc, of Chicago. This association ended in 1939 and the last book was published in 1940.
Sears homes were popular in the railroad community of Aurora, which boasts 136 authenticated properties, making Aurora one of the largest concentrations of Sears homes in the country. A Sears Honor Built Home office was located on River Street from 1929 to 1934 and was managed by F.C. Gallagher, who lived in a Sears house at 125 S Western. A majority of Sears home owners in Aurora obtained financing through Sears and signed trust agreements with Sears employees Walker O. Lewis, and E Harrison Powell.