Book of the month: “The Houses That Sears Built”

I’ve been working on reading this one for a while now… not because it was hard to get through, but because I am a slow reader, and when there are pictures involved, it slows me down to a snail’s pace (since I love to linger on every visual detail).

cover image from: http://www.goodreads.com

This book was actually recommended to me by a reader and I am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Houses That Sears Built – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sears Catalog Homes, was written by Rosemary Thornton (latest edition published in 2005 by Gentle Beam Publications).

As you might be able to tell from the cover, Rosemary (Rose) is obsessed with Sears kit homes. The book is a dizzying compilation of facts, trivia, photos and history of everything Sears home related. If you suspect you live in a Sears kit home, or know someone who does, have family who did in the past, or are just curious about Sears kit homes, then this is the book for you.

Keep in mind this book only covers SEARS homes, not any of the other companies that produced kit homes during the twentieth century. Sear Roebuck and Company sold pre-cut kit homes from 1908 to 1940. According to the author, “Sears sold about 75,000 homes by mail order in all 48 states”.

Rose’s style is witty, casual and engaging and she clearly loves her subject matter to the point of being in the upper stages of a serious Housecrazy diagnosis. She has traveled extensively to seek out Sears homes and she has basically made a career out of being an expert on Sears homes – which I find particularly fascinating.

Rose devoted an entire chapter on how to identify a Sears home (not as easy as I thought it was), and also a chapter on the “Lost Sears Homes” featuring recently discovered house plans that have not been published in 80-plus years.

My favorite part of the book was the owner testimonials and reminiscences, which I thought were very touching and rich with history of the American working class in the first part of the last century.

If every author put this much time and energy and love into their product, I don’t think book stores would be shutting down left and right like they have been lately. Rose’s enthusiasm and knowledge has converted me to an excited (excitable?) fan of the Sears catalog home!

This book is a treasure trove of American architecture, early twentieth century history & economics, AND admiration for a type of home that is often (and I think erroneously) maligned.

True “housies” know the value (and can see the intrinsic beauty) in these wonderful and durable homes.

– SFB

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For more information on this book, or to purchase any of Rose’s books, check out her Sears Modern Homes website here.

For more details about how to identify a Sears Home, see one of Rose’s article here.