By Kevin Kelley
Sears department stores today are known for selling mostly apparel and appliances. But in the first half of the 20th century, Americans could order a wide variety of goods from the Sears catalog, including their homes.
Between 1908 and 1940, the Sears Modern Homes catalog offered 370 different models of houses, which were shipped in ready-to-assemble kits on railroad boxcars to the purchaser, who would then construct the house.
A display telling the story of Sears homes in Westlake and Bay Village recently ended a brief run at Westlake Porter Public Library. But those who missed it there still have a chance to see it, as it will be up in the lobby of Westlake City Hall, 27700 Hilliard Blvd., through the end of the year.
The movable display was created by Sally Price, a longtime Bay Village resident and former director of Baycrafters, and Will Krause, Westlake’s assistant planning director and a member of both the Westlake and Bay Village historical societies. The latter organization paid for some of the display materials.
Krause, who on Oct. 27 led a tour of the local Sears homes for the Western Reserve Architectural Historians, said the kits” houses were the ultimate do-it-yourself project. But they were in no way inferior to other houses constructed during the same period, he said.
“If anything, they were of better quality because (Sears) had better quality control of the lumber,” Krause told West Life.
Sears was not the only company to have sold kit homes during the early 20th century, Krause added.
Sears also offered mortgages for the homes it sold, Krause said. The company”s status as the original mortgage holder was recorded in county records, allowing Krause to identify or confirm structures as Sears homes.
Ten homes in Bay Village and two homes and a garage in Westlake have been identified as Sears products, Krause said. More likely exist in Westlake, said Krause, who conducted more extensive research in Bay Village.