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Sears Catalog Homes: The Cleveland Heights Connection

by Chris Roy

Sears Roebuck and Company built many a marketing campaign around its ability to supply "everything for the home."  However, between 1908 and 1940, Sears also supplied the home itself. Through its mail-order catalog, Sears offered more than 400 different house styles: from the elaborate "Ivanhoe",   with French doors and art glass windows, to the spartan "Goldenrod": three rooms and no bath.

According to Sears-house authority Rosemary Thornton, Sears kit homes contained about 30,000 pieces, including 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and a 75-page instruction book with the homeowner's name embossed in gold on the cover. Masonry (block, brick, cement) and plaster were not included as part of the package deal, but the bill of materials list advised that 1,300 cement blocks would be needed for the basement walls and foundation. The average carpenter would charge $450 to assemble a Sears house. Painter's fees averaged about $35. Other skilled labor generally priced out at about $1 an hour. Total home prices ranged from less than $600 to about $6,000.

The Argyle

In some cases, Sears houses were more modern than the communities in which they were built. Electricity and municipal water systems were not available in every locale where Sears homes were sold. To meet this need, Sears advertised houses without bathrooms well into the 1920s. And for $23, you could always purchase an outhouse. This also explains, in part, why Sears sold heating, electrical and plumbing equipment separately, and not as part of the kit.1


The Crescent

From 1908 to 1940, between 75,000 and 100,000 houses--all components manufactured by Sears--were made available through the company's catalog. Authorities believe that less than 5,000 of those have been conclusively identified as Sears homes, which means that at least 70,000 remain "undiscovered". Such is undoubtedly the case in Cleveland Heights, where only five homes have definitively been labeled "Sears":

  • 2027 Marlindale Avenue (The Argyle)
  • 3347 Ormond Road (The Crescent)
  • 3402 Ormond Road (The Ardara)
  • 3407 Clarendon Road (The Columbine)
  • 3639 Randolph Road (The Wayne)

The Ardara

The Columbine

The Wayne

Resources for learning more about Sears Catalog Homes:

  • "Houses by Mail" by Rosemary Thornton. Published by John Wiley & Sons
  • "The Houses That Sears Built" by Rosemary Thornton. Published by Gentle Beam Publications
1Source: The Christian Science Monitor
( ). Accessed 5/3/04)

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