Modular Homes “Back in the Day”
Back In the day you could buy complete modular homes from the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog and many people did.
Between 1907 and 1940, more than 100,000 people ordered their homes — modular kits that included everything except the plaster and masonry materials. When the Sears Modern Homes catalog arrived the buyer could chose from three different lines of homes to suit their financial means. Honor Built homes were the most expense and finest quality.
Joists, studs and rafters were to be spaced 14 3/8 inches apart and the exteriors were cypress siding and cedar shingles. The Standard Built homes were for warmer weather and the Simplex Sectional line contained simple design with only a couple rooms.
The house was shipped by rail in a boxcar and came with a 75-page instruction book and contained 10,000 to 30,000 pieces and framing pieces were marked with numbers.
Holt and Jean Connor own the Sears Roebuck catalog home, the Ashmore, at 200 Glenn Avenue. Holt wrote to Sears’ Company and they sent him a copy of the page that advertised the Ashmore that sold for $2,870 in 1918. The fuse box in their cellar has 1918 on it. Their house is complete with even the keys for every door and cupboard. Originally, the house had cedar shakes in a brown color but at sometime it had been changed to green and the Connors continued with the green.
The Ashmore, a bungalow, has six rooms, bath, fireplace nook, built-in book cases, built in buffet in the dining room and a clothes chute in the hall. It has ganged windows, which means there are three or more windows in a row.
“In the day, you dug the hole and your house arrived in a kit, like a huge erector set, and most people hired a contractor to build it. Our house was purchased by Tony Turner, and Porter and Grove Construction built the house,” Holt said.
Captain Abraham C. Grove came to Ellwood City in 1891. A Civil War veteran, he was always called Captain. He was a member of the first school board in Ellwood City and was active in local politics. He was partners in a hardware business with Henry S. Blatt.
The Turners closed in the front and back porches and the pergola. The second owner was Turner’s daughter, Geraldine Wettich, and her husband, Henry, who was very popular with the neighborhood children. In the cellar, he made himself a small den where he could smoke and watch baseball games on the small black and white TV. Children joined him to watch the games.
The very large room on the second floor with a fireplace was used for dances.
The Connors, the third owners, bought the house about 20 years ago. Holt, who has a vast knowledge of antiques, knew it was a Sears home and he wanted it. He called in a contractor to give him an estimate of what it would cost to restore it to the original.
“I made an offer to buy, it was accepted, we signed the papers and two hours later I left for a fishing trip in Canada for the next week while Jean began to pack up to move,” Holt said.
“It was a good move for us. We are fortunate to have the house. We grew up in the Third Ward and we wanted to live here,” Jean said.
“It is a lovely house. There had been some changes to the home but we restored it back to the original.”
The garage behind the house, also with the green cedar shakes, was used as the voting precinct for the Third Ward sometime in the day and at that time it had a gas furnace for heat. Holt does not know if it is a Sears garage.
“There are at least two other Sears homes in Ellwood City, one on Beatty Avenue and one on Line Avenue but there are probably many more,” Holt said.
“The Ellwood City Houses and the People Who Lived in Them” by Charles R. Moser says the Arnold Young house, at 436 Beatty Ave., was a Montgomery Ward catalog house built in 1928. Montgomery Ward stopped selling their prefab houses in 1931 and did not sell a lot of homes. The house, which looks like a Sears bungalow, could be a Sears home.
Many people don’t know that they are living in Sears homes. There were more than 370 different designs for all sizes of houses including large structures with plantation style pillars, four-room family apartments and barns and garages.
The website lists ways you can check to see if you are living in a Sears house.
Montgomery Ward and other companies also sold prefab house kits. Lynn Smilek, who lives in Ellwood City, said there are a couple blocks of prefab homes in Koppel that were built after WWII. When in the construction business Smilek repaired and remodeled many of these homes and recalled they were Gunnison Homes.
The Gunnison website said that for any neighborhood built in the 1940s or 50s there is a good chance at least a few are built from a Gunnison kit. Their factory was in New Albany, Indiana, and founder, Foster Gunnison, produced prefab homes built with insulated plywood panels in an assembly line system.
The kits came complete with walls, ceiling and floors that were factory finished, doors hung and windows installed and screened and arrived at the home site in a truck. The business closed in 1974.
Why not find out how you can build a modern day prefab home? Contact US Modular Home Builders today!
Article credit to:Ellwood City Ledger