See Rock City

See Rock City

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chronology of the Sears Modern Homes Program

1895–1900Building supplies are sold through Sears, Roebuck and Company general catalog 1906
Sears considered closing its unprofitable building supplies department
Frank W. Kushel (formerly manager of the china department) took over the building supplies department and realizes supplies can be shipped directly from the factory, thus saving storage costs

First specialty catalog issued for houses, Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans, featuring 22 styles ranging in price from $650–2,500

Mansfield, LA, lumber mill purchased
First bill of materials sold for complete Modern Home

Home designers added gas and electric light fixtures

Cairo, IL, lumber mill opens
First mortgage loan issued (typically 5–15 years at 6% interest)

Norwood, OH, millwork plant purchased

Mortgages transferred to credit committee
Mortgages later discontinued

Mortgages revived
Ready-made production began
The popular “Winona” introduced; featured in catalogs through 1940
First applied roofing office opened in Dayton, OH

No-money-down financing offered

Standard Oil Company purchased 192 houses for its mineworkers in Carlinville, IL (approximately $1 million)

First Modern Homes sales office opened in Akron, OH
Modern Homes catalog featured the Standard Oil housing community

Philadelphia plant became the East Coast base
Sears averaged nearly 125 units shipped per month

Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton sales offices opened

Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington sales offices opened
Honor Bilt homes feature deluxe kitchens, with white-tile sink and drain boards and white, enameled cupboards

Columbus, OH, sales office opened

Detroit sales office opened; Philadelphia became East branch of Modern Homes

Cairo, IL, plant ships 324 units in one month (May)

Honor Bilt homes featuring “Air-Sealed-Wall construction,” which enclosed every room with a “sealed air space” to increase insulation

Sears began supervising the construction of homes
Sears shipping an average of 250 units per month just from Cairo, IL
Nearly 49,000 units sold to this point
Program’s high point of sales reached ($12,050,000); nearly half, however, are tied up in mortgage loans as the stock market crashes

Sears had 350 different sales people working in 48 sales offices
Home specialty catalog proclaims Sears the “World’s Largest Home Builders”

Mortgage financing discontinued
Construction supervision abandoned, except in greater New York City
Modern Homes catalog featured models of Mount Vernon and New York City’s Federal Hall.

Annual Report announced the Modern Homes department was discontinued
All mortgage accounts were liquidated ($11 million)
Steel-framed, air-conditioned Modern Home exhibit featured at the Century of Progress World’s Fair

Sears reopened the house department
Offered only houses, no financing or construction.
Houses were prefabricated by General Houses, Incorporated (Chicago)

Sales reached $2 million

Sales reached $3.5 million
Last appearance of department in the general catalog.

Sales reached $2.75 million

Cairo, IL, millwork plant sold to the employees who used their profit-sharing money to make the purchase

Last catalog issued (Book of Modern Homes). Sears ends Modern Homes program, having sold more than 100,000 units, not including cabins, cottages, garages, outhouses, and farm buildings

Source: Sears