Rocky Mount’s Sears Catalog Homes – A Significant Architectural Asset – Part 2

“If we do not honor our past, we lose our future. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.”
— Friedensreich Hundertwasser
Austrian-born artist and architect

In doing research for the blog, I meet the most interesting people. Yesterday it was Rose Thornton who has provided the photographs of our Rocky Mount Sears homes. We must invite her here again for some preservation event. Today we’re in the company of Frank W. Kushel, a Sears manager, who in 1906 was given responsibility for the catalog company’s unwieldy, unprofitable building materials department. Sales were down, and there was excess inventory in warehouses. He is credited with suggesting to Richard Sears that the company assemble kits of all the parts needed and sell entire houses through mail order. In 1908, Sears issued its first specialty catalog for houses, Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans, featuring 44 house styles ranging in price from $360–$2,890. The first mail order for a Sears house was filled in 1908. Sears mail-order catalogs were in millions of homes, where large numbers of potential homeowners were able to see the different house designs and purchase them directly from Sears.

370 different models of these Catalog Homes kit houses were sold primarily through mail order by Sears; 70,000 of these homes were sold between 1908 and 1940. In the early years, the models were identified with numbers but after several years, Sears began assigning names to the various models, a convention that carried through to the end of the program. Some models were offered with variations, the most common of those being expanded floor plans and additional finished living spaces. Sears discontinued its Modern Homes catalog after 1940. A few years later, all sales records were destroyed during a corporate house cleaning. As only a small percentage of these homes were documented when built, finding them today often requires detailed research to properly identify them.

I know you are going to enjoy seeing the Sears home of Rocky Mount. Where they are is part of our scavenger hunt! CLICK HERE to read part 1   Let’s find them and note the address and add to the list any others we can find. These posts are about the need for an honest inventory: what is lived in, stands empty, is worth rescuing, can’t be saved, what is owned, rented, cared for or neglected. An inventory is in order.

The Pasadena Model and RM’s Pasadena with a few changes

The Aladdin Pomona and RM’s version with new siding-still retains original railings

The Aladdin Shadowlawn



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