Before internet shopping and quick deliveries, Americans had a different way of buying things.
Huge catalogs were common in every home, offering a variety of items, including tools and home goods. But what stands out the most is that people could actually order a whole house.
In the early 1900s, Sears Roebuck changed the way people bought homes. Families would send money to Sears and eagerly wait for their new home to arrive. Picture the excitement as 12,000 pieces of a house were delivered by train, ready to be put together by the new homeowners. In Carlinville, Illinois, there’s a special neighborhood with over 150 houses ordered from Sears catalogs. It’s like a living museum of American history and clever thinking. One couple, Ben and Mary, bought their Sears home in 1962 for $6,500. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary in the same house, still as strong as the day it was built.
Carlinville’s shift into a hub of Sears homes started with its history as housing for coal miners. An oil company bought several kit homes for its workers. Each kit had 12,000 parts, tons of nails, and a 75-page instruction book. Today, people come from all over to see the charm and history of these Sears homes. Walking through the neighborhood feels like going back in time, seeing the real legacy of what was once called “The American Dream in a kit.”
Each house in this neighborhood has a story. Not just about the families who built and lived in them, but about a time in American retail and lifestyle that has passed. These homes, with their special designs and strong structures, give a real look into what life was like back then. The Sears houses in Carlinville remind us of a time when the American dream came in a box, ready to be put together. They show innovation, cleverness, and the lasting spirit of American homeownership. For those interested in history, architecture, or just the charm of an earlier time, visiting Carlinville’s Sears homes is a must. It’s a neighborhood that captures the spirit of early 20th-century America, one kit home at a time. Watch the video below to see the faded (but not forgotten) glory of these Sears homes!