According to University of Maryland Library website,
“Aladdin Homes of Bay City, Michigan premiered the idea of kit houses in 1906. It wasn’t until 1908 that the largest provider of kit houses, Sears, Roebuck and Co., building upon its earlier forays into building materials and house plans, entered the market for complete kit houses. In the years that followed, Wardway Homes (Montgomery Ward), Harris Homes of Chicago, the Ready Built House Company, and Robinson’s also got in on the kit home market.
Sears Roebuck is still the most well-known of kit home manufacturers, perhaps because of their market share. Ordering directly from a catalog entitled Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans, prospective buyers enjoyed the convenience and affordability of a pre-fabricated dwelling. The purchaser would receive all of the necessary supplies in shipments by rail car (a typical house could fit into two boxcars) for assembly either by the new homeowner or a local contractor. These houses came in a wide variety of styles, designs and prices, although kit houses were generally cheaper than traditional building options.
Following the stock market crash of 1929, the construction of these houses gradually declined and in 1940 Sears printed its last Book of Modern Homes. For many years these house were slowly forgotten, but in the 1980s, people looking for affordable housing began to discover kit houses. In the past two decades, scholars and local historians have documented kit houses throughout the United States. Still, many people live in kit houses without knowing their unique origin and place in America’s architectural and cultural heritage.”
Kit homes have also been referred to as “Machine Cut Houses”
- Lumber often burn stamped with company name
- Homes can be hard to identify if they have been modified, porches are most often modified.
- Generally requires historical research to confirm if home is a kit house. Compare photos of house to historical house plans from various kit home manufacturers. See Additional Resources.
- Antique Home: Vintage Home Resources From 1900 to Mid-Century. Includes Photos of various manufacturer’s kit homes by style. http://www.antiquehome.org/