Guide to Kit Houses & Homes
List of Manufacturers of Kit Homes
How to Identify Kit Houses
KIT HOMES, Aladdin, Sears, Wards, Others - CONTENTS: How to identify, inspect, preserve & maintain kit homes: Aladdin Kit Homes, Bennett Kit Homes, Gordon Van Tine Catalog Homes, Harris Homes, Lewis Liberty Catalog Homes, Lewis Kit Homes, Lustron Steel Homes, Montgomery Wards Catalog Kit Homes, Sears Kit Houses, Pacific Kit Homes, Ready-Built Homes, Robinson's Kit Homes, or Sears Catalog Homes, Sears Honor-Bilt Homes, Sears Standard-Bilt Kit Homes, Sterling Kit Homes, and other kit houses. Photographs of homes and house details are provided along with references and books to help identify kit homes
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List of Kit Home Manufacturers in North America and other locations.
This article lists the manufacturers of kit or catalog homes sold in the United States and provides links to additional references, kit home identification, kit or catalog home restoration and repairs, and kit home architectural and hardware details, markings, and stencils.
Benefiting from Hunter's work as well as our own search we list a number of kit or catalog home manufacturers here.
A List of Manufacturers of Kit Homes and their Identification Markings
We've had modest success finding details about other kit home companies selling in the United States and Canada and have made a few additions (found below) to a list complied by Rebecca Hunter. She lists a variety of kit house companies.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Aladdin Kit Homes: Details are
at ALADDIN KIT HOUSES. Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes: Beating Sears to the kit home market, Aladdin, in Bay City Michigan, 1906-1981 began selling kits in 1906. The company sold "pre-cut" home kits to build cottages and later arts-and-crafts homes.
Also see Sterling Kit Homes and Lewis Liberty Kit Homes below. These companies eventually merged. 35 models available in 1949. 75,000 homes sold. By the 1960's delivery of these kit homes shifted from rail to truck delivery, which may mean that there will be more homes of this vintage and later built further from rail stations.
Rebecca Hunter says that Aladdin Readi Cut homes and also Lewis and Sterling Kit homes (see below) may be identified by grease pencil markings on lumber:
"Company numbers are handwritten in grease pencil, usually in the middle of a board. They consist of numerals, usually hyphenated in groups of 2 or 3. Some of the numbers are fractions, e.g. 42-18-11 3/4. Part names may be stamped in ink."
[Note: this is not the case for all Aladdin Kit homes, as we demonstrate at ALADDIN KIT HOUSES where stencilled markings are indicated on building framing and sheathing - Ed.]
Bennett Kit Homes: Better-built Kit Homes & Ready-Cut Kit Homes were sold by the Bennet Home and Lumber Company, in North Tonawanda NY 1902- ca 1935. Online discussions include a 1926 Bennett Homes Kit house, in Clarence NY,a book upcoming by Dale Wolicki, and some catalog photos at http://www.antiquehome.org/House-Plans/1920-Bennett/ which cites that "Bennett Homes are concentrated in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as into the upper Midwest."
Gordon Van Tine Catalog Homes: Ready-Cut Kit Homes Davenport Iowa 1907 (perhaps 1912) to 1946. For identifying marks on Gordon Van Tine Catalog Homes see notes at Montgomery Wards Kit Homes just below.
Harris Homes: a Chicago company in business from 1913 to 1960, perhaps selling kit homes between 1912 and 1925. Ms. Hunter [see references below] indicates that Harris Kit Homes may be identified by markings on framing: "numbers are stenciled in ink, often in the middle of a board, and may be numerals alone, or numerals and letters, or Roman numerals. E.g. 76, HR 50, RI 32 or AII. Home model number and/or order number may be written in grease pencil."
Hartmenn's Homes, Chicago IL:
Reader inquiry: (Sept 20, 2014) E Browder said:
Does anyone have information on kit homes made by Hartmenn's in Chicago? I am doing research on Master Architect Elton Moughton, Jr., one of their architects from Florida.
EB. I also researched Hartmann and Hartmenn spelling variations for kit homes but with little success to date, except an Australian contact that's more contemporary. For information about the Australian Hartmann see
Hartmann & Cunington
4 Seahorse Crt, Bribie Island, QLD 4507
0418 712 796
QLD-Regional >> Sunshine Coast
Lewis Liberty Catalog Homes: Bay City Michigan. See "Lewis/Liberty Homes - 59 Years in the Ready-Cut Homes Business," Robert Schweitzer and Sally Linvill Bund, Michigan History, Volume 79, Number 2, March 1995. Also see Rebecca Hunter reference information below.
Lustron Steel Homes: The Lustron company, started in Columbus Ohio in 1947 with a government loan after WW II by Carl Strandlund, provided [mostly] ranch-style
steel home kits - the entire home was built of steel products: framing, walls, trusses, roof covering, even interior ceiling tiles.
Strandlund was interested in a porcelain coated steel process that was to be corrosion resistant. See www.lustron.net and also http://www.lustronconnection.org/steelhomestoday.html (a website put up by Kodiak Steel Homes, a modern producer) which gives some history of the company and cites "The Lustron homes were designed to be maintenance free, cost approximately $7,000, and were produced in 1949 and 1950. These homes were considered to be three times stronger that a traditional stick built home and were advertised as being rodent proof, fire proof , lightening proof, and rustproof.".
After selling 2,498 homes (a much smaller number than the number of orders received) in 1950 Lustron declared bankruptcy. 1800 Lustron
homes are collected at the U.S. Marine Corps training center in Quantico Virigina, but beginning in January 2006 the Corps announced that these homes would be given away. (If you didn't apply by April 2006 you're probably too late.)
Modern Homes Construction Company: Burnham Kelly, Roger Thyer - was the President of Modern Homes Corporation, located in Dearborn, Michigan. He spoke about the requirements for pre-fab house construction at a conference (Building Research Institute 4th Annual Meeting - 1955) that is described in this book:
Kelly, Burnham, and Roger Thyer. Prefabrication of Houses: What it Demands of Building Products and Equipment. National Academies, 1955. The conference proceedings (soft bound) book may be available from abebooks.com.
Thyer also spoke in the same year on the use of plastics in buildings, and is listed in proceedings published in the Building Research Institute's "Plastics in Buildings" published by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council in 1955. This publication is available as an online scanned tex via google's books project.
The company had manufacturing plants for pre-fab homes in Dearborn MI and in Port Jervis NY. There are some home brochure type publications illustrating Modern Homes Corporation lines a "Luxury Line" and a "Value Line".
Reader query: I have documentation showing that my grandmother's home in rural Georgia was purchased through "Modern Homes Construction Company" (I have the purchase contract). With it came home insurance through the Modern Homes Insurance Agency, Inc. of Valdosta, Georgia.
The home was purchased 9-9-1963 and was a Eldarada [sic - Eldorado?] Deluxe with inside Group - Shelled on Lot". Internet searches find a couple lawsuits in the mid-1960s against these companies or Sears Modern Homes which supposedly doesn't go past 1940/42.
Anyone know anything more about these companies. My ultimate goal is to find the original picture/description of the home and it's options from a catalog. Thanks! email me at JoyKerseyAThotmailDOTcom - Joy Fisher 11/26/2014
Montgomery Wards Catalog Kit Homes: Montgomery Wards, a Chicago company, sold catalog homes or "kit houses" under the name Wardway Homes from 1910 to 1931, with sales of pre-cut home kits beginning in 1921 and ending in 1931.
Rebecca Hunter says that Wards Kit Homes might be identified by lumber markings "numbers are handwritten in grease pencil, usually in the middle of a board. They consist of numerals, hyphenated in groups, e.g. 17-21-19, or 3-5 digit numerals. Part names are stamped in capital letters about 1" high (e.g. "ceiling joist" "top rail"). Delivery address may be stamped or stenciled in ink."
Lewis Kit Homes: for possible identifying marks on Lewis Kit homes see notes above at Aladdin.
Pacific Kit Homes: a California catalog home company in the construction business from 1908 to at least 1940. (The company made surfboards 1929-1940), possibly selling kit homes for at least some years between 1919 and 1925. Hunter estimates that the company sold 37,000 homes in states west of the Rocky Mountains. Rebecca Hunter suggests that Pacific kit homes may be identified by framing components that "... are marked in grease pencil with a 4 digit number, probably the order number, and the names of the parts."
Ready-Built Homes: often cited along with Sears and Wards, searches turn up too many builders using this term, including Alfred G. Oxley, Elizabeth New Jersey, president of Sterling Service Homes, who was reported have been jailed for fraud after he failed to provide the "ready built" homes sold to his clients for $36,000. each. "OXLEY NOW IN THE TOMBS.; Head of "Ready-Built" Homes Scheme Is Held in $25,000 Bail." New York Times, 25 July 1922. We're still looking for details )
Robinson's Kit Homes: often cited along with Sears and Wards, we're still looking for details (Jan 2008)
Sears Catalog Homes: Details are
at SEARS KIT HOUSES. Sears Roebuck is estimated to have sold 100,000 catalog homes in the U.S. between 1908 and 1940, with probably the heaviest individual sales years before 1929.
Sears Roebuck's business model differed from some or all of the other kit home marketers by offering an accompanying home mortgage to their customers beginning in 1916. Thornton says there were 370 different home models; Hunter says there were 450 different house models. Sears sold building products before 1900, and sold kit homes from 1908 to 1940.
Sears Homart Home Kits: From 1940 to 1950 or 1951 Sears sold Homart pre-fabricated home kits in a more limited distribution.
Sears Honor-Bilt Homes: were distributed by Sears Catalog and represented a higher-quality construction. Framing spacing intervals were 14 3/8" instead of the standard 16" (or even 24" in some older non-kit homes), and interiors used a better grade of lumber to fabricate flooring and trim.
Sears Standard-Bilt Kit Homes: were a more economical line of kit houses (see Honor-Bilt above) and were less insulated. "Simplex Sectional" homes were a still simpler home design sold by Sears.
Sterling Kit Homes: Bay City Michigan. For possible identifying marks on Lewis Kit homes see notes above at Aladdin; also see Rebecca Hunter's information listed below.
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Aladdin 'Built in a Day' House Catalog, 1917 Dover Publications, 1995. ISBN: 048628591X, also see http://clarke.cmich.edu/aladdin/catdir.htm for Aladdin kit home catalogs in the Clarke Library
Aladdin Company archives at the Clarke Library, University of Central Michigan
Aladdin House Catalog, in reprint form, is available from Amazon.com
Aladdin Houses are cataloged by the Arts & Crafts Society at http://188.8.131.52/archive/aladdin.shtml
More information including a description of the Aladdin model Georgia No.2 Aladdin home built in Claremont NY is in this archive http://clarke.cmich.edu/aladdin/Aladdin.htm
America's Favorite Homes : Mail-Order Catalogues As a Guide to Popular Early 20th-Century Houses, Schweitzer, Robert and Davis, Michael, 1990, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, ISBN: 0814320066
Elgin Illinois Ornamental Concrete Block in Residential Architecture from the Elgin Heritage Commission, Hunter, Rebecca, 2005. Available from Gail Borden Public Library Elgin IL.
117 House Designs of the Twenties, Gordon-Van Tine, Dover Publications, 1992. ISBN: 0486269590
Bennett's Small House Catalogue, 1920 Reprint Edition, February 1994. Dover Publications. ISBN: 0486278093.
Homes in a Box: Modern Homes from Sears Roebuck, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 1997. ISBN: 0764304321.
Homes and Interiors of the 1920's, Morgan Woodwork Organization. Ottawa, Ontario: Lee Valley Tools Ltd., 1987. Reprint of Building With Assurance 1921
Houses by Mail, Katherine Cole Stevenson & H. Ward Jandl, Preservation Press, 1986, ISBN 0-89133-120-4 (available in reprint from Amazon.com) Use the house type key on page 39 to speed look-up in this field guide to Sears Catalog pre-cut homes.
Houses from Books, Reiff, Daniel D. University Park PA: Philadelphia State University Press; 1990.
The Ideal Catalogue House: Mail-Order Architecture and Consumer Culture, 1914-1930., Joselow, Evie T., PhD. Dissertation, 1998, City University of New York
Sears Houses: There's no place like a catalog, Sturdy Sears homes arrived by mail: many survive nearby, newspaper article, Poughkeepsie Journal, Section F p. 1-2, 7 January 1990
Sears Houses: Beyond Sears: Mail Order Homes in Elgin Illinois from Aladdin, Lewis, Sterling, Harris Brothers, Gordon-Van Tine and Montgomery Ward, Hunter, Rebecca, Elgin Heritage Commission 2004. Available from the Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin IL.
Sears Houses: Elgin Illinois Ornamental Concrete Block in Residential Architecture, Hunter, Rebecca, Elgin Heritage Commission, 2005. Available from Gail Borden Public Library Elgin IL.
Sears Houses: Elgin Sears House Research Project, Hunter, Rebecca, Elgin Heritage Commission 1999. Available from the Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin IL.
Sears Houses: Putting Sears Homes on the Map: A compilation of testimonials published in Sears Modern Homes Catalogs from 1908-1940, Elgin IL, Hunter, Rebecca 2004, ISBN 0-9762096-0-8, 116 pp, $20 available from Rebecca Hunter Press, 847 697-4551, FAX 847-697-455
Sears Barns: Sears, Roebuck Book of Barns Reprint of the 1919 Catalog, preface by Rebecca Hunter and Dale P Wolicki, 2004, ISBN 0-9762096-1-6, 84 pp, $20, available from Rebecca Hunter Press, 847 697-4551, FAX 847-697-4550
Daniel Friedman Building inspection, diagnosis, testing by this website author, forensic laboratory services for building and environmental diagnosis
We recommend all three of these publications. Item #1 is a great reference catalog of home designs,
organized to help as a field guide. Rosemary Thornton's two books
contain additional specific details which you will find instrumental in identifying Sears Catalog Homes.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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