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Carrying On A tradition

by Aug 15, 2021Blog0 comments

Apex Manufactured Home Sales does more than provide modern, quality, reasonably priced, energy efficient homes. They are carrying on a long tradition.

From 1908 until 1940, Sears, Roebuck & Company, the catalog pioneer sold more than 70,000 kit houses through their Modern Homes and Honor Bilt catalogs. Plans for more than 370 houses that ranged from simple one bedroom cottages without bathroom or kitchen to multistory homes with several bedrooms, bathrooms, parlors and kitchen were available.

Buyers also had the option to customize their homes. They would simply send blueprints with notes to Sears. The company would then have workers make corresponding adjustments to the kit. And then everything needed to complete a house was sent to the customer via the railroad or by ship.

In Kingman, Arizona a few Sears homes still stand along Topeka Street. But it is Carlinville, Illinois on Route 66 that lays claim to having the largest existent collection of these interesting homes. In what is known as the Standard Addition, 152 of the original 156 homes still exist in a nine block neighborhood.

When Standard Oil of Indiana established two new coal mines near Carlinville in 1917, the village experienced an unprecedented boom with the population jumping from 4,000 to 6,000 people in a few months. An acute housing shortage was resolved when Standard Oil placed an order for homes in eight styles. As an historic footnote, the $1 million dollar order was the largest in Sears history.

In 1830 a British carpenter named H. John Manning devised one of the first attempts to mass produce prefabricated houses. The Manning Portable Cottage was marketed to British immigrants head for the American frontier, Australia and other pioneering areas. The complete homes were precut, packaged, and shipped ready for assembly.

In San Francisco during the era of the gold rush, enterprising carpenters built prefabricated cottages in kit form that could be shipped via mule. These proved quite popular with prospectors flocking into the Sierras.

Home kits remained popular in the United States until WWII, and then received another boos t during the post war housing boom. In 1954, Marshall Erdman, an associate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, initiated a plan to sell basic, moderately priced prefabricated homes.

The package Erdman offered included major structural components such as interior and exterior walls, floors, windows and doors. Cabinets and woodwork well also included. The buyer had to provide the foundation, the plumbing and electrical components, drywall and paint.

The post war popularity of kit homes led to development of a related cottage industry. Throughout the country contractors would offer their services to assemble the kits, and to make them move in ready.

In some of the early early suburbs, homes were built in an assembly line fashion. One team would set the foundation and then move to the next lot. The next team would unload kits from trucks. And then one team would set joists, stand walls, and add rafters before moving next door. In a Long Island, New York subdivision more than 100 houses were assembled in a single week!

As more people discover the hidden gem that is Kingman, Arizona, just as in the post WWII boom, housing is in short supply. But there are options. Give the professionals at Apex Manufactured Homes a call and see how easy it is to call Kingman home.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America