It used to be you could buy just about anything from the Sears catalog, and that includes a new home kit, complete with paint and trees. In 1918, Standard Oil started a nearby mine and bought a total of 192 houses from Sears for $1 million dollars. 156 homes were built in a 12 block area in Carlinville which would become known as the “Standard Addition.” Carlinville, Illinois has seen its fair share of change over the years.
Population ExplosionThe manufacturer sent everything by freight that was needed to build the structures, including glue and paint. Sears also provided trees for each home and floor plans made to accommodate furniture sold through their catalogs. To speed construction, an offshoot of rail line was built directly into the neighborhood. This way, supplies could be unloaded and brought to each site. If the lady supervisor didn’t approve of workers' performance, they could be fired shortly after being hired. Standard Oil sold its miners the houses for between $1,092 and $1,494, but the price didn’t include land or construction. All in all, families paid between $3,000 and $4,000. At the time, these homes were considered to be some of the best available.
DesertionSix years later, the mines had closed, and families were suddenly without income. Most of them moved to bigger cities, like St. Louis. For ten years, only eight families were left in what had become a ghost town. Standard Oil still owned the land but sold the houses for $350 and $500 cash in 1935. Once the pride of Carlinville, these houses became known as “Substandard Addition”.
1980’s RevivalAn interest in history brought better opinion these homes in 1987. Carlinville decided to host a tour of these historic houses that summer, and hundreds of interested people showed up. The tours continue today, and locals are still surprised at the continued attendance. Carlinville still claims to have the largest collection of Sears built homes. Rumor is that one home is to be purchase and converted into a museum. Funds have prevented this from happening.
TodayToday, most houses still stand, but three have burned down, and another was moved elsewhere. However, owners continue with restoration and renovations. Home values have risen as well. In the early 1990’s, the homes sold for around $20,000-$40,000, but today, they go for $39,500-$76,900. While these houses hold history within their walls, they still remain true family homes. Historic homes often have interesting back stories, such as these Sears homes in Carlinville. But older homes often require quite a bit of renovation to bring them up to current building code and make them functional for today's lifestyles as adding such green components as energy-efficient roofing, siding, and windows.