These days you can buy just about anything related to home maintenance and building construction.  Today, Sears sells everything from clothing to power tools, but did you know they used to sell kits to build houses? Rosemary Thornton writes about one home in her book excerpt.

In 1919, Lawrence Kaczmarek ordered materials to build his own Westly. Although the house was demolished in 1974 in the name of progress, his grandson-in-law saved original letters detailing the purchase. These correspondences allude to some historical facts. For instance, choosing fire-proof asphalt roofing instead of the original cedar wood acknowledged that wooden roofing had a tendency to catch fire when hit by a spark from trains and chimneys. The extra price was well worth the safety factor.

These letters offer a unique chance to see what life was like before modern convenience became the norm.  Home improvement and home construction sure has changed.