Looking to build a new home? From 1916 through the 1940’s, you could buy a “kit house” from the Sears Roebuck catalog! The kit included the entire house with numbered parts, instruction books, paint and nails. For several years previously, Sears Roebuck had been selling house plans and building supplies, but is was 1916 when they produced the first kits. Other companies also sold kit houses, but the Sears models were the ones that sprung up in the Millinocket area.
At the museum, we have heard that a number of these Sears houses were constructed here in Millinocket. Where are they? If you know of one, please stop in at the museum to talk with us about it or send along the information by email, letter etc. We are interested in the address, original owners, photos then and now and anything else you can share about these unique houses. Dorothy Laverty’s second book, So You Live in Millinocket does not make mention of them.
In the 1920’s Sears Roebuck put out the Sears Honor-Bilt Modern Homes catalog featuring over one hundred house models. It included summer cottages and garages in a variety of styles. One of the biggest sellers was the bungalow which came in several styles including Arts and Crafts and Tudor. Photos of many of the styles are found on the internet and may be useful in deciding if your home is a kit house.
Your kit house would arrive at the railroad station ready to be picked up and hauled to the building site. All lumber was pre-cut and ready to be assembled per instructions. A basic plan was purchased and then various embellishments (porches, inside bath etc.) could be added depending on the buyer’s pocketbook. If you couldn’t afford an inside bath, you could choose the outhouse option. Costs were kept down as the kits were shipped direct from the factory. A sample of one seven room with tower (similar to a style seen in Millinocket) was $871.00. This included lumber, lath, shingles, flooring, ceiling, gutters, sash weights, hardware, painting material, mill work, pipe and building paper. Guaranteed at the mentioned price, no extras. All labor, cement, brick and plaster were the responsibility of the buyer. Therefore, the total house cost was expected to be under $1600.00.
The museum has three reproductions of Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs from 1894-95, 1900 and 1909. They do not show any of the kit houses (available after 1916) nor any building supplies. They have clothing, household furnishings, wagon scales, iceboxes, bicycles, boxing gloves, pianos and even cemetery monuments.
***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. Booklet -1903 Report on Millinocket & mill – interesting statistics – $7.00 at museum
3. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
4. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
5. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form; please order by mid-May for this year’s placement.
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.