I’d long known the Route 66 town of Carlinville, Illinois, had a high concentration of Sears homes. But I’d never known exactly how many and why.
KSDK-TV in St. Louis recently posted this story about Sears homes and Carlinville.
And here’s the gist of the story that answered my questions:
The Carlinville neighborhood is known as Standard Addition. Although Elgin, Illinois, has the highest number of Sears homes in the United States with more than 210, Carlinville is historically significant because it has the highest concentration of contiguous Sears homes in the nation, more than 150 in a 12 block neighborhood. It all started because of coal and oil.
In 1917, Standard Oil Company needed coal as part of the process for converting crude oil into gasoline, so the company purchased farmland that included the Carlinville Mine. To attract a reliable workforce including coal miners, Standard Oil made plans to build houses for prospective workers. As part of a $1 million order, Standard purchased more than 192 kit homes from Sears for workers in Carlinville, Wood River and Schoper. Of those houses, 156 kits went to Carlinville by train.
Each home kit from Sears — listing as low as $1,100 — came with as many as 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book to assemble it all. The company stopped offering home kits in 1940.
According to the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce, 152 of 156 homes in Standard Addition still stand. Three were destroyed by fire, and one was moved to the country. The chamber offers tours of the neighborhood; call (217) 854-2141 or email [email protected] for arrangements.
If you want to see the neighborhood for yourself, it’s on the north side of town around Charles and Rice streets.
Rosemary Thornton maintains a comprehensive website about Sears homes and has written a book about them, “The Houses That Sears Built.” And, yes, the website has a dedicated section to Carlinville’s Sears homes.
The houses in Carlinville are so old, almost all are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It’s ironic the homes have survived so long when the Sears company itself, after more than 130 years, appears to be circling down the drain and may go completely out of business within the next year or so.
(Image of Sears homes in Standard Addition in Carlinville, Illinois, by Randy von Liski via Flickr)