The nonprofit Riverside-Avondale Preservation sheds light on a number of notable Jacksonville buildings: three self-built homes that you could order from the Sears catalog – also known as the Big Book – at the beginning of the 20th century.
The homes are in the Ortega, Murray Hill and Fairfax Manor neighborhoods, and Jacksonville Historical Society historian Wayne Wood said Wednesday they were an important part of American history.
“Most of these houses are not very architecturally significant, although many of them are attractive in construction,” said Wood. “But they’re a remarkable piece of Americana in that early 20th century people were able to build their own homes from a kit they ordered from a catalog at the beginning of the 20th century.”
From 1908 through the 1940s, you could flip the pages of a catalog from Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and choose your home from a range of models, most of which cost between $ 400 and $ 5,000. The house would arrive on the railroad in a number of broadcasts, from the foundation to the roof. Everything would be included, said Wood, from the toilet to the doorknobs.
Connected: Illustrations by Sears Homes 1908-1914
A total of around 70,000 kit houses have been sold in the United States. It is believed that there are around 10,000 in existence today.
“Some of these houses were humble little bungalows, but some of them were pretty big and amazing,” said Wood. “There was one, the magnolia. It was palatial. It was two floors of fluted pillars and cost $ 5,972 in 1921. ”
Taking inflation into account, the value is $ 87,749.
The early years of the mail-order business in Jacksonville coincided with the great fire of 1901 when many people lost their homes in the downtown area and moved to new homes in the suburbs. They contributed to the character of neighborhoods such as Riverside and Avondale, which are known for their architectural diversity. The kit houses were also cheaper than contracts with an architect or contractor and were particularly popular with soldiers returning from WWI.
In 1925, according to The Florida Times-Union, the Percy Butcher family bought the “Crescent” model for $ 1,761. That’s roughly $ 26,466 in today’s dollars.
The ad for the Crescent model was titled “Five Rooms – Neat Porch” and read: “At the prices quoted, we will set up all mill work, kitchen cabinets, floors, clapboard, siding, finished wood, construction paper and eaves, drain, roof, sash weights , Fittings, porch, screens, painting materials, lumber and lath to build this five bedroom home. ”
The Butcher family lived in the house for 50 years, Wood said. The building still stands, although it was relocated from its original location in 2003 to make way for a gas station extension.
Wood said it was unusual to see Sears kit houses this far south, as the wood comes mainly from the northeast and midwest. But maybe there are more kit houses in Jacksonville that we don’t know about yet.
Wood said one way to check if your house came south on the railroad is to look at the attic. You might find wood with Honor Bilt, the Sears brand, or logos from Montgomery Ward or Aladdin, which were other kit-home companies.
Contact Sydney Boles at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.