Today is Sears Kit Homes Tuesday. Sears Modern Homes catalog was first published in 1908. The 1913 volume featured 112 designs for homes for which homeowners could purchase a kit that was delivered with all the materials needed to construct the home. Later volumes offered up to 370 designs. Between 1908 and 1940, more than 70,000 of these Sears Kit Homes were built across America. Today we are featuring The Mitchell model. Please note, this home is not currently for sale.
Known as the Rock House, Laura Ingalls Wilder, famous author of the Little House series of books, owned this Sears home from 1928 to 1936. Technically, it is not a Sears Kit home, because it was built with local materials, not the pre-cut materials in the Sears kit. The kit was selling at $1,953 at the time, but the Rock House was customized with local materials at a cost of $11,000. Part of the cost was also due to running electricity lines out to the remote parcel of land.
Laura and her husband, Almanzo, were living in the old farmhouse that Almanzo had built on their 180 acre property outside of Mansfield, Missouri, when their daughter decided to build them a new house. Their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was a successful author and had the Rock House constructed for her parents on their Missouri property as a Christmas gift. When Laura and Almanzo moved in, Rose took over the old farmhouse her father had built. Curiously, Laura wrote the first four books of the Little House series in the Rock House and became a more well-known author than her daughter, while Rose lost most of her money in the 1929 Stock Market Crash.
Rose is an interesting character that was often described as bi-polar. Biographies have her in a sexual relationship at age 17 with her high school teacher, and later married and divorced, and then in a lesbian relationship with author Helen Dore Boyleston who had moved into the farmhouse with Rose. As the story goes, Rose’s parents never really wanted to live in the Rock House. Almanzo had built and customized their old white farmhouse, in particular the kitchen, to accommodate Laura’s 4’11” frame and his own 5’3″ frame.
As soon as Rose had moved out of the old farmhouse, the Wilders moved back in, telling Rose they were homesick for the old place. The Rock House was sold along with its adjoining 40 acres, and the Wilders lived in their original home until their dying days.