Sears Homes / Standard Addition
Carlinville has the largest single collection of Sears kit homes in the United States. Beginning in 1917, Carlinville saw its population grow by one-third when Standard Oil of Indiana opened two new coalmines. An influx of young European immigrants coming to work the mines caused the town’s population to swell from 4,000 to 6,000, creating a severe housing shortage.
Standard Oil officials found a solution to this crisis in an unlikely place; Sears and Roebuck. For the first time, people could order home kits in a variety of models through the Sears mail order catalog. Eight different models were selected for Standard Addition, ranging in price from $3,000 to $4,000, with the company placing an order for $1 million for homes, the largest in Sears history. By the end of the 1918, 156 of the mail order homes had been placed within a nine-block neighborhood in the northeast side of town.
In 1926, Standard Oil executives determined they could buy coal cheaper than mining it themselves, and they made the decision to close the mines. The closure devastated the town and required years before it fully recovered. The workers moved away, mostly to other mines, and abandoned the housing to the ravages of time and the occasional party-goers from nearby Blackburn University. Standard Addition remained largely vacant until the mid-1930s when the houses were offered for sale to the public. Families could purchase one of the run down five room homes for $250 and a six-room model for $500. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, comparable homes were selling for $4,000, so it was an incredible bargain for lucky buyers.
Today 152 of the original 156 homes still stand. Four no longer exist on their original sites; three were destroyed by fire and one was moved to the country. As the largest single repository of Sears Homes in the United States, Standard Addition has been the subject of several documentaries and has attracted the attention of architects and nostalgia buffs from around the globe.
In 2014, the Standard Addition Neighborhood Association (SANA) was formed to begin restoration of the area and celebrate the historic value of the Sears Home and coal mining heritage. Several fundraisers are planned for 2015, including walking tours of the neighborhood on June 15 during the inaugural Blue Carpet Corridor weekend celebrating the southern section of Route 66 in Illinois.
Tours and information regarding the Sears Homes can be obtained by contacting the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce by calling (217)854-2141 or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.