|Prather's Sears kit home on Tremont Avenue|
They are all names for specific Sears kit homes. Yes, that Sears.
From the early 1900’s to around 1940, Sears sold thousands of kit homes across the country. They were affordable, stylish, and well built. The styles ranged from simple to moderate to elaborate. Everything was shipped on a train to the owner - the frame, windows, the trim, cabinets, fixtures, plumbing, electric, nails, everything. All the owner or builder had to do was follow the instructions.
There are dozens of Sears kit homes in Fort Thomas. Dozens. Hiding in plain sight. But we don’t recognize then because there were so many different styles and some have been modified over the years and we se them as common stock.
Sears home owner and enthusiast, Don Prather, says, “They just loaded them up on train cars and shipped them all over the country.” Don took me on a Sears home tour around town one afternoon. I was amazed at how many there are. His grandfather was a builder and realtor in Fort Thomas in the early Twentieth Century.
The Sears heyday for kit homes just happened to coincide with the expansion of Fort Thomas in the early Twentieth Century. The city was near a major rail line, land was reasonably priced, and people wanted affordable housing.
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|The Barkers' Sears home on Indiana Avenue|
The Barkers have the original plans and literature. Maureen chuckled at the description of the kitchen - “Everything about this kitchen has been planned to win the lasting approval of the housewife.” There is no mention of earning the approval of the husband in the literature. They have updated the kitchen and some of the mechanics but the house is as it was built. It is a thoroughly charming home.
Recently, a home inspired by a Sears home was built in the old downtown section of Montgomery that fit right in with the existing historic buildings. Its modern inside is wrapped in the arms of the past. And that is what happened with the renovation of Highlands. The dignified exterior was kept intact while a modern interior was built. And that is what happened to many other homes in the city. Our city is a nod to the past with an eye on the future.
And that strikes me as a metaphor for Fort Thomas. The city may have that comfortable established look and feel, but its heart is exciting and modern. Let's keep that in mind as we celebrate our past at the Sesquicentennial festival this summer because what we build now will be the history of the future.