Grant will verify Glenview’s historic kit homes
A catalog image and information about a Sears & Roebuck kit home that is located in Glenview. The home is currently owned by Dianne and Dan Lebryk. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:00PM
GLENVIEW — The Glenview Historic Preservation Commission is the recipient of a federal grant to survey up to 30 “kit homes” bearing historic significance.
The homes were purchased through catalogue mail order companies such as Sears and Montgomery Ward and built from 1908 to 1963.
Arriving in Glenview on railroad boxcars, the homes were in pieces and numbered for assembly by the homeowner or work crews.
Each kit included an instruction book for putting together the 10,000-30,000 pieces, with framing to help construction.
Pieces for the Sears Crescent model home, for instance, were a kitchen cupboard, flooring, shingles, siding, finishing lumber, building paper, eaves trough, down spout, roofing, sash weights, hardware, porch screens, painting material, lumber and lath, according to the Sears Archives Website.
“From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 70,000-75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program,” stated the site, adding the company designed 447 housing styles.
Glenview was one of 14 Illinois villages to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior for the preservation program.
Glenview was given $3,018 from the $138,000 total federal fund.
David Silver is chairman of the Glenview Historic Preservation Commission.
“We suspect most of the kit homes in Glenview are on Glenview Road, west of the rail tracks. We’ll find out the exact number when we complete the survey around May or June,” he said.
“These companies got into the business of building homes. They were already in the catalogue business and it just took off.”
Dianne and Daniel Lebryk have lived at 1736 MacLean Court for 16 years, and participated in a Glenview historic home survey several years ago.
“They knew it was a Sears home, especially when you compare the floor plans and configuration to a reproduction of the catalogue,” said Daniel, a manager at Kraft Foods in Glenview.
“The catalogue drawing of what you can purchase is visually exacting, right down to the frost moldings.”
Daniel said carpenters were not usually asked to build the kit homes.
“All the wood pieces were numbered and carpenters were more likely to just grab a piece and start sawing, which messed up the whole puzzle,” said Daniel, laughing.
The Lebryk’s home is the Conway model built in 1928, and the second-floor dormer was originally an attic.
“Our kit home was bought for $1,614, which was 67 years ago. We bought it for $247,000,” said Dianne, a teacher at Lane Technical High School, Chicago.
“It also had five rooms, but an addition was put on sometime. Our home is still very sturdy and it’s kind of Prairie style,” said Daniel referring to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s well-known home design.
“The lathe and plaster walls were typical of the 1920s, as well as everything being over-engineered. The big, solid joists, for example, are still in the basement,” he said.
“Everything is here really rugged.”
Dan believed the house next door at 1740 MacLean Court, where the Olive family lived up to a few years ago, also was a kit home.
Verification of the historic kit homes would give them placement on the village’s list of landmark-eligible properties, a first step toward historic landmark designation.
Other Illinois municipalities and one county receiving the grants were Belvidere, Columbia, Downers Grove, Edwardsville, Glen Ellyn, Jacksonville, Marshall, Maywood, Morrison, Ottawa, Springfield, Woodstock and Will County.