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Gullikson’s Sears Home


Across the state, many North Dakotans take advantage of the various sales catalogs appearing regularly in their mailboxes. Some appreciate the time saved from a long trip into town by having everyday items shipped directly to their home, while others enjoy purchasing items not normally found in their local stores.

Mail order catalogs are nothing new. They have been a staple of Americana for well over a century. Perhaps the most famous of these catalogs is sent by Sears. Since 1888, Sears, Roebuck and Company, has sold everything from coal stoves to video games, power tools to pre-cut, ready-to-assemble houses. Yes, for over 30 years Sears was in the housing business, and it was this day, May 5, 1914 that Mr. and Mrs. Gullikson of Cartwright, North Dakota ordered their ‘Hazelton’ model house from the Sears Roebuck Company. For the price of $1,525.37, the Gulliksons bought a top-of-the-line Honor Built home, featuring two bedrooms, a parlor, dining room, kitchen, indoor bathroom and two porches. It even included nails, gutters and painting material. It took a while for the house to arrive on the North Dakota prairies. However, via train, ferry and even rowboat the Gullikson finally received their new home, though some assembly was required.

The Gulliksons were not the only Americans ordering their new homes from Sears. Some 100,000 houses were sold from the Chicago-based company between 1908 and 1940. Sears first entered the home sales business in the 1890’s, selling building materials out of their regular catalogs. However, the home sales department struggled and was almost shut down, until Frank Kushel, a former manager of the porcelain department, thought of retooling the home building business. Instead of just selling building materials, Sears started selling entire homes.

Selecting from Sears Modern Homes sales catalog, prospective home-owners, such as the Gulliksons, could pick the house of their dreams, and even customize the blueprints to better suit their needs. Having received the order, Sears would ship directly to the customer via train, the pre-cut lumber, dry-wall, shingles, construction plans, nails and even the varnish. Everything the homeowner would need to assemble the house was included.

Sears was quick to boast of the advantages their pre-cut houses entailed. The material was of the finest quality, and the pre-fabrication cut building time by 40 percent. Furthermore, Sears offered a liberal five year financing plan with 6 percent interest for the materials, shipping and labor costs.

However Sears’ marketing plan eventually backfired. Sears Modern Homes were selling at their highest during the late 1920’s. So when the Great Depression hit, Sears was left holding $11 million dollars in liquidated mortgages, as home-owners were no longer able to keep up with their payments. The Sears housing department struggled on for another 11 years until 1940 when Sears shipped its last Model Home.

Although Sears is no longer in the housing business, many of the homes sold by the company are in use to this day. A new generation of Gullikson’s still live in the house purchased in 1914, and their love for the 94 year old home is a testament to Sears ingenuity for making quality homes readily available to anyone across America, even those living in rural North Dakota.

Written by Lane Sunwall


Daniels, Laura, Viola Wick, Audry Sundheim, Marie Sawyer, Kathryn Gartner, and Luanna Aisenbrey, eds. Our Historic Homes: 1895-1989. Edited by Richland County Extension Homemakers Council. Sidney, MT, 1989.

Sears Brands, LLC, "History of Sears Modern Homes" http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/history.htm (accessed April 23, 2008).

________, "Sears Homes 1915-1920" http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/1915-1920.htm (accessed April 23, 2008).

________, "What Is a Sears Modern Home?" http://www.searsarchives.com/homes/index.htm (accessed April 23, 2008).