From 1908–1940, you could order the custom home of your dreams right from the Sears Roebuck & Co. Modern Homes catalog. With 447 styles to choose from, the kits came with everything from nails to varnish for building a home from the ground up. From the French doors and art glass windows of the Ivanhoe model to the three-room, no bath Goldenrod cottage (outhouse sold separately), Sears made it easy for every American family to have the custom home of their dreams.
Nearly 75,000 homes were sold through our catalog and shipped by train to every state in America. We're talking to today's owners to learn more about their home's past and present.
“It was built by my great grandparents, they homesteaded here in 1904, living in a homemade log house for 20 years,” says Lynden Ireland of Philip, SD, who lives in a Sears Alhambra. Lynden's ancestors then heard about Sears Modern Homes, and purchased a brand-new house from the Sears catalog. They ordered the Alhambra model, and construction was completed in 1923.
Lynden was born in 1951, when the house belonged to her grandparents. It’s been passed straight down the family line, and Lynden is the fourth-generation owner. Her father was the third grandson of the original owners, and he stayed on the ranch as a child. She moved in when her dad inherited the house from her grandparents in 1975 and has lived there ever since. She herself inherited the house in 1992, and began operating it as the Triangle Ranch Bed & Breakfast a few years later.
“We love the history of the ranch and it being passed down through the generations, plus the fact that this was kind of my great-grandpa’s statement that he had made it here after the homestead days,” Lynden says. “And the quality of the house and the design is so gracious, every guest who comes, whether they’re old-house nuts or not, have just endless comments about how comfortable it is.”
Lynden says most of the house is still original after nearly a century, “The built-in ironing board is still in the wall, the laundry chute is still in tact, the built-in buffet which is actually a bump-out just like the bay windows, the colonnades, the built-in bookcases, the fireplace, the little window seats that are storage, I could go on.” Lynden says she tries to keep everything as close to the original as possible. “I even cried when we put in central air conditioning and heating,” she says.
Their emotional attachment to living in a Sears home going back several generations has certainly played into their relationship with the store. Living in a rural community meant shopping trips weren’t as common, but she recalls going to Sears for back-to-school clothes every year with her parents and two sisters.
“Of course the catalog was key for all the generations of my family. They called my great aunt the catalog queen because back in the day, that’s how rural people shopped. My grandma used to get [the Sears Wish Book], so all three of us girls would be stretched out on the floor in front of the fireplace looking at it,” Lynden said. “We love our Sears products, especially the house we live in.”
The house has garnered so much local interest, it was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. “The registry didn’t know that there was an Alhambra in South Dakota, so the next week, seven people from the State Historic Preservation Office came out to look at the house. They were so thrilled that it was so original.”
Lynden says that they even had guests who also own an Alhambra contact them to stay in their bed and breakfast, with the family driving several hours to see how the home compared to their own. As Lynden recalls, the children even insisted on staying in their same bedrooms as they corresponded with the Ireland house.
Sears Modern Homes: Lynden Ireland’s 1923 Alhambra