Live in a Mail-Order Home? Watch of Contact the Experts
Byline: Sarah Long
There are many of them in this area. Often they are in towns close to railroad tracks. They come in a variety of styles popular around 1910 but they are all made of quality materials. What are they? Mail-order houses!
Arlene Lane, reference librarian at the Cook Memorial Public Library, got interested in mail-order houses about a year ago when she attended a meeting of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society featuring Rebecca Hunter, a nationally known expert on mail-order houses.
As a part of her presentation, Hunter said that she had driven around Libertyville before the meeting and identified about 20 houses that might have been ordered from catalogs. Lane's interest was piqued. After the meeting she met with Hunter, got the list of the 20 houses, and the next day shared the list and her excitement with her colleague at the library, Sonia Schoenfield, also a reference librarian. They agreed that a digital exhibit of Libertyville's mail-order houses on Digital Past would be a wonderful contribution to the community.
On a crisp and sunny October morning last year, Lane and Schoenfield set out to look at all 20 houses identified by Hunter. They took pictures and later scanned and researched the houses. Home owners were contacted and asked if they had any documentation about their homes' origins.
The library purchased books about mail-order houses and copies of mail-order home catalogs of the period. The librarians perused these for original and contemporary pictures as the exhibit took shape. Finally the exhibit was unveiled in April of 2004. Have a look at it at http://www.digitalpast.org/exhibits.asp Scroll down- it's the third exhibit listed on the page.
"We now know a lot about mail-order homes," Lane said. "The Aladdin Company in Bay City Mich. was the first to market homes via catalog in 1904. Sears, Roebuck and Company published their first home catalog in 1908 and other companies soon followed including Gordon-Van Tine, Lewis Liberty, and Sterling.
The buyer received a blueprint, a materials list and all the materials - wood, bricks, tile, nails, hardware, everything. …