In 1917, fourteen homes were built on Edison Avenue. Edison Avenue, named for the great Ohio inventor Thomas Edison, was later changed to Blanchard Avenue. Why are these homes famous and noteworthy? The homes are Sears Roebuck and Company mail order homes. That’s right, the houses were ordered from a catalog.
The Sears Roebuck mass-merchandising, mail-order company was founded in 1886 and quickly became one of the largest such operations in the world. While most people know that Sears sold nearly everything in the catalog few realize Sears also sold homes. Between 1908 and 1940 Sears operated a “Modern Homes” division that supplied plans, materials and kit houses shipped by rail to all corners of America.
Orville Wright and the other owners of the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company on Springboro Pike needed workers to built the DeHavilland DH-4, America’s first bomber which was used near the end of World War I. Across the street from the plant on Edison Avenue, gas lines were installed, the dirt street was paved and sidewalks, curbing and gutters were provided. When the Sears home kits arrived they included everything to build a house – numbered pre-cut parts, paint, nails, blueprints and instruction booklets. The homes ranged in price from $650 to $2,500. Nearly 500,000 Sears home kits were ordered between 1908 and WWII. Photo #2 shows some of the homes completed and others are being constructed. Photo #3 shows the entire plat with the Edison Avenue Sears homes at the bottom of the photo. At the top of Photo#4 shows the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company Plant, the Sears homes and at the bottom running right to left is the Great Miami Valley Turnpike aka South Dixie Drive.
When the houses were completed, many workers at the Dayton Wright Airplane Company lived or bunked in these Sears houses where all they had to do was walk across the street to work. Today, these Sears homes are still standing and are all single family residences. The Moraine Historical Marker “Historic Blanchard Avenue Homes” is located on the western end of Blanchard Avenue near the intersection of Blanchard and Springboro Pike.