The impact of Rural Free Delivery on catalog shopping has been covered in The Long Grove Times previously. By 1900 this service was in place for most of the country. The Sears catalog paralleled the introduction of this new postal service. Farmers in as remote of places as Long Grove could order almost anything from the catalog and have it delivered. One of the more bizarre things you could order was a house. Beginning in 1908, Sears started offering more than a dozen homes for sale by mail order. What showed up was over 30,000 parts, mostly pre-cut and pre-measured lumber, and the mother of all “some assembly required” disclaimer. As near as I can tell, the kit didn’t include the concrete block for the foundation, but you could order the optional “rock face” concrete block machine so you could make your own on site. Plans included options, such as whether you wanted a bathroom or not. I can hear the conversation from the wise husband now… “Honey, I agree we need a new house, but you have to agree that there’s nothing wrong with our outhouse out back.”
If you’re thinking this is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard of, or that what on earth does this have to do with Long Grove… local legend holds that several of the buildings that comprise our historic downtown business district were mail ordered from Sears. Construction dates and old photos add credibility to the story. A significant challenge is that many of these old homes have been modified beyond recognition as they evolved into shops.
So an investigation has been launched. A team of crack local sleuths has been assembled. No doubt countless hours of planning sessions at the local watering holes will be required. If you have any knowledge of this legend you are obliged to raise your hand and be interrogated.
Watch for further updates in The Long Grove Times.