Instant House

A blog tribute to the manufactured, mass-produced, modular and kit homes that grace the American landscape.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chicago Millwork Supply Company

Catalog Cover
Another Sears Clone  
I stumbled upon some old PDFs of house plans from a company called the "Chicago Millwork Supply Company".  I can't find a date on either of the catalogs, but they appear to be from the 1920s--and many of the designs appear to resemble (drumroll please) Sears Modern Homes!  It is probably no accident that the Chicago Millwork Supply Company even titled their catalog "Modern Homes".  It's difficult to trademark such a broad name, so they most likely capitalized on it.  It is also likely that they acted as a supplier for other pre-cut home companies, hence the similarities.

Below are some grabs from the catalog, including a HILARIOUS description of their houses...

Almost Wright-ian.  Unusual to see stucco used as a selling point.

It's "modern".  Because it has indoor plumbing.

Nice design.  I've seen clones of this--usually with the 2nd story porch enclosed.

What's a sleeping porch, you ask?  Try sleeping in an unairconditioned room when it's 98 degrees out.
You'll want to sleep outside.  This was a very common "feature" of homes from this period.


Can someone tell me what the hell a "Freak Built House" is?  I think it's some thinly-veiled reference to pre-cut homes.


  1. Not sure where you came across that copy of the catalog, but there are four posted to, here -
    I love - there's all sorts of things posted there for lovers of vintage, kit, and other types of older housing, appliances, utilities, furnishings, and so forth. Basically, type in what you're looking for, or the company you are seeking, and it will pull up any references they have currently available.

  2. After doing a little bit of research here, I found the following....
    There are two catalogs posted on One has a four color cover, is attributed to 1913, based probably on the header dates of the letters shown reproduced inside the front cover, and actually contains the first three homes posted here, all referring one to "Read Page 64" next to the price of each, the "Stately Colonnades" and the aforementioned Page 64 come from that one. The blue cover shown here, (identical to this one, right down to the handwritten notations) which also has a few letters reproduced inside the front cover, has dates that are not quite as clear or easy to decipher, but the most clear one I can see seems to say 1918. The page showing the "Sleeping porch" house comes from this one, and the other houses seen above are reprinted in this catalog as well, but for at least double the price. (It does not have the "Stately Colonnades" pages, nor does it have the infamous "Freak Built Houses" page 64, even though it DOES refer to it in a section of Page 2. It is clearly not included in this catalog since it ends on page 56, so somebody slipped up with their job at proofreading the copy! Since the first pages are not out of order, or seem to have anything missing, and the back pages don't appear to be ripped or cut at the centers.)
    For instance, the first home shown - the Stucco house - is listed at $1747.45, and includes a photograph of the home on the bottom left of the page as built by a homeowner in Grand Rapids, MI, from mirror-reversed plans. This is not included in the home listing shown above.
    Considering the economic explosion that took place during the First World War, which hit building materials especially hard, the increase in price isn't too surprising.
    Same with the next two homes - the second home, with a slightly truncated title description (leaving out "Exceedingly" and "Strictly") at the top, is now offered for $2813.69, again about double the price in 1913.
    The next home is now offered with two floor plans, but with the same overall dimensions. The change comes with the addition of a third bedroom on the 2nd floor, where the original shows only an open balcony. A couple of closets in the hallway have been added as well. The price here varies slightly, between $2117.29 and $2143.16, depending on which floor plan you choose since they give you a choice between the original and the one with the additional bedroom, and again about double of the price we see here.