Mail-order houses were common in the past
From 1908 to 1940, then catalog retailer Sears, Roebuck, and Company sold mail-order house kits that came complete with blueprints and all the materials needed. At least 447 house designs were available, and an estimated 70,000 such houses were built in North America. They ranged in price from $200 to $4,000 or more.
The number of Sears houses still standing in Marion County is unknown.
Two that were recently identified are just 1½ miles apart northwest of Pilsen. One was remodeled at some point and is occupied; the other remains original but is no longer lived in.
A house on 280th St. between Remington and Quail Creek Rds. was occupied last by the late William and Emma Klenda. It remains pretty much as it was back in 1920. It has several dormers, a rounded porch around one corner that features big, white pillars and a rounded concrete porch floor.
The only visible change is a closed-in second-floor balcony above the porch. The owner does not live there but keeps the yard mowed.
Just around the corner at 2871 Quail Creek Rd. is the home of the late Paul and Alice Meysing. They purchased it in the mid-60s from Alphonse Klenda. A son who wished not to be identified lives there now. He said the former owners shored up the rock foundation with concrete to keep the house stable.
Another son, Will Meysing, of Austin, Texas, was 16 at the time his family moved there. He said the Sears house had a lot more room than the house they left. The house was completed around 1917, after a house on the same location was torn down, he said.
Meysing said one section of the old house was left standing, and the Sears house was added onto it. The old section had a concrete tank in the basement that was fed from a spring to keep fresh produce cold.
Meysing said the Klendas made substantial changes to the original structure before his family moved there. The rounded porch was rebuilt. The porch was squared off, and the big, round pillars were replaced with regular porch poles and a railing. One of the back porches was closed in, and an addition was built at the northeast corner.
A walk-out balcony above the porch was enclosed and windows were installed. Other interior changes were made, as well, including central air and heat.
Alphonse Klenda’s daughter, who wished not to be identified, grew up in the house.
She didn’t have a lot of history to share.
However, some memories still linger, such as hiding in the big bedroom closets and washing big basketfuls of eggs.
“I’m a here-and-now person,” she said.
Last modified July 31, 2019