Sears' legacy lives on across Chicagoland through catalog 'Kit Homes'

After filing for bankruptcy this year, the future of Hoffman Estates-based Sears is still anyone's guess, but part of their past lives on in several Chicagoland neighborhoods.

A century ago, the company sold build it yourself "Kit Homes" that arrived in thousands of pieces. And now, many of them are still in spectacular shape.

If the walls of the Barrile family's Main Street home could talk, oh what a story they'd tell.

“It was delivered via the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Downtown Downers Grove and they trucked it over in a couple days,” Marc Barrile said.

Humble beginnings for its original owners. The Hanford’s purchased it out of a Sears and Roebuck catalogue for just $5,000 in 1931. The company even handled the mortgage.

“And his father and him built the home when he was a teenager and he lived in the house until he passed in 2016 at 99 years old,” Marc said.

A bond forged as strong as the plaster walls, perfect archways, trim and fireplace that remain in impeccable shape nearly nine decades later.

The Barrile's are now raising their little one here, still in awe of the love story passed down to them in a letter from the Hanford’s grandson.

“My father lived at 5730 Main Street until his passing last fall at the age of 99. My mom followed him two months later at 96. They had just celebrated their 75th anniversary in June of 14,” Marc read from a letter.

Around the block from the Barrile's is another home.

“The house was built in 1930 by the Nielsen family,” Amy Balicki said.

Amy and her husband Stan are raising four kids in their Sears Kit Home. They've been on Dunham Road for 20 years.

“It's been important to us to try and maintain that character in the work and improvements that we do make,” Stan said.

For instance, the Balicki's added air conditioning but still heat their 2800-square-foot Kit Home with the original boiler powered radiators.

There are 69 Kit Homes still standing in Downers Grove and 2,500 across the state, according to researcher Lara Solonickne.

Sears stopped selling the Kit Homes in 1942 because of lumber restrictions imposed during World War II. Many people may not even realize they're living in one.

If you'd like more information on how to identify a Sears Kit Home, CLICK HERE