MODULAR HOMES IL
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF MODULAR CONSTRUCTION

 

Though it may seem as though modular homes exploded onto the scene in just the past decade or two, the art of modular construction has actually been around in the U.S. for more than 100 years. Of course, the predecessors to today’s modular homes, which are identical in appearance to site-built ones, are a bit simpler than modern attempts.

 

The first mainstream use of modular building methods began in the early 20th century when Sears Roebuck began selling pre-fabricated houses. Between 1910 and 1940, Sears sold more than 70,000 modular homes through Sears’ mail order catalogues, which featured more than 400 designs ranging from $450 to $4,500. The Elsmore model pictured below sold for $1,945 in the company’s 1921 catalogue. An optional mantel on the fireplace cost $39. (This website features modern day photos of some of the many Sears mail order homes still in use.)

 

Later, when soldiers returned home after World War II, the demand for new housing reached an all time high, which forced builders to once again consider the benefits (faster construction times and more affordable housing) to keep up with the post-war demand.

 

Today’s custom homes are very different from those earlier attempts, as improvements in the assembly line process have helped to create larger, stronger homes and put modular construction on the same playing field as site-built houses. The ability to customize your modular home has also helped to separate the new versions from their cookie-cutter cousins.