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Sears Catalog House in Searcy


I remember visiting my grandmother on her lunch break. She worked at a large Sears store in a Dallas mall. She’s as clear today in my mind’s eye as she was then, her hair perfectly done, her heels clicking as she walked brusquely. In my small mind, she ran the world. Sears felt like the center of the universe in the mid-1980s. Long before Wal-Mart Supercenters or Amazon existed, Sears was a one-stop shop. If your shoes were too tight, you stopped at Sears on your way to the grocery store. If your kiddo needed a highchair, Sears had a dozen to choose from. Sears was the place to go if your teenager burned out the motor on your vacuum cleaner.

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And once upon a time, Sears provided far more than shoes, cribs, or lawnmowers. Starting in the early 1900s, Sears Roebuck (as it was known at the time) sold house kits in their catalog. With one check, you could buy Grandma a new walking cane and a brand-new bungalow.

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These houses came in pieces, much like a human-sized dollhouse with directions. Some of the bungalows were small enough that people tackled them as DIY projects, but the larger ones still required the oversight of a contractor. This was a major societal shift as middle-class families could buy, construct and own homes. These homes ran the gamut from humble abodes to mansions. The earliest models, like the Modern Home No. 115, didn’t even have an indoor bathroom.

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The larger homes were impressive, such as the Magnolia Home plan seen here. It was a far cry from the smaller, earlier Sears kit homes with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, terraces, a sunroom, and a sleeping porch. It’s estimated there are only seven Magnolia houses left standing.

Many Sears houses have stood the test of time, gaining a reputation as sturdy and well-built. One such example is in Searcy, Arkansas. And thanks to Josh and Jenny Turner, it’s just as beautiful as the day it was built.

Photo credit Wikipedia

When you type in a Wikipedia search for the “Searcy Smith House,” this is the picture you’ll see. It’s a far cry from what the home looks like now, thanks to the Turners’ attention to detail and love of old homes. The Smith House, Modern Home No. 264P202, was built in 1925 and purchased for an initial list price of $1164 (with add-ons like red oak for $50 and $100 for a heating system). I went on a quest to take a curbside picture of this home and lucked out when the owner, Josh Turner, welcomed my husband and me inside.

Josh is a local contractor, and his talents are fully displayed in this home. The Turners purchased their West Arch home in 2011 and began renovations. The property hosts not just a historic house, but a historic tree that is perhaps older than Searcy itself, complete with a metal stake long since swallowed up by the tree’s base.

The front of the house shows a deviation from the original floor plan, a room standing where the second-story porch should be. Whether the porch was later closed off to create an additional room, or if it was built that way originally, is an example of how Sears homes didn’t always follow the prescribed floor plan.

The Turners renovated the home extensively, noting additions on the back and a complete gut on some parts of the interior. It’s refreshing to see how well these renovations fit with the home’s original style. Renovations can leave historic homes looking characterless, an old home shell with an open floor plan and no hints of the character that came before. But it’s clear that the Turners paid careful attention to the original home. Even after all its renovations, it’s still as unique and character-filled as it was when built almost a century ago.

Josh said the most challenging part of renovating was contending with the kitchen and master suite. Though the kitchen has been expanded, its colorful cabinets, butcher block countertops, tin backsplash reminiscent of an old drugstore ceiling, and vintage-style light fixtures all combine to create a period-appropriate room. Beadboard walls, shiplap and tin-tiled ceilings throughout the home are other elements of their attention to historical details. And while the paint colors are distinctly modern, they blend seamlessly with the home’s vintage style.

The Smith House (although now it’s perhaps fitting to rename it the Turner House) has witnessed countless historical events. It was standing when the stock market crashed, Pearl Harbor was bombed, Elvis danced on TV, Central High was desegregated, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the 80s brought us questionable hairstyles, the Twin Towers fell, and today as we recover from the after-shocks of a pandemic.

When I asked Josh what his favorite thing is about the house, he said, “The history and character. We enjoyed our time revitalizing this home so it can last another 100 years.” And isn’t that the best wish we can make for old homes? So, long live this original Sears house with her renovations and new paint as she watches history roll by on historic Arch Street in Searcy.

Check out more Historic Homes of Searcy.

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Arkansas Women Bloggers member Elizabeth Harrell is a native Arkansan, author, and freelance writer. Her book, My (not so) Storybook Life, was published in 2011. Her blog projects have been featured in At Home Arkansas, Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge, and Better Homes and Gardens. Visit her at https://elizabeth-harrell.com .

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One response to “Sears Catalog House in Searcy”

  1. […] Now owned by Josh and Jenny Turner, the home has been lovingly restored. While modern conveniences and amenities have been added, the home retains its original charm. Click to read more about the Sears Catalog House in Searcy. […]

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