The concept of the kit house likely originated in the U.K., but after these mail-order residences were introduced to the U.S. market in the late 19th century, they became synonymous with the American dream.

Advertised in manufacturing catalogs, the typical kit house offered buyers pre-cut materials to assemble into permanent residences and could be shipped around the country. Though early versions were primarily simple wooden structures, by the early 20th century, Sears, Roebuck & Co. and other manufacturers also provided all heating, electrical, and plumbing components. (Concrete, brick, and masonry was not included and usually acquired locally.) Eventually, manufacturers began to market these kit houses as “vacation cottages” and “bungalows” to expand their use and applications.

Today, the BTHL houses a comprehensive catalog of architectural house plan publications dating back to the 1800s. See a curated timeline of these structures at ARCHITECT.

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