Almost a hundred years ago, several geological surveys commissioned by Standard Oil revealed a seven-foot tall seam of coal in the ground at Schoper, Illinois, located about eight miles from Carlinville. As an added bonus, this seam of coal was near the Chicago and Alton rail line which ran between the refineries in Wood River (near St. Louis) and Whiting, Indiana (near Chicago). Since coal was used to refine crude oil and turn it into gasoline, Standard Oil moved full speed ahead to purchase a 500-acre farm in Schoper and sunk a 300-feet deep coal mine.
To provide housing for the mineworkers, Standard Oil placed a $1 million order for 192 Honor-Bilt houses from Sears Roebuck and Company. This was the largest order ever placed in the history of the Sears “kit” homes. One hundred and fifty-six homes were built in Carlinville. Twelve were built in Schoper. Twenty-four were built in Wood River.
The twelve houses in Schoper were built for the supervisors of the mine. Boarding houses and dorms were also built for the miners.
The houses in Carlinville were built in a twelve-block area and came to be known as the Standard Addition. Pictures of the Standard Addition homes, some of which were not completely finished, appeared in the 1919 and 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The completed homes appeared in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
By the mid-1920s, the price of coal had dropped. According to http://www.searshomes.org, “Standard Oil could now buy their coal cheaper from mines in Kentucky (which did not have unions) than they could mine it in Macoupin County. In July 1925, a small column on the bottom page of the Macoupin County Enquirer sadly announced the mine was closed for good.”
What happened to the houses? Nine of the Sears homes in Schoper were taken apart, loaded onto boxcars, and sent to new locations. Two of the Sears homes were moved to sites just outside of Standard Addition. One hundred and fifty-two of the Sears homes in Carlinville still stand today.
To see a video about the Sears homes in Carlinville, go to Illinois Adventure # 1206 “Carlinville” – You Tube at href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6ynNGCtFUw.
To see a video about the Magnolia, the most expensive model, go to The Modern Sears House: The Magnolia at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8nn0ek0qyQ.