Architect: Unknown Year Built: c. 1920 Architectural Style: Mission Style
701 N. Coler is a mail-order home purchased from the Sears Catalog and erected in 1920. This particular catalog house is known as “The Osborn” and was listed in the Sears Catalog selling for $2,192.00 in the early twentieth century. The Osborn model is a one story bungalow house designed in the Spanish mission architectural style. 701 N. Coler was assembled by an unknown Urbana family. The house sits on a brick foundation and has a tall brick chimney. The house is long and thin and has a low-pitched gable roof. The house has three gable-roofed porches, which were described in the catalog: “The Osborn will appeal to the lover of nature because of its two open porches both sheltered by the main roof and the sleeping porch in the rear.” The porch roof is supported by four square timber columns resting on the large square brick piers. The roofline of the house has wide verge boards and protruding timber purlins. Overall, the house has brown wood shingles and cream stucco siding, which has been recently covered up with vinyl siding. The windows are double-hung windows with decorative bands of stained glass at the top of each. The home kits ordered from Sears could be customized. Several other “Osborn” houses still exist around the country, including a well-preserved house in Sydney, IL.
The Sears’ mail-order modern home program started at a time when more and more people were acquiring automobiles and moving to the suburbs, where they would inevitably need a house. Sears offered these sprawl-ers an easy solution to build their dream house is the suburbs. The Sears catalog estimated that it took 90 days to assemble one entire house. This estimate was an understatement, as it actually took more than a year to assemble, especially if the owner worked a full time job and assembled the house in his or her spare time.
Like many Sears homes, 701 N. Coler is located close to railroad tracks. This is because purchasers were responsible for transporting all the building materials, which were shipped in a wax-sealed box car, to the building site, typically within 48 hours of delivery. Sears kits were shipped from two locations. Most millwork (e.g. windows, doors, interior trim and molding) was produced in Norwood, OH. The rest of a house kit came from the great Sears Mill in Cairo, IL. Not only was Cairo located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, but four major railway lines passed through, making it an excellent site for connecting Southern lumber supplies with Northern home builders. The mill was massive, almost forty acres with twenty covered acres for storing lumber.