Eaton's Catalogue Houses
The Eaton's catalogue is legendary for selling everything an urban dweller or rural settler needed to outfit their home - including the home itself !
Eaton's sold houses, (and barns, and churches, and school houses), from their catalogue in the early 1900s to feed the population boom of western Canada. It was an easy way for a developer or railway company to instantly create the makings of a town. Instead of years of planning, development and construction, a townsite could be erected in weeks with a handful of labourers.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization has a section on their website dedicated to the 'mail order home'.
One interesting reference I found was that "...after WWI, Eaton’s Catalogue offered a complete farm – everything but the horses – to returning veterans taking up land offered in the prairie provinces. No assembly instructions for these houses, barns, and milk-sheds or pig pens has yet been dug up."
The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has complete "Eaton Plan Book of Ideal Homes" at their website if you'd like to check out the many different styles that were on offer.
Though they get rarer with each passing year, there are still a number of Eaton's houses that dot the landscape of Western Canada.
What got me interested in this subject was what some THOUGHT was an Eaton's house in Rivers, Manitoba under renovation.
It turns out that this is a bank building from the catalogue of B.C. Mills Timber and Trading Company. Like Eaton's, you could order an array of buildings from their catalogue and the package would be dropped off at the nearest rail station.
You can see more photos here of the Rivers house. Also, there is a Flickr site for other B. C. Mills from around the country.
UPDATE: There is a book and video series called Catalogue Houses: Eaton's and Others. You can read more by the author here and see the videos here.