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August 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 33 comments

There’s something known as “second-year grief” and experts suspect it’s occasioned by the fact that in the first year following a sudden and traumatic death, the mind is in shock. By the second year, the protective layer of shock is mostly gone, and what’s left is the ugly, raw reality.

I’m not sure what the issue is, but despite a rigorous daily exercise routine, healthy eating, gratitude lists, daily “to do” lists, and other good habits, I’m struggling to keep my head above the massive waves of despair, regret and hopelessness that keep washing over me.

Every morning, one of the first things I do is to check this website for new comments. When someone leaves a comment, it’s a lovely reminder that I am still alive, and that someone somewhere is still thinking about me. And when someone says that they’re praying for me, that lifts my spirits more than I can easily express.

I return to the “well-commented” blogs (especially the recent ones) and read through every word of every comment again and again.

So if you’re one of the 1,500+ daily readers at this blog, I’d be ever so grateful if you’d take a moment and please leave a comment below.

Thank you so very much.

Read through some of my favorite comments here.

Interested in learning more about Penniman? Click here.

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When I drove to New Martinsville, WV last week, my Garmin took me through Ohio (and why, I do not know). Whilst there, I saw this perfect Avondale in Matamora (on Grandview Street) and snapped a picture.

When I drove to New Martinsville, WV last week, my Garmin took me through Ohio (and why, I do not know). Whilst there, I saw this perfect Avondale in Matamora (on Grandview Street) and snapped a picture.

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Heres an Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Here's an Avondale, from the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Every comment is so precious to me. This comment made me laugh out loud and also touched me to tears.

Every comment is so precious to me, and I cherish every word and the love behind the words. This comment made me laugh out loud and also touched me to tears. And I do love that song.

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To read the full blog that Susan is referencing, click here.

Read through some of my favorite comments here.

Interested in learning more about Penniman? Click here.

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Housing Rosemary, Part III

August 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 7 comments

We’re sneaking up on 11 months since I moved into my rental home, and never in a million years did I think that I’d remain in this little rental for this long. I was quite confident that I’d find my new “forever home” lickety split.

It’s been a long and winding road, searching for my “forever home” and in that time, I’ve switched back and forth from old houses (1950s) to new (1990-2010) back to old (1930s) and every place in-between.

I’ve looked at ranches, two-story homes, foursquares, Tudor Revivals, Colonial Revivals, International Style, Cape Cods, classic Mid-Century Modern houses, Log Homes, and plain old farmhouses. There have been many interesting experiences, such as the time I crawled under a house with a licensed home inspector and pointed out a couple things he missed.

When we emerged from the crawlspace, he offered me a job with his company.

Or the time I met another inspector at a house that I was going to write a contract on, and he said, “Rosemary, is that you?” And I said, “Mortimer*, is that you?” And he said, “Why, I can’t believe I’m standing here talking to you! I haven’t seen you in 30+ years!” (The benefits of returning to your home town after a few years.)

We caught up with each other and then after a few minutes of “old home week,” he took me aside and quietly said, “You really need to be cautious if you’re going to buy this house. I was under this house 18 months ago, and it needs a whole lot of work.”

And there was the time I ran into an old high school chum when I was looking at an old house and she said, “Be careful with that one. During the last Nor’easter, there was about 12″ of water in the basement.”

And then there was that “interesting” real estate agent that I met at an open house in Suffolk. She asked me what I did for a living. I responded casually that I wrote books about old houses. She replied with, “I sold the very first Sears and Roebuck kit house ever built in this country, and it was right there in Portsmouth, Virginia” and I laughed and said, “Oh my goodness, there’s so much wrong with that seemingly simple sentence that I can’t begin to explain it, but please do tell me, how old is the roof on this house?”

In my desperate bid to find myself and start a new life, I keep hoping that this housing question will soon be settled. In the meantime, I continue to read, and write, and pray, and hope that there will be a day when my first and last thought of every single day is not “why did he do this to me?”

As always, I’ve deeply grateful for every prayer, every loving word, and every kind comment.

* “Mortimer” was not his real name.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

And I could always buy a lighthouse for $15,000!

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Houses

Today, I was looking at a neighborhood in Chesapeake, Virginia that was once populated with 1950s houses and vast expanses of farmland. Today, it's awash in these less-than-aesthetically pleasing McMansions, which are priced at $350,000 and up. Not my cup of tea.

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Toilet

In my house-hunting travels, I've seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

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In my house-hunting travels, Ive seen some goofy things, such as this random toilet on a sunporch.

Whenever I see a house with a heavy-duty cage around the a/c compressor, I know I'm in the wrong neighborhood. And I think that three deadbolts on the door is another sign. This house is in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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Were running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the bigun) is Cocoa Puffs.

We're running out of room in this 1,500-square-foot rental. The newest addition (the big'un) is "Cocoa Puffs."

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One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan (

I've looked at homes throughout Hampton Roads and points west, but every now and then, I've dreamt of grabbing my passport and fleeing the country. The image above is courtesy Clyde Nordan of Clyde Nordan Photography in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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The First Sears House? Nope.

The First Sears House? Nope. This Sears Westly is at the corner of Winchester and King Street (Westhaven section). This house was featured on WVEC-TV several years ago (about 2004). It's been sold and remodeled and sold and remodeled a few times. Most likely, it was built in the mid-to-late 1910s.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part I (”Housing Rosemary”), click here. Part II is here.

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Post #1000 - The Sears Magnolia in New Martinsville, WV

August 3rd, 2017 Sears Homes 14 comments

Last week, I traveled to New Martinsville, West Virginia to see what was purported to be the 9th Magnolia. Prior to this, there were only eight known Magnolias in the country. The Magnolia was the crème de la crème of Sears Homes, with countless accoutrements and fine features. To read more about the other Magnolias, click here.

The eight-hour trip to New Martinsville was quite lovely and the weather was beautiful. After examining the Magnolia in New Martinsville, I traveled to Elkins to visit Wayne’s family, and then on to Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the trip from Elkins to home that went very badly. It should have taken less than 90 minutes to get from Elkins to White Sulphur Springs (and the interstate), but it took more than three hours.

I was as lost as I’ve ever been and frankly, utterly terrified. No cell service for three hours, and not one, but two Garmins that kept sending me around in circles, and roads that were as hazardous as any I’ve ever seen.

At one point, I went around a hairpin turn a little too fast and hit a very slick mudslide. This area had three days of non-stop rain. I hit that mudslide and lost control of the car. And - like so many places in them thar hills - there were no guardrails. In that split-second, I really thought that I was a goner. And in another split second, it was over. It was harrowing.

Had it not been for a small store in Belington (the first town I encountered), I’d probably have ended up on the back of a milk carton, lost forever in those hills, foraging for berries and edible bugs.

Nonetheless, I survived.

Now about that Magnolia…

It’s a puzzler. A real mystery wrapped inside an enigma. If you have an opinion on this house, I’d love to hear it.

Today, I’m of the opinion that the house was a custom-order from Sears, but that the framing lumber was obtained locally. I searched that house top-to-bottom for marks, stamped lumber, shipping labels and yet could find nothing.

And yet, the house has Sears hardware (see pictures below). And it was built sometime after 1930.

Please take a look at the images below and share your insights!

It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society for the vintage photos of the Magnolia in Lincoln, that has since been demolished. To read more about this Magnolia, click here.

The original blog on this house can be found here.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share the link on Facebook.

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In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year).

In 2003, I dated a nice fellow who did website setup and design. He was far more interested in kit homes than he was in me, but he offered to set up this website. It would have been about 2004 (give or take a year). He was cooked and done after one date, but his website lived on, until 2010, when JASE GROUP redid it. (No dates were involved.) This blog on the New Martinsville Magnolia really is my 1000th post.

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The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1924, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias Ive encountered were built after 1922.

The Magnolia was offered in the Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1918 to 1922, and yet three of the Sears Magnolias I've encountered were built after 1922. The house in New Martinsville was built after 1930. The Magnolia (as designed) was 36-feet deep and 40-feet wide. The house in New Martinsville is 40-feet deep and 44-feet wide.

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At first glance, it all looks swell.

At first glance, it all looks swell. And while it doesn't have those little lites atop the first floor windows, it does have replacement windows and substitute sidings, and if I had been allowed to pull out the windows and take a good look, I suspect I'd find evidence that when built, it had the small transom lites over the windows.

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Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

Comparing it to other Magnolias, it looks pretty good too.

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And

In fact, it looks real good!

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Inside, things look pretty good, too.

Inside, things look pretty good, too. (Left to right: Catalog image 1918, Sears Magnolia in Nebraska, and the New Martinsville Magnolia.) The only thing is, that flare at the bottom of the staircase is wrong. And the hallway is a little too wide. Those pilasters in the New Martinsville house are too close to the stairs. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But

And yet when you go upstairs, things look good there, too. (House on right is the Magnolia in Nebraska.) Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Inside the

Looking toward the front door, it's a beautiful home, but is it a Magnolia? It sure is close.

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DD

With a little help from my friends, we now know that Dr. Schmied and his wife Anna occupied the house, and may have been the home's original owners. Dr. Schmied was the town mayor for a time, so he was definitely a man of some import. Given that New Martinsville is a small town, someone must know more about this house.

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Then theres this: The millwork isnt right. Sears didnt offer a volute like this at any time in their milwork catalogs.

Then there's this: The millwork isn't right. Sears didn't offer a volute like this at any time in their mill-work catalogs. And I'm not sure if that's a "volute" or just a cap. But it doesn't appear to be anything Sears offered.

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And when I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks just like a Little Debbie Honey Bun.

When I look at that balustrade, all I can think is that the cap looks like a Honey Bun.

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For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right.

For the most part, the doors are in the right place and the floorplan is right. Then again, Sears didn't offer these tapered spindles (shown on the left) in their millwork catalog.

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And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servants quarters - is right where it should be.

And that funny little rear staircase - descending into the kitchen from the servant's quarters - is right where it should be.

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This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldnt find them in the catalogs, either.

This 1930s home had several original light fixtures, but I couldn't find them in the catalogs, either.

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But then theres this...

But then there's this. This style knob and escutcheon was found throughout the Magnolia, and it was a model offered by Sears. Does Sears hardware make it a Sears House? It certainly does add to the intrigue.

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This was

Rhythmic door hardware was first offered in 1930, in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. And it's fairly unique. And it's "not a fad," but it is Art Deco. What's not to love! It blends into any home or building!

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Pretty nice

And then there's this, too. The garage (as shown in the 1938 catalog).

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The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

The garage is a darn fine match. The front extends well past the garage shown in the catalog image, but that could have been altered easily enough when built, or in the intervening 90 years.

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This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

This is the living room as shown in the 1918 catalog.

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The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed.

The Magnolia in Nebraska was still largely original when it was destroyed. The inglenook is still intact. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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fff

The New Martinsville house was used for a time as a restaurant, so it's been dramatically altered, and yet those pilasters (edge of photo) are still in place.

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But the columns were moved to the back of the living room.

But the columns were moved to the back of the living room (near the front of the house).

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Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales).

Most likely, these alterations occurred when the house was used as a business (restaurant and retail sales). Those three windows (covered in red drapes) are on the right front as you face the house.

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And the Butlers Pantry is in the right place, too. It is (as my friend James said), a butlers pantry for anorexics. Its pretty darn small.

And the Butler's Pantry is in the right place, too, between the dining room and kitchen. It is (as my friend James said), "a butler's pantry for anorexics." It's pretty darn small.

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On this side, there should be a sink, but its MIA.

On this side, there should be a sink, but it's MIA.

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Sears

As seen in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog - the first floor. Having seen the inside of several Magnolias, as well as this house in New Martinsville, I must say that it's a fairly good match to this unusual floor plan.

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And that tiny Butlers Pantry is right where it should be.

And that tiny Butler's Pantry is right where it should be, between the dining room and kitchen. You can also see the servants stairs on this close-up. These stairs lead to the servant's bedroom above.

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I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

I spent way too much time in that basement, and yet saw no evidence of any marked lumber, blue grease pencil markings or shipping labels.

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The back of the house is also a good match.

The back of the house is also a good match.

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As designed, this was an open porch. Its now enclosed. The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

As designed, this was an open porch. It's now enclosed, and you can see the French Doors leading to the servant's quarters (as per the original plan). The house has been covered in substitute siding, so many architectural details - as to what was altered - are not visible.

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My pretty Magnolia, who has passed through your doors? Maybe they know your story!

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ITs

It's a beauty, but is it a Magnolia? As I said above, I think it's probably a Magnolia, built with local lumber and perhaps even millwork. There's so much that's right about the house, but also, there's much that is not a good match.

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The Juliet Porch on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering.

The "Juliet Porch" on the 2nd floor has a bit of a sag, but another Magnolia owner told me that their porch also needed a little bolstering. The spindles are right but it should have paneled columns at the corners. Was this rebuilt in later years? Also, the traditional Magnolia trim around the front door is missing.

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The trim around the Magnolias front door should look like this.

The trim around the Magnolia's front door should look like this. This Magnolia is also in West Virginia.

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For that shot of the Juliet Porch, I stood on top of that railing, balanced precariously and rather hopeful that I wouldn't topple to my death. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be a bad way to go. (Artistic re-creation of the actual event.)

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Is it a Magnolia?

Is it a Magnolia?

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It’s for sale! Click here to see the listing!

(Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for helping with the research!)

Read more about the Sears Magnolia here.

To see what makes Rose laugh out loud, click here.

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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

July 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

In my prior blog, I mentioned that HGTV’s House Hunters featured a “kit house” that was in Nashville. A Facebook friend and fellow Sears House lover shared some additional information on the program, enabling me to figure out what exactly HGVT was talking about.

Let me start off with this:  It was not a kit house. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the motto of too many of these remodeling shows is, “Why let details get in the way of a good story?”

In fact, the house shown on House Hunters is located in Old Hickory, near Nashville, TN, which happens to be the site of a World War One munitions plant built by DuPont. You can learn more about Old Hickory here.

When America became involved in The Great War in April 1917, there was an urgent need for more munitions for the “boys overseas.” DuPont responded to this by building or modifying several plants around the country to make munitions. Old Hickory was built from scratch and was a phenomenal logistical effort, in every way imaginable. To learn more about this, you can read my book, which has much informtion on the build-up at Old Hickory.

Penniman, Virginia was also the site of a DuPont-built World War One munitions plant, and the houses at Penniman were the same models as the houses built within the Old Hickory community. These houses were the work product of DuPont. The lumber came from a variety of sources, but the designs were created by DuPont Engineering, and these models can now be found in many World War One company towns, such as DuPont, Washington; Ramsey, Montana; Hopewell, Virginia; Carney’s Point, New Jersey; Old Hickory, Tennessee; Sandston, Virginia; and Penniman.

Penniman was a city of 15,000 people that was born in 1916 and was gone by 1921, and the 200+ houses within Penniman were moved to other sites, including Norfolk and Williamsburg. In fact, I’ve written a book about this amazing place, located less than seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg.

The city that DuPont built at Old Hickory fared better. It still exists, and many of the 600+ houses that were built by DuPont are still in their same spot. These houses from DuPont were not kits, but they were based on plans that DuPont used at several other World War One munition plants around the country.

The house featured on House Hunters was known as The Florence, and was a darling cottage with many windows and something few of these plant houses had: A real masonry fireplace (see pictures below).

To summarize, the house featured on HGTV as “a kit house” was not a kit house. It was one of many houses designed by DuPont Engineering and built at several munition plants around the country.

If HGTV wants to be considered a credible source of information, they need to spend five or six minutes on Google chasing down some of these stories.

If not, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read the prior blog about this program, click here.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey, Robin Hurowitz, and Rachel Shoemaker for contributing to this blog!

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Old Nashville

Thanks to Robin Hurowitz for supplying a few screen shots of the show on HGTV. I'm not going to show the other shots from this episode because it's too depressing for words.

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House

My #1 partner in crime, Rachel Shoemaker, found the original listing of this house on Zillow, which provides some wonderful details not otherwise available. The name of this model was The Florence.

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There are several "Florences" within Old Hickory. Prior to the convergence of the construction crew, the house was in delightfully original condition. I'm not sure what all happened inside the house. Don't want to know.

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The colors, the many tall windows, the size (just under 800 square feet) all make this the perfect house for a young couple. When built, there was a small transom spanning that front door, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Florence.

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Cute front

And there's that masonry fireplace, sitting at an angle in the living room.

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HOUSE

These framing and flooring of these homes is probably Southern Yellow Pine, probably harvested from Mississippi (but that's a guess, based on what I know about the houses in Penniman). I do know that these are pine floors.

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Fireplace

Here's the floorplan for The Florence. The house in Old Hickory is "flipped" so that it's a mirror image of this house (shown above). When built, this house had several walls, which are now gone.

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The rear of the home shows that it was also a perfect match to this model.

The rear of the home is also largely original, and shows that it was also a perfect match to this Florence catalog image.

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Kitchen went bye

The kitchen was one of my favorite features of this house (as built). That right there is my dream kitchen. Absolutely, my dream. Oh, to find a house with that kitchen. It also went bye-bye in the remodel.

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catalog

The Florence, as shown in an old catalog showcasing the DuPont models.

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Florence

And here's a Florence with its original front door in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was originally located at Penniman, and moved after the war (along with 200+ houses). Williamsburg has a handful of Penniman houses.

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It's a beautiful house and in very good condition. I haven't had the heart to watch the entire episode, but I'm pretty confident that the home's exterior was undamaged by the "remodeling."

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NOT a kit Old Hick

The Florence is not a kit home, but it did come from DuPont.

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And amazingly it circles back to the story of Penniman

And amazingly, this whole thing circles back to the story of Penniman, a village outside of Williamsburg with more than 15,000 inhabitants at its peak (in late 1918). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Whisnant in front of Florence

The Whisnant family stands in front of a Florence on the streets of Penniman (1918). Image is courtesy of the Whisnant family, and is reproduced with their permission.

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HGVT really needs to do a little research before spreading this information. However, if they don’t, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV?

July 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 13 comments

An update! It’s not a “Sears kit house,” but a Penniman house. Kind of. :D

And “Sears House” is in quotes, because we all know, 99% of the time (or maybe 100%), these horrible TV shows get it wrong. And they are horrible.

One of the first rules of old house ownership is “Thou Shalt Not Destroy Good Old Work,” and yet that is the first thing that these programs encourage.

They rip out all manner of quality workmanship in kitchens and baths, so that they can put in poor-quality plasticine (but trendy) dreck and dregs, which lack classic or traditional beauty, and will be tired and dated before this decade ends, and it’s all in the name of convincing American homeowners that “good enough” is abhorrent and ghastly, and that you shouldn’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” but rather, you should be focused on keeping up with the Kardashians.

For the last several months, I’ve been searching for a home and in that process, I’ve looked at several foreclosures in the $175,000+ range. I’ve yet to see a house in original condition in foreclosure. The homes I’ve viewed are either half-way “remodeled” (and how I hate that word), or they have shiny new kitchens and baths. If you have several thousand dollars that you can set fire to, try something truly avant-garde - PUT THAT MONEY IN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

This remodeling craze is insanity and it’s also ecological idiocy.

More than 35% of all the detritus at landfills is construction debris. Every time you rip out a full kitchen of knotty pine cabinets or destroy a pink bathroom, you’re adding to this country’s burgeoning problem of solid waste. Our landfills are filling up at a tremendous clip. As homeowners, we are caretakers. We have a responsibility to preserve the unique features of an old house. If you want shiny and fancy and new, buy a house that is shiny and fancy and new.

But I digress…

Let’s go back to HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized) and their latest discussion on Sears Houses.

According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find even screen shot of the house featured on this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

And in the meantime, please tell your vinyl-loving friends, if they want a new house, they should buy a new house, and leave our old houses unmolested and undamaged.

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Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home. On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent  him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home (about 1999-2000). On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

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On a recent episode of Property Brothers, they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom to put in some new ugly crap.

On a recent episode of "Property Brothers," they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom for no other reason than to "remodel" the space. That gorgeous basketweave tile floor is also in the landfill now.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.  The bathroom (from the same house shown above) has also been gutted and destroyed. Built in 1960, the original bathroom would have had tile wainscoting, set in 2-3 inches of thickset mortar, with complementing tile flooring. Those materials - which would have survived a nuclear holocaust - have been replaced with MDF cabinetry and engineered wood floors. In place of the tile wainscoting, someone has put up sheetrock with knock-down plaster finish. If these inferior-grade materials survive for 10 years, it will be a Christmas miracle.

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This

This is how America did bathrooms in the 1960s. This bathroom shown above (located at 1889 Rosemary Lane) is now more than 50 years old, and yet looks wonderful. And yes, that's the original toilet in the background. Today's replacement materials - in many cases - are not going to survive more than 20 years, at best.

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According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find so much as a screen shot of this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

To contact me, please leave a comment below.

Look at a real Sears Crescent by clicking here.

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Defining a Dream…

July 8th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

Several kind souls have asked - what are you looking for in a house?

In an effort to nail that down myself, I’ve looked at many houses listed for sale and also houses that have sold (which also helps give an insight on value).

In my opinion, Zillow is the easiest online real estate website, and I’ve spent many an hour, reviewing the possibilities.

Initially, following Wayne’s death, I decided it was time to fulfill my long-awaited dream of a “house in the country,” and attempted to find a suitable home on a couple acres out in Suffolk, Zuni, Windsor or some place west of Hampton Roads. Subsequently, I’ve come to realize that I need something a little more manageable.

Earlier this week, that became even more clear, after I was completely bedridden with a virus of some kind.

I was born and raised in Portsmouth, and it’s an area that I know very well. For a dozen years, I lived in St. Louis, and for the next 10 years, I lived in Norfolk. Several kind folks have suggested Norfolk, but for many reasons, I’ll never live there again.

I’m open to Portsmouth, and also to Northern Suffolk (contiguous to Portsmouth).

There are days when discouragement sets in, but that’s when I return to this house in Portsmouth (pictures below), in a neighborhood known as Green Acres. (Yes, that really is the name of the neighborhood.) And this house - this one house - absolutely sends me. It fills me with an unspeakable glee and joy. I’ve spent many an hour studying these photos.

Unfortunately, it sold eight months ago. I’ve even thought about knocking on the homeowner’s door, and asking if they have any interest in selling. Problem is, all the unique and vintage features that are so charming are probably long gone now. I hope I’m wrong, but…

So at least - after this long journey - it’s become clear to me what I truly want in a home:  Beauty, elegance, refinement, character, peace, and best of all, at least a splash of something vintage.

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This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond!

This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond (or a raccoon feeding station, as my buddy Dale calls it). This house is so classic for so many reasons. And it's in Green Acres!

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In addition to the courtyard in the front, theres another small garden wall in the rear.

In addition to the courtyard in the front, there's another small garden wall in the rear.

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Whats not to love about this back yard?

A better view of the courtyard in the home's rear.

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These massive windows define this Mid-Century Modern home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home.

These massive windows define this "Mid-Century Modern" home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home. Very Californian and very wonderful.

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Loo

I swear, if I ended up with a house this delightful, I'd cherish it every day and make it a testament to the Mid-Century Modern movement. I'd even buy a 1950s car for the driveway - if I could find a good deal. :)

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And heres where my heart just melts into a puddle.

And here's where my heart just melts into a puddle.

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Here

There's so much that's wonderful about this kitchen, I'm not sure where to start. So I put little hearts on the good stuff. First, the metal cabinets appear to be in wonderful condition, with their enamel finish still shining so pretty. Next, that red formica with the stainless steel trim. Heaven on earth - right there. And that Frigidaire "Flair" Stove. I might just swoon. And then there's the refrigerator - also original. In a former life, I owned an appliance shop in Portsmouth and am pretty good at repairing old appliances. I'd dedicate my life to keeping these old appliances in working order.

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So thats my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Lets hope.

So that's my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Let's hope.

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To see more pictures of a dream kitchen, click here.

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Flipping Insane…

July 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 2 comments

Back in the day, “Flipper” was a television show, featuring a bottle-nose dolphin. Flipper was, in fact, a lot like Lassie with fins. I remember crowding around the television with the fam to watch Flipper on Saturday nights. (As I tell my daughter, ours was the last family on the block to get a color television.)

But now, this once lovely name - “Flipper” - has such ugly connotations. In 21st century America, “flippers” are investors (blech) who take fine old houses and rip out walls and replace original windows and create cathedral ceilings in homes that were never intended to have cathedral ceilings. Ick.

Today I was on Zillow looking at the new listings and I discovered a new listing in Portsmouth. Sadly, it’s another 1960s house that’s been gutted in the name of homogenizing every American house until it looks like something on HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized).

Zipping through the photos, I noticed a very odd “chandelier” which made me laugh out loud. Words defy me, so I’ll show the actual image.

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Wow

Yup, that light fixture looks a lot like a squirrel-cage blower, doesn't it? I wonder if this blower was harvested from the furnace? That blower, er, uh, "chandelier" sure looks dusty.

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And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

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To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in the history of a Virginia Ghost Town? Click here.

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If Your Book is Missing or Lost…

June 29th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the last 48 hours, I’ve received three emails from people asking about books that were ordered more than 30 days ago. When I started digging into it, I found that - in short - I screwed up.

For 15+ years, I’ve been shipping out books, but my world has shifted. My once-meticulous record keeping has become a little sloppy. More than 50% of my personal possessions are in storage units, piled high atop each other. I’m living in a small rental home, and nothing is where it should be.

And there’s this:  I still do a whole lot of sobbing. That really consumes a lot of time, and leaves me exhausted.

My humblest apologies if your book order was one of the 12+ that “fell between the cracks.”

Today, I spent more than two hours going through the orders, and trying to affirm which orders were lost and which orders were fulfilled.  I think I’ve found all the missing orders and they went out in the morning mail.

If you haven’t received a book, please contact me as soon as possible and I’ll try to make this right.

And thanks for your patience.

You can reach me at pennimanva@gmail.com or better yet, please leave a comment below. I’m living on love these days.

To order a book, click here.

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sta

This morning at 7:00 am, I started reviewing records and making sure the right books went to the right people. I hope I got it right. If not, please let me know.

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I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, theyd apparently decided to play trains.

I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, they'd apparently decided to play "trains." It does look like fun!

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Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did!

Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, Virginia, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+ mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did! This route has at least a dozen freight trains per day.

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Ass

A random picture of two very cute donkeys.

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And theres this.

And there's this. The same brain and personality type that can bury themselves in a research project for six years (Penniman), has trouble letting go of the "whys" here. Fourteen months later, and I still don't know what happened and what went wrong. The only thing I do know is this: In a thousand million different scenarios, this was always going to end with Wayne committing suicide. Just realizing that one horrible truth has brought me some peace. On his last night on earth, he asked me to make him his favorite dinner, and I did. (And I still can't see a recipe for "Chicken Hassleback" without sobbing.) Two nights before his death, I asked him to play "slap and tickle" and he bluntly refused. Three nights before his death, I asked him, "Wayne Ringer, what do YOU think that I think of you?" He smiled an odd smile and said, "You think I'm utterly wonderful." The good thing about being a writer - you spend a lot of time using your words to tell your husband how much you adore him. I don't doubt that I did a lot of things wrong, but I also know that I did many things right. (Photo is copyright 2007, David Chance, and can not be duplicated or reprinted without permission.)

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Perhaps, Just Maybe, I’ve Turned a Corner Here…

June 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Wednesday morning, I met with my favorite minister who has been a great source of comfort, guidance and kindness throughout these last 14 months. At the end of our meeting, he prayed with me for at least 15 minutes. It was a lovely thing, and I felt a heavy burden of darkness fall away from me. It was quite an experience.

That same evening, Teddy and I took a walk and stopped at a friend’s house and sat on the back deck, less than 30 feet from her seawall, which overlooks the Elizabeth River. My friend sat with us, and chatted away about everything and anything, and as I listened, I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is heaven on earth - watching the sun set over the vast expanse of the river while listening to the melodious voice of a caring friend.”

Later in the evening, a brand new friend from the brand new church called and we talked for almost an hour.

“I know these are hard times for you,” she said softly, “but you’re going to get through this. This isn’t how the story ends. This is a valley. Good things are going to start happening for you.”

Last week, I talked with a friend who’s done much to help me research this Penniman book. He called to ask a quick question, and we ended up talking for 45 minutes.

“Rosemary, I don’t know how you’ve been able to finish this book,” he said with compassion. “I know it’s been hard, but you did it, and you have every right to feel proud of this achievement.”

I closed my eyes and soaked in his kind words like a sponge.

And then he said, “And I wanted to tell you, I found some more information on Penniman.” He’d found The Penniman Projectile, a company newsletter for which I’ve searched since 2011. He sent it to me, and it’s quite a treasure. That night, after poring over its pages, I fell asleep with a smile on my face: That hasn’t happened in some time.

My daughter called Tuesday night and we talked for more than an hour.

“Mom, maybe you don’t fully understand this, but completing that book was a huge accomplishment, and doing it this year, with all the hell you’ve been through? Wow. I’m so proud of you.”

And then in the wee hours of Thursday morning, I happened to connect with a Facebook friend (”Jane”) who shared some personal and profound insights about the unique struggles that I’ve faced these last several months.

Those insights are too personal to share here, but suffice it to say, she was married to the “same man, different body.” She nailed it. Top to bottom and left to right - she got it right. Her husband didn’t kill himself, but the other similarities were astounding, right down to the nitty gritty.

“Do not be his victim,” Jane told me. “He will not defeat you. No one who writes with as much humor and interest and passion as you do can be defeated easily. It will take some time to heal, and to untangle your mind. You need to learn to be gentle with yourself, but you will survive this.”

I’ve read that a baby chick pecks at its shell as many as 10,000 times before it finally breaks through. Perhaps these last 14 months, I’ve been struggling to peck my way out of this horrible shell of despair, darkness and despondency, and today, I caught my first glimpse of the new world, the world on the other side of this nightmare.

Subsequent to these events and lovely comments, I feel - deep down to my toes - that there are many reasons for hope.

And on a final note, many people have said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” That’s exactly the right thing to say. And if you’d like to have a glimmer of what “suicide widows” endure, please read this article. It explains my life in shockingly accurate detail.

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fff

This email arrived earlier this week from a friend. I framed it and put it in a place where I can read it daily. It has meant the world to me.

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Every week, I put up fresh inspirational messages by my desk. These came from my eldest daughter. She said she starts her day by reading messages like this.

Every week, I put up fresh uplifting messages by my desk. These messages were inspired by my daughter. She told me, "Mom, we have to focus on the good things, no matter how tiny or inconsequential they may appear at first."

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One of the loveliess surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter. The cover is so fascinating, for so many different reasons.

One of the loveliest surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter.

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Inside, I found a litany of familiar names, and now I had faces to go with those names!

Inside, I found a litany of familiar names! The "people of Penniman" - in the flesh.

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And more names and more faces!

And more names and more faces! The names listed in the "tags" are the family names I've found thus far at Penniman. Was your grandmother or grandfather at Penniman? Maybe now we can sort it out!

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My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was, Wayne will love this. But in fact, hell never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way.

My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was - "Wayne will love this." But in fact, he'll never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way. This man has caused me so much suffering. If I could travel back in time to May 2006, to our first meeting at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth, I'd tap that 46-year-old woman on the shoulder and tell her, "run like hell and don't look back." Perhaps I'm in my "anger phase" or perhaps, I am finally coming to my senses.

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If you’re here to read about the Sears kit homes, click here.

Click here to read about Penniman.

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The Children Have Arrived!

June 18th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

On June 13th (my father’s birthday) , several boxes of books labeled “Penniman” arrived. It’s pretty sweet to see six years of effort and research come to fruition. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the first printing was a mere 200 copies, and more than 50% of those books have already left home.

Thus far, the feedback has been extremely positive, and every kind word has been a healing balm to my weary soul.

Many readers have expressed surprise at the book’s thickness. It’s more than 300 pages, and every page is filled with innumerable facts and stats. It has 430 annotations, referencing more than 300 pieces of original source material.

As research projects go, it was a behemoth.

If you’d like to order your own copy, click here.

To learn more about Sears kit homes, click here.

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Teddy

Teddy watches over a few of the Penniman books.

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Several people have commented that its thicker than they were expecting. Its more than 300 pages (about twice as thick as The Houses That Sears Built).

Several people have commented that it's thicker than they were expecting. It's more than 300 pages (about twice as thick as "The Houses That Sears Built").

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Teddy gave it two dew-claws up!

Teddy really enjoyed reading about the Canary Girls.

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For some time, the book languished in this state, a nearly completed manuscript.

For some time, the book languished in this state, a "nearly completed manuscript."

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Teddy poses with about 50% of the research materials. Two of these boxes contain more than 50 notesbooks.

Teddy poses with about 50% of the research materials. Two of these boxes contain more than 50 notesbooks. Several cardboard boxes filled with newspaper articles are not shown.

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*To order your very own copy of “Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City,” click on the Paypal button below. Price is $29.95 plus $6.00 shipping. This first printing will be only 200 copies, each of which will be signed by the author.


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