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Keyword: ‘virginia’

Veritable Veneration for the Aladdin Venus

April 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, Elisabeth Witt of Wisconsin contacted me and said she thought there were a few kit homes in Shorewood, Wisconsin. I went to Realtor.com and entered Shorewood to do a quickie search, and one of the first hits was an Aladdin Venus! Click here to see the listing.

The Aladdin Venus was a popular house, but what makes this house in Shorewood so interesting is that it’s the only Venus I’ve seen that retains its original wooden awning.

And before we get to the pictures, I wonder if the Realtor knows it’s an Aladdin kit home? If so, there’s not a peep about it in the listing!

Thanks so much to Elisabeth for sending the photos!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus Ive seen with that wooden awning intact!

Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus I've seen with that wooden awning intact! And the rest of the house is in lovely condition, minus the windows on the side. Best of all, this house is for sale and if you click on the link above, you'll find an abundance of interior photos. Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for getting this photo!

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Detail of that wooden awning.

Detail of that wooden awning.

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The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house.

The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house, with a lot of fun details, like those paneled columns, the L-shaped front porch, and the star-pattern of windows on the home's left side (shown here). It also has oversized eaves and the roof slopes over those upstairs windows. When you look at the interior photos, that slope is dramatic on the 2nd floor. (1919 catalog)

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The Venus was offered in two floor plans.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. Venus #1 was smaller (18 by 24).

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One house

Venus #2 was 20' by 26' and a couple other minor differences.

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House

"It continually attracts attention from people walking by..."

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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What a pretty little Aladdin Venus!

What a pretty little Aladdin Venus! But the removal of four windows is a curiousity!

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Heres a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

Here's a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

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Another weary Venus, and this ones in Norfolk (38th Street).

Another weary Venus, and this one's in Norfolk (38th Street).

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Heres an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this ones exhausted. Its on 35th Street, in Park Place. At one time, Park Place was solid working class and many classic bungalows. Now its a blighted, high-crime area thats trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this one's exhausted. It's on 35th Street, in Park Place (Norfolk, VA). At one time, Park Place was solid working class neighborhood with many classic bungalows. Now it's a blighted, high-crime area that's trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

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Lets end on a happy note. :)  Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

Let's end on a happy note. :) Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

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To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Sears Homes…

April 19th, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Especially in ads that appear on Craigs’ List.

Recently, someone in our Facebook Group (”Sears Homes”) pointed out that there was a Sears House listed for rent on Craigs’ List. In that this is not my first rodeo, I was dubious at best. I looked up the ad. I must admit, at first glance (without wearing eyeglasses), it did kinda sorta look a bit like a Sears Norwood. Kinda. Sorta. Problem was, it was too wide for the insufferably narrow Norwood, which is a mere 16′ wide.

I went to the assessor’s website and found the property card, which showed that the home for rent was 20′ wide, not 16′.

That’s enough to be a deal killer. In addition, these little front-gabled cottages were so common in early 20th Century America that you really have to be extra careful!

In 2004, I traveled to a city in middle Virginia to do a thorough survey of kit homes. I was introduced to a homeowner who’d paid a premium price for her bungalow because it had been promoted as a “Sears Kit Home.” I was put in the unfortunate position of  having to explain to her that it was not a kit home of any kind. She became very upset, and asked me if I was certain. Having spent 45 minutes examining the house from rooftop to basement, I told her I was quite sure. She said the Realtor and the lender’s appraiser had added some value because of the home’s “historical significance.”

I didn’t know what to tell her. It was a rough visit all the way around.

I wish Realtors would do a little tiny bit of research before blithely deciding that something is a Sears House. They claim to be “real estate professionals” and speaking as a former Realtor, they can and should do better than that.

To see the non-Sears-House ad, click here.

To read more about the Sears Mills in Norwood, Ohio and Cairo, Illinois, click here.

Want to learn a few tips about identifying Sears Homes? Click here.

Craigs

To add insult to injury, this house is advertised as "1908 Sears Home." The tax records show it was built in 1910. The Morely was first offered in 1918. The fact that this house is on the "Porter History Walk" makes it even more disturbing. Yikes. Has "research" become a dirty word?

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1690

The Norwood, from the 1919 Sears Modern Home catalog.

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1918

The Morley (1918 catalog) was very similar to the Norwood, but was 10 feet longer.

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1918

Side-by-side comparisons of the two floor plans highlight their differences.

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assessor

The city assessor's website shows the house in Porter is 20 feet wide. Sorry, but it's not a Sears House. I'm sure someone will leave a comment and say, "Maybe it's another model," and let me reassure you, this is not a Sears kit home.

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Heres a real life Morley in Norwood, Ohio.

Here's a real life Morley in Norwood, Ohio. Oh wait, it's not a Morley. Cindy Catanzaro looked up the assessor records and found it's a match for the Norwood, NOT the Morley. Oopsie.

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And a close-up of the address!

And a close-up of the address! Turns out, it's on Carthage Avenue.

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house

Close-up of the Sears Norwood. Notice that it has two windows flanking the front door.

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House

Here's a Norwood in Norwood, Ohio! How appropriate! You can see where the missing eave brackets once rested. Perhaps best of all, it looks like the house still has some of its orginal downspouts.

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literature

This is not a Sears House.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin for creating this meme. :)

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for creating this meme. :)

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To see the non-Sears-House ad, click here.

Want to learn a few tips about identifying Sears Homes? Click here.

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Sometimes Buying a House is a Real Roller Coaster Ride…

April 14th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the last 37 years, I’ve bought and sold a lot of houses and every single time, it’s an extremely stressful experience. However this real estate agent in Ermelo (in the Netherlands) found a fun and unique way to market this brick house.

He built a small roller coaster track throughout the five-bedroom house. An in-house speaker system gives a room-by-room narration of the home’s many features.

It’ll be interesting to see if the homes’ buyer wants the roller coaster to remain!

I would!

To see the full youtube video of the tour, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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He

I don't even like roller coasters, but this looks like fun!

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House

The coaster enters through the garage and then into the basement.

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To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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My Only Blog With an “R” Rating!

April 6th, 2015 Sears Homes 5 comments

Before you start reading this, please usher the children into another room and/or tell them to cover their ears and hum.

Sears only offered two models of kit homes that had a sink in the closet. One was their fanciest house (”The Magnolia”) and the other was one of their simplest designs (”The Cinderella”). Why put a sink in the corner of a dressing room or a closet? Running the necessary plumbing, drain lines and vent would have added some expense, so what’s the point?

There were a few obvious reasons: It gave the lady of the house a place to wash her “unmentionables” and it also gave the man a place to shave when the couple’s seven kids were hogging the bathroom.

But there might have been another lesser-known reason.

Are those kids gone? ;)

In the early 1900s, male prophylactics were “re-usable.” It wasn’t until the 1920s that latex was invented, and these particular items became single-use.

By the way, this particular insight as to the purpose of that master-bedroom sink is not my own, but was sent to me by a faithful reader of the blog. Best of all, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’d love to give proper credit to the reader who shared this info with me, but I can’t remember who it was! Argh!

To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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house 1921

The Cinderella was a very modest house and apparently, they didn't sell too many of these. It was priced at $1,500 and yet only had a single bedroom. The dressing room was located off the living room.

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Cindy 1921

Close-up of the floorplan shows a sink in the dressing room.

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Cindy

Roll-away beds were heavily promoted for use in the Cinderella. Here, you can see the lady of the house has used the dressing room sink for washing out her delicate undergarments.

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DuMont

The DuMont was a pattern-book house offered in the 1920s. It also featured a sink in a closet.

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Dumont

Close-up of the sink in the DuMont off the master-bedroom.

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Sears Maggy 1921

Sears biggest and best house (The Magnolia) also had a sink in the closet.

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South bend

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend, Indiana has the original built-in cabinets, and an original closet sink, together with original faucets. Quite a find, and a testament to the quality of the materials.

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South Bend

Close-up of the sink in the South Bend Magnolia. It also has its original medicine chest and light fixture. This picture is almost two years old. I hope the new owner does an honest restoration of the old house. In all my travels, I've never seen a three-sided sink like this.

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West Virginia

The Magnolia in West Virginia also has its original cabinets in the closet, but the sink has been replaced. Interesting that the sink is placed right next to that window.

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To learn more about The Cinderella, click here.

There are only nine known Magnolias in the country. You can read more here.

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Orlando in Nebraska

April 4th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last year, I was watching the movie “Nebraska” with my daughter Corey, when I asked her to hit pause for a moment. I jumped up, grabbed a camera and took a picture of the tv screen.

My daughter quietly asked, “Sears House?”

Montgomery Ward,” I replied.

We continued with our movie.

As mentioned in a prior blog, I can’t just watch movies or television like normal people. I’m forever looking at the architecture. Doesn’t matter if they’re Sears Homes or not, I like looking at houses. When I was single, I kept hoping to find a dating site that featured pictures of men’s homes, rather than their faces. Some things are so much more important than looks. And then I ended up marrying a guy who lived in a concrete filing cabinet for people.

And then we moved to a fine home after we got married.

Shown below is the house I spotted in the movie “Nebraska.”  As movies go, it was okay, but pretty slow.

However it did have a nice house. Looks like it might be a Montgomery Ward “Orlando.”

Maybe.

To read more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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Movie

This foursquare was featured in the movie "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern

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Dare I hope

Is it a Montgomery Ward Orlando? Might be.

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house

Montgomery Ward and Gordon Van Tine were one in the same. Montgomery Ward relied on GVT to handle all facets of sales, from catalog publication to order fulfillment. What's the difference between a Montgomery Ward house and a Gordon Van Tine house? Not much. Image above is from the 1918 catalog.

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house

I love reading this stuff.

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house

Classic foursquare, with one difference: No entry foyer. Instead, that extra space is used for a small den or first-floor bedroom. Notice also that it has "good-morning stairs" in the kitchen. Nice touch!

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house

This is the only Orlando I've ever seen, and it's in Beckley, West Virginia.

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House

My friend Ersela found this house in Beckley. For years, people had said it was a Sears House. They were close!

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To learn more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Penelope Johnson Allen: Tell Me About Penniman

March 30th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

This morning, there was a lovely surprise in my email from Lori Jackson Black, who’s not only a professional historical researcher, but also someone who’s interested in Penniman!

She found an obituary for Penelope Johnson Allen, a Tennessee native, historian and author, who worked at Penniman. The “important part” of the obituary says simply,

During WW1, Mrs. Allen worked in the DuPont shell loading plant in Penniman, Virginia, where she was an assistant to the supervisor in the large caliber area.

This was an exciting discovery. When Mrs. Allen left Penniman, she returned to her home in Chattanooga and took a job with the Chattanooga News, working as an editor and reporter through the years. Surely, someone like Mrs. Allen - a writer by trade - took the time to pen a personal reminiscence of her life, including the important work performed at Penniman.

However, I’m learning that so many of these stalwart souls didn’t talk about Penniman after leaving there.

For instance, there’s Dr. John Henderson, who was the chief physician at the Penniman Hospital, and was present during the Spanish Flu outbreak in October 1918. Late in life, he had two children, both of whom are alive and well today (and in their 90s).  Dr. Henderson’s children and grandchildren tell me that, for the rest of his long life, they never heard Dr. Henderson talk about Penniman.

And then there’s Sadie Bowers, a native of Newberry, South Carolina that traveled to Penniman in Spring 1918 and took a job inserting boosters into large caliber shells. Despite the fact that she was the daughter of a college professor, an educator and a writer, she never wrote a word about Penniman. Family remembers don’t recall that she ever spoke of her time at DuPont’s 37th munitions plant.

And now we have Penelope, who was a devout historian, researcher and writer, authoring several books on genealogy. I can only hope and pray that Mrs. Allen shared something about Penniman during her long life.

If any readers here have any insights, please leave a comment below!

Read Mrs. Allen’s full obituary here.

Penelope

Here's a picture of Penelope Johnson Allen, sometime in the late 1910s/early 1920s. Photo is from Gary C. Jenkins, "Johnson House of St. Elmo, The Study of a House, a Family, a Suburb" (Chattanooga, Jenkins, 2009).

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Penniman

Dr. John M. Henderson is at the pictured at the far right, together with the other 23 staff members at Penniman Hospital. Finding this photo was quite the coup, because for several years, I didn't know any of the names of the medical staff at Penniman Hospital. Reading an unpublished reminiscence, I found a passing mention to Dr. John Henderson, medical doctor at Penniman. After contacting the descendants of Dr. Henderson, I was delighted to find that they were willing to not only talk with me, but also share this glorious photo. Photo appears courtesy of the family of Dr. John M. Henderson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At its peak, 15,000 people lived and worked within the village of Penniman (six miles northeast of Williamsburg).

At its peak, 15,000 people lived and worked within the village of Penniman (six miles northeast of Williamsburg).

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Penniman

The women worked have worked in buildings similar to these, with what we call "Get the heck out doors." Those chutes provided a quick means of egress for the munition worker. In Alice Hamilton's autobiography ("The Dangerous Trades"), she tells about taking a tour of a New Jersey munitions plant. Her guide pointed at these doors and told Dr. Hamilton that if she ever had occasion to use those doors, she was to "hit the ground running and keep running and do NOT look back!" Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Interested in reading more about Penniman? Click here!

To learn more about Lori Jackson Black’s services, click here.

To read more about Sadie Bowers, click here.

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Burnt Ordinary Kit Homes: Lewis Winthrop

March 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Believe it or not, that title is not “word salad” or aphasia: It will make sense in a minute.

On Sunday (March 22), my husband and I visited Williamsburg and (per my request) we drove to Toano (a few miles west of Williamsburg) so that I could look for houses from Penniman. I didn’t see any Penniman houses, but this little pretty caught my eye. I wasn’t sure where I’d seen it, but my first impression was “Lewis Manufacturing.”

This morning, I looked it up and sure enough, it’s a Lewis Winthrop.  (Lewis was a kit-home company based in Bay City, Michigan which [like Sears and Aladdin] sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog.)

As to the title, Toano (in James City County, another interesting term) was founded in the late 1800s, and this little fork in the road was originally known as “Burnt Ordinary.” (Yeah, it puzzled me, too.) Like so many of our modern terms “ordinary” meant something a little different 200 years ago.

An ordinary was a place where food and drink was served. In the 1700s, there was an “ordinary” at that site known as John Lewis’ Ordinary, and it was subsequently named Fox’s Ordinary, which burned down in 1780. In 1781, George Washington’s cartographer marked the area as “Burnt Brick Ordinary.”

In later years, it was designated “Toano” which is an Indian word for “high ground.”

Whilst driving through the tiny town of Toano, I spotted this house and took a picture with my TV-phone (as my husband calls it).

Best of all, it was my first sighting of a Lewis Winthrop, and it’s in beautiful shape!

To read about another Lewis Home, click here.

What’s a Penniman? Click here!

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons. I knew I'd seen it somewhere.

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This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it!

This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it! (1924 Lewis Homes).

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That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

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On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when its time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappears. This has has vinyl siding, so its easy to cover up such changes.

On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when it was time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappeared. This home had vinyl siding installed, so its easy to cover up such changes. Notice also the tiny closet window is gone. Removing this window creates a little bit more space in an already tiny closet. The "sewing room" (on the right rear) has no window on the side, which is also a good match to the house in Toano.

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Close-up on the sewing room side.

Close-up on the "sewing room" side.

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Toana

Unfortunately, that room addition on the side looks a lot like a mobile home.

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That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

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Pretty house!

Pretty house! And I'm pleased that I "guessed" the right angle for my shot!

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Let’s Go to Buckroe! (Hampton, Virginia)

March 16th, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, my friend Cynthia (a fellow old-house lover!) drove me around Hampton, Virginia searching for kit homes from the early 20th Century. We had a wonderful morning and a lot of fun, but after 3-1/2 hours, I was worn out!

We visited several early 1900s neighborhoods, but found nothing remarkable, and then we went to the Buckroe area. (Having been raised in Hampton Roads, I remember a little ditty from a radio advertisement: “Let’s go to Buckroe!” Advertising must be a powerful medium because I haven’t heard that jingle in 40 years, but still remember it clearly. And yet I couldn’t find it on youtube or google. Strange.)

I’d been through the Buckroe section before, but apparently, I’d missed the sweet spots. With Cynthia’s help, I found a surfeit of Sears Homes I’d never seen before.

Check out the photos below for a real treat, and if you know anyone who loves old Hampton, please send them a link to this blog! :)

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In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and published by Susan Miller.

In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. I'm not sure what happened to Buckroe, but the area by the beach is now open field. I'm told that Buckroe Amusement Park was closed in 1985 and torn down in 1991. What a pity. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and is copyright Susan Miller.

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To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, visit Susan’s website here. Lots of wonderful pictures.

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While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look.

While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look. Note the three windows down the side? That caught my eye, as did the cut-out shuters.

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Oh my stars, its a Sears Claremont!  (1928)

Oh my stars, it's a Sears Claremont! (1928)

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Such a pretty little thing.

Such a pretty little thing. And other than the door, it's perfect!

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I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, theyre original too!

I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, they're original too! As are the Cypress shakes on the exterior.

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Cute, isnt it? And such a nice match.

Cute, isn't it? And such a nice match.

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fefe

Less than a block away on Seaboard, this Lewiston was just waiting to be discovered. That's the car window in the upper right of the frame. Oopsie.

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The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

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Its a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

It's a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

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fefe

Aladdin was a company which, like Sears, sold entire kit homes through mail-order.

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This is an Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable.

Just around the corner on Atlantic Avenue, I found this Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable. Due to the trees, you can't see the side, but that little bumpout is present on the far right of the home (just as it should be).

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assess

Here's a close-up of the Aladdin Madison from the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a photo from the Hampton Assessors website.

Here's a photo from the Hampton Assessor's website. In this photo, you can see that bump-out on the side, and also see how that front gable started life as an arched entry.

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Last but not least is the Fullerton. Id found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

Last but not least is the Fullerton. I'd found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

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What a nice match!

What a nice match, right down to the flared columns!

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To see an earlier blog I did on the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, click here.

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This One’s Asking For Advice on Old Cook Stoves…

March 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

A delightful anecdote from 1921 tells us that, when the Penniman houses were shipped to Norfolk, some of the workers went into one of the houses - as it made the slow 36-mile trek across the water - and made a full breakfast, using the oil cook stove in the kitchen.

That’s the kind of story that really makes history come alive.

The article, which appeared in the Peninsula Enterprise says,

Several workmen crossed the bay on the first barge that brought the houses. They had an oil stove in one of the houses. They got hungry and cooked some bacon and eggs and heated some coffee. They enjoyed a meal cooked in one of the houses while it was being towed to Norfolk (December 24, 1921).

More than being an interesting tidbit, it also illuminates this detail: Every kitchen in every Penniman house, built by a three-party contract between DuPont, Hancock-Pettyjohn and the US Government, came with an oil-fired cook stove.

Including an appliance in each house would have substantially increased the per-unit cost. Which is probably one reason why they did this. The houses were built on a popular-WW1 program known as “The Cost Plus Plan.”

When America entered WW1, we were in such a mad rush to get these munition plants up and running that there wasn’t time to seek bids and wait for bids and open bids and investigate potential contractors, so DuPont was charged with finding a trust-worthy contractor and the government agreed to pay all expenses of construction plus 8-1/2%. The downside of the Cost-Plus Plan is that the more money the house cost, the more money the contractor pocketed. Put another way, it took away incentives for the contractor to be efficient.

But I think there was more to this than just padding the price of a house.

This was a munitions plant where there were lots of opportunities for lots of things to go boom.

And when this contract for 200 houses was signed on December 31, 1917, the realities of the danger of TNT would be very fresh in everyone’s mind.

Three weeks earlier, December 6, 1917, the SS Mont Blanc, a French freighter, had just left Halifax heading for Bordeaux, France, where it would deliver 5,000,000 pounds of war-time explosives. It was about 8:45 am when the Mont Blanc collided with a Norwegian ship, the Imo. Despite the slow speed (about 2 knots), there was a resulting fire on the Mont Blanc. Sailors tried desperately to extinguish the growing fire, but eventually abandoned ship. About 20 minutes later, the drifting vessel returned to the wharf, and moments later, there was an explosion on the Mont Blanc.

According to the book, Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, the resulting blast shattered windows 60 miles away, and more than 1,000 people lost their sight due to flying glass. A tsunami eliminated a nearby community.

All in all, more than 1,900 people died. During WW2, scientists working on the Manhattan Project studied Halifax because the magnitude of the explosion emulated an atomic bomb in so many ways.

Not that anyone at DuPont would have needed any such reminders. The engineers and architects employed by the company would have been well aware of the grave risks of a single errant spark.

Which also explains why each house had steam radiant heat, supplied by a central heating system. No risk of sparks from an independent residential coal-fired heating system.

Which also explains why each house did not have a coal-fired or wood-burning cook stove: The risk of embers and fire would have been too great.

Which leads me to my question: It appears that - maybe - these late 1910s oil (kerosene) cook stoves didn’t require a chimney or any venting. As my friend Milton said, they appear to be similar to kerosene space heaters (which were hugely popular in the 1980s). There’s a reservoir of kerosene, fed by gravity to a burner with a large wick. The unit produces small amounts of carbon monoxide, but not enough to cause CO poisoning.

If that’s true, why did every house in Penniman have a brick chimney?

Heat was supplied by a central heating plant. And I suspect (although I’m not sure) that the oil-fired cook stoves didn’t require venting.

Was it more evidence of the inefficiencies of the “Cost-Plus Plan”? Every house gets a chimney, whether or not it needs it? Or did the oil cook-stove need venting?

Thanks for any insights.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Perfection cook stoves were a big deal in the 1910s and 20s.

Perfection cook stoves were a big deal in the 1910s and 20s.

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These blue cylinders were called Chimneys but they were

These blue cylinders were called "Chimneys" but they were the burner mechanism for the stove.

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H

Lighting these puppies didn't look simple.

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fef

That does look pretty hot.

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This looks like a lot of work. Why not electricity? Two reasons, electric stoves required tremendous amperage and re-wiring a house to receive an electric stove wouldnt have been easy. Electric stoves didnt really catch on until the late 1920s.

This looks like a lot of work. Why not electricity? Two reasons, electric stoves required tremendous amperage and re-wiring a house to receive an electric stove wouldn't have been easy. Electric stoves didn't get a foothold in the household appliance market until the 1930s.

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ffffe

The last line is the best. Wow.

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Bacon. Its whats for breakfast. In a barge house.

Bacon. It's what's for breakfast. In a barge house. Virginia Pilot, December 1921.

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A Penniman house in Norfolk, about 1960.

A Penniman house in Norfolk, about 1960. All of these homes had chimneys, accessible from an interior kitchen wall. The question is - why?

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Read more about Penniman here.

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