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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part VI)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yes Virginia, Hopewell has a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

And what’s even better than Sears Homes?  Well, nothing now that I think about it. Hmmm.  But wait, there’s more.

Hopewell also has a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes. It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight Sears Homes, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel like a red-haired stepchild!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell. And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza. Also on Ramsey is a perfect Aladdin Edison.

In short, there are several extra-fine houses on Ramsey Avenue, and they’re really nice homes, spacious, attractive, and a little bit fancier than the rest of the houses in that immediate area. Heretofore, I’ve been able to identify each and every one as an Aladdin kit home. Which brings us to the mystery house.

Mystery

Mystery

This house also sits on Ramsey, but I haven’t been able to identify it as an Aladdin home. Perhaps it was built pre-Aladdin (1906 or before). Perhaps it has no connection to the other houses whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the original farm house on that piece of land.

However, it seems likely that this house was built about the same time as the others. And the Dutch Colonial housing style was wildly popular in the early 1900s. And it is literally surrounded by Aladdin kit homes on every side.

I’d love to learn more about this mystery house there on Ramsey Avenue.

Is it Aladdin?  Or not? If it is, it’d have to be a customized design. I’ve searched every catalog and every resource and can find no houses that match this design.

If you have an insights or info, please leave a comment!

This is the sixth of six blogs on Hopewell’s Aladdin kit homes.

You can find Part VII here.

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is hereAnd number five is here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part V)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia is the proud owner of eight bona fide Sears homes in the Crescent Hills area.  That’s well and good, but they also have entire neighborhoods of Aladdin kit homes in other parts of Hopewell.   It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight houses, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel sorely neglected!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell.  And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza.

The Plaza sits at the end of Ramsey, and I’d just love to know - do these homeowners know that they’re sitting in a piece of Americana, enjoying their restful slumbers in a historically significant kit home, that was shipped in from Bay City, Michigan via boxcar, with 12,000 pieces of house?  And what about the city itself? Are they aware of these precious architectural gems that sit within its borders, uncelebrated, unheralded and unprotected?

It’d be a dandy idea for the city - at the very least -  to put a placard in front of these homes, identifying them as Aladdin kit homes, or perhaps include them on their tourism brochures. Urbana, Virginia has ONE Sears House, and look what they’ve done!

A city full of architecturally significant homes is a terrible thing to waste.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

To read Part VI, click here.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part IV)

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much energy and ink is invested in these eight Sears Homes, while the Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in this small Richmond suburb, I might feel snubbed!

The Aladdin homes are mostly worker cottages and definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these small homes also have an important story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s disappearing. Judging by the empty lots,  countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the remaining houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country. At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Down by the waterfront, on Ramsey Street, I found a perfect Wenonah (and that is the correct spelling). This is a fairly unusual house for Aladdin, and I’ve only seen two in my house hunting career.

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell.

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell. The windows have been replaced and the porch roof was extended, but it's still clearly an Aladdin Wenonah.

The next house is an Aladdin Brighton, and it’s the only “Brighton” I’ve ever seen. And while I’m not 100% sure it’s an Aladdin Brighton, the fact is, it’s smack dab in the heart of a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell. There are kit homes on all three sides of this house, and a river sits behind it.  As mentioned above, Ramsey Road seems to be the place where the supervisor’s homes were located.

The Brighton was a spacious and beautiful home, and it’s very believable that this house could have been built for upper management.

Aladdin Brighton

Aladdin Brighton from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Close-up of the house seen in the catalog

Close-up of the Aladdin Brighton, as seen in the catalog

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Detail

Notice this interesting detail on the porch column.

Notice this detail on the front porch. Pretty distinctive feature.

And it's also present on the house in Hopewell. Pretty distinctive feature.

blah

Close-up of the dining room gabled bay, which is a good match to the catalog image above.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

The Brightons floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

The Brighton's floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

Unfortunately, the landscaping around the house prevented me from getting better photos, but based on the high number of Aladdin kit homes in this neighborhood, and the striking similarities between The Brighton and the subject house, I’d say the little white bungalow on Ramsey Street is indeed an Aladdin Brighton!

To read Part V, click here.

Click here to read Part I, Part II and Part III of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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Customized Kit Homes: A Puzzle!

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

About 30% of kit homes were customized when built. That’s almost one out of three, and that’s one of the things that makes identification of these homes so difficult. And that doesn’t count modifications and remodeling!  Today, some of these kit homes - first built in the early years of the 20th Century - are almost 100 years old. Lots of things can change in 100 years, especially when it comes to old houses.

Below is a picture of a house in Dublin, Virginia (Pulaski County) taken by Mike and Bev Pinkerman. As a kindness to me, he went through town snapping photos of several old bungalows, and this is one of the photos that he took. And Bev has been faithfully sending the photos to me via email!

At first glance, I thought, “Well, it kinda looks like an Aladdin Detroit.”

Like Sears, Aladdin was another kit home company that sold entire kit homes from their mail-order catalog. The 12,000-piece kits were then shipped by boxcar. The homes came with a 75-page instruction book, detailed blueprints and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house ready for the wife and kids in 90 days.

Looking at the Pinkerman’s photo, I started thinking, “This is a Detroit, but one that’s been modified.”

If you look at the catalog image, you’ll see a small shed dormer. If you look at the Dublin house, you’ll see it has an enlarged shed dormer, but what’s really interesting is that those unusually shaped windows - in the center - are a spot-on match to the Detroit’s dormer windows. And while the center window is a perfect match, the extra windows (on either side) are more traditional double-hung windows!

An interesting find, to say the least! And yes, I think it is an Aladdin Detroit, with extra space on the second floor!

Click here to learn more about identifying kit homes!

Click here to buy Rose’s book!

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin, Virginia. Photo is courtesy of Mike and Bev Pinkerman.

Floorplan

Adding width to that shed dormer on the second floor would have the effect of giving more square footage to the second floor bedrooms and also adding one window to each of those bedrooms.

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Close-up on the windows

Close-up on the windows shows that it is the same casement windows as used in the Aladdin Detroit.

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Close-up

Close-up of the catalog image of the Aladdin Detroit.

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Comparison the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

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House

The Aladdin Detroit

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A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake, Virginia. This one has an addition on the rear of the house. Notice how the foundation changes at the same point where the roofline changes.

To read the next article, click here:

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Aladdin Babies

March 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of my favorite parts of playing with kit homes is reading the testimonials in the back pages, from happy customers. Today, as I was scanning a 1914 catalog, I came across this testimonial.   The writer is Charles Stoffel, and he explains that he’s quite pleased with his new home, the Kentucky #2, which was finished in January 1913.  His baby girl, Maxim Stoffel, was born about a month later. The house was built in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

This picture helps give perspective on these houses.  An Aladdin baby, born in 1913 (when the Aladdin kit home was built), would now be 98 years old.

And I’d bet money the Stoffel family doesn’t know that great-grandma’s baby picture is in an old Aladdin catalog.  :)

If  you know where this house is in Mechanicsville, please leave a comment below! Or if you know the Stoffel family, please forward this link to them.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin

The testimonial from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Kentucky

Here's the catalog picture of the Kentucky Kit home that Charles Stoffel built, and little Maxim was born in. It's in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

Aladdin

Another view of the Aladdin Kentucky, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Kentucky

Actual photograph of the Kentucky from the 1914 catalog.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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EPA fines small business $30,702 for failing to hand out lead-paint brochure…

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

An EPA press release (3/23/2011) proclaims that this government agency has successfully taken a 2×4 to the knees of yet another small business.

They’ve inflicted a $30,000+ fine on a Connecticut-based construction company for the unspeakably horrific crime of…get ready for it…

“Failure to hand out a governmental brochure to potential customers.”

Good for the EPA. We’ve got way too many small businesses in this country. Those entrepreneurial types are not to be trusted.

With a few more successes like this, the EPA will soon be wholly successful in fulfilling their stated purpose: The full-scale ruination of America’s independent contractors, and - as a bonus - the unintended consequence of destroying the value of America’s pre-1978 housing stock.

Before long, it’ll cost $836,083 to paint the window sills in your 1917 Bungalow.  Well, that’s an exaggeration, because chances are, you won’t be able to find a contractor willing to do the work - at ANY price.

Milford, Conn. Window and Siding Company to Pay Fine for Lead Notification Violations


Release date: 03/23/2011


A Milford, Conn. company has agreed to pay $30,702 to settle claims by EPA that it failed to provide lead hazard information to home owners or occupants before doing renovations that may have disturbed surfaces coated with lead-based paint.


The settlement resolves claims made by EPA’s New England office that Permanent Siding and Windows, a contractor specializing in spray-on vinyl siding and replacing windows and doors, failed to provide EPA’s lead hazard information pamphlet to at least 17 owners or occupants before the company began renovation activities. This pamphlet is required by the federal Pre-Renovation Rule and helps educate home owners or occupants on how to minimize their exposure to hazardous lead dust that is often generated during sanding, cutting, demolition or other renovation activities. The pamphlet also provides resources for more information about lead. The violations in this case took place during renovation work done between January 2006 and March 2009.


Permanent Siding has certified that it is now in compliance with EPA’s Pre-Renovation rule and will submit a report to EPA later this year to demonstrate their continued compliance with this Rule.


“EPA requires companies to provide these pamphlets in order to protect families from health and safety hazards in the home,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Property owners and occupants have a right to know about the dangers posed by renovations that involve lead.”


The federal lead law applies to all pre-1978 housing since, without testing, homes built before 1978 are presumed to contain lead-based paint. The settlement stems from a March 2009 EPA inspection and documentation Permanent Siding provided to the EPA.

An advance copy of a new promotional campaign by the EPA

An advance copy of a new promotional campaign by the EPA

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Below is a picture of a contractor who just learned about the newest EPA regulations.

To read an article about the happy, happy Sears Homes in Hampton Roads, click here.

To read another article about the EPA (blech), click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills! (Part III)

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much focus is put on those eight Sears Homes, while the many Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in Hopewell, I might feel snubbed!

The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these “workers’ cottages” also have an important story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s getting lost - quickly. Judging by the landscape in this neighborhood (where the Aladdin Homes are located), countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the rest of these houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country.  At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Take a look at some of the Aladdin kit homes still standing in Hopewell (near the downtown area).

Aladdin Homes came with their famous Dollar a Knot guarantee.

Aladdin Homes came with their famous "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Close-up of the Florences floorplan

Close-up of the Florence's floorplan

Close-up of the house itself.

Close-up of the house itself and the happy people on the front porch.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Aladdin Florest

Aladdin Florence looking basically like it did when built in the 1910s.

Florence

This Florence is in mostly original condition! The attic windows are original, too. But hey, where are the happy people on the front porch?

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the house itself.

Another shot of the original catalog page.

Another one!

Another view of the Florence in Hopewell.

Empty

This spacious empty lot sits squarely in the middle of the neighborhood with all these Aladdin kit homes. It seems quite possible that many Aladdin kit homes have been razed.

I am qualified to have an opinion on this, and I’m of the opinion that these little houses are worthy of some sort of historical designation, even if it’s nothing more than a city-supplied placard for the front yard!  These photos that I’ve posted represent a mere smattering of the collection of Aladdin Homes near the downtown area. And as I mentioned in a prior post, they also tell a story about Hopewell’s history.

Want to read more about Hopewell?  Here’s Part I and Part II.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Built-in Breakfast Nook: Practical, Easy to Build, and Darn Cute

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify” (and Ralph Waldo Emerson is purported to have responded, “I think one simplify would have been enough”).

Thoreau would have loved the early 20th Century breakfast nook!

Built-in breakfast nooks became wildly popular in the early 1920s and especially so in kit homes. After the grand Victorian home fell from favor, the bungalow craze took over and suddenly The Little House was the best house to have.

Bungalows were beautiful but a little cramped, especially compared to an Italianate Victorian! Creative builders and architects improvised by creating intimate spaces in small areas, such as a built-in table and matching benches for the morning meal. It was a wonderful idea, and also saved the housewife some work. It was  easier to set up and clean off a small table in the kitchen than dealing with the big fancy wooden table in the dining room.

Below are pictures from catalogs and magazines of the time, showing the breakfast nook of the early 1920s. At the bottom is a picture from a 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, showing a “convertible” breakfast nook! Table by day, stiff-as-a-tabletop bed by night.

The first is from the February 1911 Ladies’ Home Journal. It appeared in an article titled, “If a Woman Must Work From Home.”

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

A little scant in terms of detail, but still cute.

caption here

This simple breakfast table was offered with the Sears kit home, The Verona.

nooks

Cover of the 1932 Montgomery Ward Building Material catalog, which featured breakfast nooks.

cover

A close-up of the built-in breakfast nook featured on the cover of the hardware catalog.

cover nook

cOn page 34 of the catalog, this "cozy corner dinette" was offered for $14.95. Not a bad deal. And it's made of clear western white pine and needed a small space of 5'6" by 3'8". Nice looking, too.

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Nook room

Another room? Well, maybe. Good-looking nookie, though.

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caption here too

This fine looking table was offered in the Sears Preston, a spacious Colonial kit home. Note that the benches don't have backs! Nothing says comfort like a hard-plaster wall!

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Nook

This page features the breakfast table offered in the Sears Magnolia. These seats have backs!

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Breakfast

This "breakfast alcove" came with the Sears home, The Honor.

nookie

The "Pullman Breakfast Alcove" came with your Sears Ashmore. More modest than the others, it has simple benches with no seat backs.

And its in color!  From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

And it's in color! From a late 1920s Wardway/Gordon Van Tine catalog, this breakfast nook looks cozy and inviting.

The image below appeared in the June 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics and provided the ultimate space saver. By day, it was a cute little trestle table with matching benches. By night, it was an extra sleeping space for your overnight guests.

nookie ps

Easy to make and simple to use, this "convertible" breakfast table provided extra sleeping space for visitors.

nookie

As seen in the 1919 Popular Mechanics, this breakfast nook could be folded out into a bed. Overnight Guests - it's what's for dinner!

And the real deal - in the flesh - a 1930s breakfast nook as seen in the Sears Lynnhaven in southern Illinois.

Sears caption

Awesome rooster towels not included.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

To contact Rose, send an email to thorntonrose@hotmail.com

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part II)

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In downtown Hopewell, not too far from the water, there’s an impressive collection of early 1910s Aladdin Kit Homes. While the city of Hopewell has put its focus on their eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they’ve well-nigh ignored these many blocks of little Aladdin Homes.

The eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills are fine-looking residences. The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest, but they also have a story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s getting lost - quickly. Judging by the landscape in this neighborhood (where the Aladdin Homes are located), countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the rest of these houses might be spared.

Part 1 (click here) focused on the many Aladdin Edisons in this part of town. In Part 2, we’ll focus on the Aladdin Plymouth and the Aladdin Burbank. This area has countless examples of both houses, but due to heavy traffic, late afternoon sun and general malaise, I was only able to photograph a handful. If you know of the location of other houses in Hopewell that look like these, drop me a line.

As mentioned in the prior post, this large collection of houses was ordered by Dupont, as housing for their many workers.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

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A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth

This Aladdin Plymouth does not have a fireplace (as shown above), but fireplaces were optional extras, and cost extra, too!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison! Note, there is only one bedroom closet, and it's 2'6" by 3'. Not very spacious!

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless Burbanks in this part of town.

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless "Burbanks" in this part of town.

The Burbanks floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

The Burbank's floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Its a little rough around the edges, but theres no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank

It's a little rough around the edges, but there's no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank. Note the original windows!

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Some day, I’d love to go through Hopewell slowly and do a proper tally of all their kit homes.   THere are about 50 of these houses in and around the downtown area.  That’s a lot of kit homes!

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part I, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Warning: Incredibly Ugly Photos.

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

I’m an architectural historian. I research old houses and I write books and I galavant around the country telling people how to restore their old homes. When people are trying to locate hard-to-find supplies for their vintage homes, they contact me. This is what I do, and it’s been a fun career.

One day I dropped by my brother’s house to visit him. He said he had “a little problem” in the bathroom that he needed help with. His house was a gorgeous 1930s Dutch Colonial, well-maintained and well-loved, and the crowning jewel of the old house was the vintage bathroom, complete with subway tile, black and white tile floor, beautiful wainscoting, original fixtures, etc.

As he and I walked upstairs and he explained that he’d hired a plumber to put in a new manifold (tub and shower faucet assembly) and the plumber had charged him $500 to do this little “fix.”

I asked him where he found this “plumber” and he said, “Well, he’s not really a plumber actually; it’s just something he does on the side.”

No kidding.

I understand the guy threw in the duct tape for free.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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