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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of.

This last weekend, I visited Hopewell for the first time in several years. In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. I was treated like a queen and I really enjoyed my stay in Hopewell. Most of all, I loved doing something good and positive to help promote Virginia - my favorite state and the place where I was born and raised.

On my flight back to Illinois, I stared out the tiny plane window and thought, “This is what people mean when they talk about ‘Southern Hospitality.’”

The ladies who drove me around Hopewell were a living example of grace and gentility.

There was one downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Sadly, as I toured the city, I discovered that most of the “Sears Homes” in their infamous Crescent Hills neighborhood were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was one of the most upsetting events in my professional career. History is important and must be kept pure from defects or errors. That’s something about which I feel passionate.  But in the end, I decided that - as Joel Osteen says - sometimes you have to put life’s difficult events into a file folder labeled, “I don’t understand this, but I have to trust God has a plan here and go forward with my life and leave this in God’s hands.”

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many houses in Crescent Hills were still being wrongly identified as kit homes. A picture is worth a lot of words, I’m going to post the Hopewell house, together with an original image from the Sears catalog and (where possible), an extant example of that kit home in real life.

Let the reader judge for themselves.  :)

This house (106 Crescent) is purported to be a Sears Newbury.

The city's brochure claims that this house (106 Crescent) is a Sears Newbury. It's a massive house and note the inset on the huge shed dormer on the second floor. There's a flat space in front of that shed dormer. Plus, note how the rear roof is higher than the front roof. This house has two small closet windows on the front (second floor). The porch roof is on the same plane as the primary roof, and is flat and comes straight down - with no break. Also notice that this house has a spacious attic, due to the large footprint of the house, and steep pitch of the roof.

This is a catalog picture of the Sears Newbury.

This is a catalog picture of the Sears Newbury. Notice, this house has a bellcast roof. In other words, the porch roof has a "swoop" (like the cast of a bell). It does not come down in a straight plane, but takes a little curve upward. It does not have an attic and the roof is not very steep. It has a gambrel roof (like a barn roof). It's also a much smaller house than the house in Hopewell (pictured above). There's no inset in front of those second floor windows.

Heres a close-up of the Sears Newbury

Here's a close-up of the Sears Newbury

Heres a Sears Newbury in Elmhurst, Illinois. Youll notice that it looks a lot like the house in the catalog picture.

Here's a Sears Newbury in Elmhurst, Illinois. You'll notice that it looks a lot like the house in the catalog picture.

Now take another look at the Hopewell house. Hmmm...

Now take another look at the Hopewell house. Hmmm...

The house in Hopewell (pictured above) is a much larger house. And the rooflines are dramatically different.

Comparison of the Newbury with a known Newbury

Comparison of the Sears Newbury with a known Newbury

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Now, take a look at the photo below:

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Oopsie.

Oopsie.

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Sears Homes, one must remember, were patterned after the popular housing styles of the day. They were - by their very design - intended to look like the average house. When identifying Sears Homes, details are hugely important. But one of the most important details is the home’s footprint. If the catalog image says the home was 32 by 22, the subject house should be 32 by 22.  The Hopewell house (above) is much larger than the Sears Newbury.

Now let’s look at Hopewell’s purported “Oakdale” at 106 Oakwood Avenue.

I aint sayin nothing.

I ain't sayin' nothing.

Sears Oakdale as seen in the 1928 catalog.

Sears Oakdale as seen in the 1928 catalog.

An Oakdale in Cairo, Illinois

An Oakdale in Cairo, Illinois. You'll notice that this house looks a lot like the house in the catalog image (above). One of the goofy features of the Sears Oakdale is that the side door is RIGHT by the front of the house! See it on the side, with the small awning? That always catches my eye. Those three vents on the front porch are also distinctive. This is a small two-bedroom house, measuring 24 by 38 feet.

Close-up of the Sears Oakdale

Close-up of the Sears Oakdale

Oakdale Floorplan

The Oakdale has a very unusual floorplan, with the living room spanning the home's width, and the two bedrooms spanning the width in the rear. The brick house in Hopewell (seen below) has the more traditional layout of living room, dining room, and kitchen on the left, with bedroom, bath, bedroom on the right.

I aint sayin nothing.

This has has a projecting gabled bay. The Oakdale has a small, tucked-under-the-eaves squared bay. This house has a recessed wall on the front. The Oakdale is flat across the front. This has has a cute little diamond vent up top. The Oakdale has three rectangular vents. This house has a bedroom on the right front. The Oakdale has a full-width living room, with a side door on the right front. In fact, this house has a completely different floorplan than the Sears Oakdale! And notice the roof pitch is very different from the Oakdale. This house has three columns and a larger porch. The Oakdale has two. This is wider than the 22' (size of the Oakdale). Other than this, the two houses are a perfect match! <wink, wink>

Oopsie.

Oopsie.

Which leads me to the real puzzle.

Hopewell claims to have TWO Oakdales. The second “Oakdale” is next door to the first.

Nope.

That doesn't look like an Oakdale!

However, it sure looks a lot like a Sears Walton!

However, it sure looks a lot like a Sears Walton!

And it even has the little box window on the front of the house!

And the house in Hopewell even has the little box window on the front of the house! Wow, it's a good match to the floorplan!

Side by side comparison

Side by side comparison

So why are they labeling a Sears Walton a Sears Oakdale? I’ve no idea. But I’ll make a $100 bet with anyone who cares to wager that this house at 102 Oakwood Avenue in Crescent Hills is indeed a Sears Walton. :)  Interestingly, there’s another Sears Walton in a different part of the city! That’s two Waltons in Hopewell!

Enjoying the discussion?  There’s a lot more on Hopewell here.

To learn more about how to to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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