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The Plan Book Homes of Portsmouth, Virginia

Tens of thousands of homeowners turned to Plan Books for their housing needs in the early 1900s. It was similar to buying a kit home, but with a few important differences. After browsing the pages of a plan book (filled with pretty pictures of pretty homes), you’d pick a house that fit your budget and your needs, and then send off a few dollars.

Within a few days or weeks, you’d receive a full set of blue prints, plus a list of the building materials you’d need to build your dream home.

In other words, you were buying blue prints and a building materials list, nothing more.

Plan book houses are so ubiquitous and the designs are so varied that a person could drive themselves nuts trying to find and identify all the plan book houses in their neighborhood. I’ve got one book of plans from the late 1920s, and it must have more than 500 house designs. And that was one company.

That being said, I did go through a “plan book phase” in my house hunting career, and here are a few of the houses I found in Portsmouth (and surrounding areas).

Nice little Tudor from the pages of a Homebuilders Planbook

Nice little Tudor from the pages of a popular early 1920s planbook.

Nice match in Portsmouth, Virginia on Rockbridge Road (Waterview section).

Nice match in Portsmouth, Virginia on Rockbridge Road (Waterview section).

Kind of a funky looking house.

Kind of a funky looking house with that arched porch roof.

Also on Rockbridge Road (Waterview), this house had some big dormers added.

Also on Rockbridge Road (Waterview), this house had some big dormers added.

Nice

This is one of my favorites. Nice design and good front porch (on the side).

Poor photo, but great house. I grew up next door to this house. My home was at 515 Nansemond Street, also in Waterview.

Poor photo, but great house. I grew up next door to this house. My home was at 515 Nansemond Street, also in Waterview.

Beautiful little Tudor Revival from the late 1920s

Beautiful little Tudor Revival from the late 1920s

This is my favorite match!  The house is a perfect match to the catalog image, and its even painted in the same colors! I sent these folks a color copy of this catalog page, but never heard back from them.

This is my favorite match! The house is a perfect match to the catalog image, and it's even painted in the same colors! I sent these folks a color copy of this catalog page, but never heard back from them. This house is on Riverside Drive (Waterview). Even the tiny little details are a spot-on match.

This was a duplex, and proved to be a popular design.

This was a four-unit apartment, and proved to be a popular design. I've seen three of these in my travels.

This one is in South Norfolk (near Portsmouth).

This one is in South Norfolk (near Portsmouth).

Thi

Pretty, pretty house.

house

The details around the front porch gable are a tiny bit different, but the rest of the house is a perfect match, down to the strap hinges on the front door. This house is in Park View (Portsmouth).

The Regent was also a popular plan book house.

The Regent was also a popular plan book house.

And this one is in the Colonial Place neighborhood in Norfolk!

And this one is in the Colonial Place neighborhood in Norfolk!

This last house is not in Portsmouth, but it is probably *THE* most popular plan book house Ive come across.

This last house is not in Portsmouth, but it is probably *THE* most popular plan book house I've come across.

I found two of these in Beckley, WV and Ive seen countless others all over the country.

I found two of these in Beckley, WV and I've seen countless others all over the country.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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  1. Aimee
    July 20th, 2011 at 15:57 | #1

    Hello. I browse your blog now and again and always enjoy it. I look for possible sears homes wherever I go. As soon as I saw the photo of the multi unit “dumont” on this post, I instantly recognized it as being an almost exact match to a home in my neighborhood. I don’t have any photos at this moment, but I could get some if you’re interested. You can get a clear look at the building on Google Street view. It is located at/about 406 Blodget Street, Manchester New Hampshire. Please take a look, I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

  2. Tracy
    December 13th, 2011 at 16:51 | #2

    Hello. I recently came across your website while trying to research my recently purchased home. I believe I’ve identified it as the Somerset from Standard Homes Company. It looks very similar to the one you noted as being next to your childhood home. I’d be happy to send you a photo if you are interested. I’m located in Birmingham, Alabama. Thanks.

  3. Rachel Shoemaker
    January 13th, 2012 at 23:50 | #3

    I am in sort of a plan book phase right now, simply because some of our kit looking homes have turned out be plan book homes. Some of the kit homes have twin versions from plan books and can be very tricky! We have a “Regent” here in Tulsa, Okla. as well. The Regent is a very unique house that once you see it, even if from a plan book, you will know it when you come across it.

  4. JULIE LUNT
    September 23rd, 2013 at 22:07 | #4

    Thank you so much for your research and pictures. Amazing! I’m designing my second house and I want it to be really special and green too. These pictures really helped.

    Thank you from the Georgia Coast.

  5. Caren
    January 12th, 2014 at 05:59 | #5

    My fiance Glen and I are the proud NEW owners (as of 10/2013) of the 1st House featured on Rockbridge Rd.

    We’re trying to find out everything we can about our home and all of its original details; we’d like to restore it to some of its original details.

    My heart fluttered the moment I stumbled upon your page and found our actual house!

    Please let us know everything you possibly can about the history of our home? We’re trying to find the blueprints for structural purposes (in order to remodel the kitchen and bath) however, we’ve had no such luck!

    We’re new to this and not exactly sure how to go about it or where to start. The prior owner of 40 years couldn’t supply us with blueprints either.

    Sincerely,
    Ms. Patrick

  6. Caren
    January 12th, 2014 at 06:15 | #6

    Ps. We actually viewed your childhood home on Nansemond during our home search!

    Absolutely gorgeous grounds/landscaping!

    It’s was on my list of top three choices; in fact, had it not been for the staircase being unusually altered and the floors showing signs of serious water damage, it was my first choice!

    We were just scared to take on the unknown (Pandora’s Box thing) due to us being “first time buyers” of an historic home.

    The Side Porch (your mother loved) was my favorite feature as well! :-)

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