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And The Plat Thickens…

Updated! To read the latest, click here!

Here in Norfolk, we have a real mystery on our hands. There are 16 little bungalows (which we’ve lovingly named, “The Ethel”) that were originally built at another location (don’t know where), and then moved to Norfolk by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.*

There’s an elderly Norfolk resident who remembers seeing a photo of one of the houses being moved into Riverview (Norfolk neighborhood). He says the photo showed the small house being pulled up the road by a team of mules. How we’d love to find *that* photo!

Several months ago, we learned that 3,000 miles away (in Dupont, Washington), there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory in Fall 1909. Thanks to Mark Mckillop, we have photos of the Dupont Ethels (shown below).

Dozens. That’s a lot of “Ethels.”

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

That neighborhood also has a large collection of Ethels.

And more recently, an Ethel has been found (and photographed) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Was Muskogee a Dupont town? If not, was there an industrial complex that sprang up in the early 1900s, that needed housing for their workers?

I’d love to know.

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington, Butte, Montana, and Muskogee, Oklahoma and who knows where else.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing story.

Despite what we’ve learned, many unanswered questions remain. What’s the source of this “Ethel” design? Did they come from Aladdin? I don’t think so, because I’ve searched my collection of early 1900s Aladdin catalogs, and there’s nothing even close.

Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!


Eth

This Ethel is located in Muskogee, Oklahoma in the 900-block of Boston Avenue. It is a very close match to our other Ethels. The most significant difference is the placement of the front door. (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )



house

Another view of our Ethel in Muskogee. You'll note the windows are all boarded up. Not a good sign. Angeline reports that this neighborhood was "a little scary." (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )



Close-up of that disinctive dormer window

Close-up of that disinctive dormer window. (Photo is courtesy of Angeline Stacy and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. )


And thanks to Mark Mckillop, we have many photos of the houses in Dupont, Washington.


Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington and Muskogee, OK.

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

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 if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

If you’d like to read earlier posts, start with Part I.

And then go to Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. Rachel
    October 8th, 2011 at 09:18 | #1

    Perhaps someone in Muskogee who is in to local history will catch wind of this and look in to the history of this house. I found that it was built in 1910 or 1911. The address is 901 Boston. Dupont had a powder factory in the area but not that early I don’t think. Here again, maybe a native Muskogeean will see this and know about Dupont as well.

  2. October 8th, 2011 at 09:26 | #2

    I was just looking it up online, and there was a Dupont Munitions plant there - but for World War II. Now we need to find a connection between Dupont and Muskogee from the early 1900s. The Ethels in Dupont, Washington were built in 1909. There’s also a possibility that YOUR Ethel was moved to Muskogee from another place?

  3. Bill Pope
    October 10th, 2011 at 17:34 | #3

    I was told the Riverview “Ethels” were built sometime in the early 1900s for the Jamestown Expedition held at the Norfolk Naval station in 1907. These were supposedly built as officers quarters. The houses were then floated down the Lafayette river and drug into place. This may help substantiate that many of these houses were built around military installations.

  4. October 11th, 2011 at 05:53 | #4

    Bill, we’ve heard that story also, but it appears to be one of those “myths” and let me tell you, myths abound in the world of historic architecture! For instance, while there are about 70,000 Sears Homes in the country, about 7.3 million people *think* they live in a Sears Home! That’s a whole ‘nother story though.

    Dave Spriggs, Mark Hardin, Rachel Shoemaker and I have invested hundreds of hours chasing down the facts on our little “Ethels,” and we’ve found this house throughout the country. That singular fact there disqualifies it as being from the exposition.

    David Spriggs has been involved in the research of these homes for years and he’s viewed countless images of the Jamestown Exposition and could find no evidence of any structures that resemble the Ethels.

    The story that these homes came from the Jamestown Exposition is one of those stories that just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. What *is* likely is that these houses came from Penniman (just up the River) and were floated down from there and somehow, the story of the houses coming from Penniman got confused with the story of the houses coming from Jamestown.

    In every single case where we’ve found an Ethel, we’ve found a Dupont munitions factory. That’s true with Penniman and that’s true with the Ethels in Montana, and that’s true with Dupont, Washington.

  5. David Spriggs
    October 11th, 2011 at 09:56 | #5

    @Bill Pope

    I have heard this theory ever since I began investigating the origin of the Ethels.

    I have never found a shred of evidence that these structures ever existed at the site of the Exposition.

    I and several others have viewed thousands of images of the Exposition. In not one has any structure been seen which resembles an Ethel.

    While there were military encampments at the Exposition, there were no permanent quarters. The grounds were privately owned until 1917. Thus, it is highly unlikely that any military quarters were constructed there.

    According to Hill’s Directories, the Ethels appeared on Lucille, Ethel and Lavalette between 1924 and 1926. Most of the structures at the Exposition were demolished after it closed in December 1907. The Navy acquired the property and established the Naval Operating Base in 1917. These dates also make it highly unlikely that any structures survived from 1907 to 1924. Even if the Navy had constructed them as quarters in 1917, it is unlikely that they would have removed as soon as 1924.

    The Ethel design has been tied to the DuPont Company in several locations across the United States. That design has not been found in any kit home catalog. For such a unique design also to appear in quantity at the Exposition would stretch credulity.

    The sheer number of homes built at the DuPont site at Penniman and the published report that many of those were disassembled and rebuilt in James City County are strong evidence that the Ethels originated at Penniman.

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