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Virginia’s Very Own Ghost Town: Penniman

January 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

It was called Virginia’s own Ghost Town.

Penniman, Virginia, sat on the land now occupied by Cheatham Annex (near Williamsburg) and started - quite literally - as a Boom Town.

In late 1916, DuPont selected the site as their 37th munitions plant, probably because of its location:  It bordered the broad York River and it was safely away from population centers. When you’re manufacturing explosives and a mistake occurs, things go BOOM.  (Google “DuPont Munitions Plant Explosions” to find a dozen pre-WW1 examples.)

Penniman was named in honor of an American Chemist, Russell S. Penniman, who figured out how to build a better munition. Alfred Nobel’s original-recipe dynamite used nitroglycerine, but Penniman invented an ammonia-based dynamite, which was much safer than nitroglycerine.

According to an article that appeared in the Virginia Gazette, the wages paid at “DuPont Plant #37″ were so high that laborers poured in from all over the area.

“Local farmers found laborers almost impossible to hire, and certainly not at the old low wages. With thousands of men and women manufacturing shells at Penniman and living wherever they could, Williamsburg boomed. Rental space, whether for offices or for living, was impossible to find at any price. The mass exodus of workers was so great, area farmers were left wondering how they’d get their crops planted” (Meyers, Terry. “The Silence of the Graves.” Virginia Gazette June 3, 1998).

“In time,” writes Martha McCartney, author James City County; Keystone of the Commonwealth, “the [DuPont plant at Penniman] employed 10,000 people and the community bordering the plant had a population of 10,000 to 20,000″ (McCartney, Martha W.  James City County; Keystone of the Commonwealth. James City County, Virginia, Donning Company Publishing, 1997).

In August 1918, local papers reported that the United States Navy would take over the 12,500 acre facility. It would now be called, “The Naval Mine Depot.”  On  November 11th 1918, the “War to End All Wars” was over. It was President Woodrow Wilson who’d coined that phrase. Now that the earth had endured the last war that would ever be fought, it was time to dismantle Penniman.

But then something happened on the way to de-construction: The flu epidemic.

According to Meyers, the hospital at Penniman was overwhelmed with fatalities from Spanish Influenza, with bodies being shipped back to their waiting families in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and other southern states. Many Penniman employees had traversed great distances to find work at DuPont Plant #37, and when they died, DuPont paid a “death benefit” which helped with the costs of shipping the bodies back home, wherever that may be.  Meyers writes:

On October 12, the Daily Press reported that undertakers were being kept busy by the toll at Penniman: “the baggage cars are always full of caskets.” And on October 13 came a report that “a local [Williamsburg] undertaker had to requisition a truck to haul bodies from Penniman this morning…There is a scarcity of coffins here, the dealers having had in hand only a small stock prior to the grip epidemic  (Meyers, Terry. “The Silence of the Graves.” Virginia Gazette June 3, 1998).

By late 1920, the Spanish Flu had taken (by conservative estimates) more than 50 million lives. Penniman was now in the hands of the Navy. And it was time to get rid of the 250 houses that had been built at the DuPont Munitions Plant.

December 5, 1921, a little piece appeared in the Virginian Pilot, describing several houses being floated down to Tanner’s Creek (now the Lafayette River in Norfolk). It said the houses had been erected by the government near Yorktown. That’s not factually correct. It was DuPont that actually built these houses, just as they had done at other munitions plants in Old Hickory, TN and Hopewell, VA and Carney Point, NJ and Ramsay, MT.

The houses shown on the barges (pictures below) came from DuPont Plant #37 in Penniman, Virginia.

Now, after a great deal of research, we’ve learned that DuPont offered several models, and we’ve found these models at the DuPont cities listed in the prior paragraph. Most recently, we were able to get our hands on a picture of the houses - as they stood - in Penniman in the late 1910s. So now we have placed the houses at Penniman, and then floating on a barge, and then in place in four different Norfolk neighborhoods.

And it all started with DuPont Plant #37, site of Virginia’s very own Ghost Town.

And now for Rose’s wish list: I wish that we could find more/better photos of Penniman.

BTW, as of October 18, 2013, we’ve decided it’s time to write a book, so that others can enjoy this lost piece of history, too!

Update:  We found the Ethels!!!

To read part II of this story, click here.

To read part III, click here.

To read an update, click here (Oct 22,  2013).

To read more about Old Hickory, click here.

To read about the Sears Homes of Norfolk, click here.

Penniman was a massive operation in its brief time.

Penniman was a massive operation in its brief time. This photo is a piece of a panoramic photo from the Library of Congress and is the only known photo of Penniman, Virginia from its days as DuPont Plant #37. I'd love to find out more about the history and source of this photo.

Photo

Clustered together, near the banks of the York River, are the DuPont Houses built for the workers. This photo is a piece of a panoramic photo from the Library of Congress.

This is the last known surviving Dupont Design at Penniman (now Cheatham Annex). This was known as The Hopewell design, and there are several of these homes at the DuPont plant in Hopewell, Virginia.

This is the last known surviving "Dupont Design" at Penniman (later called, Naval Mine Depot, and now Cheatham Annex). This particular model was known as "The Hopewell" design, and there are several of these homes at the DuPont plant in Hopewell, Virginia. About 95 years ago, this acreage would have been filled with houses, built for the workers at the plant.

The views in Penniman (and the views from our last Penniman house) would have been spectacular. Just beyond this bit of brush is an expansive view of the York River.

The views in Penniman (and the views from our last Penniman house) would have been spectacular. Just beyond this bit of brush is an expansive view of the York River. If you were standing on the front porch of our Penniman house (shown above) this is what you'd see.

The

To my utter dismay and frustration, this is the only photo I've been able to find of Penniman, as it looked in the late 1910s. This photo appeared in The Richmond Times Leader on June 22, 1938, on an article they did on Penniman. On the forefront are three "Haskells," and behind them are two "Georgia" models.

The

Sometimes, zooming in really doesn't help a lot.

The Haskell

The Haskell was a DuPont design and there's an entire community of these DuPont houses in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Apparently, there were many of these houses in Penniman.

An article in the December 5, 1921 Virginian Pilot shows these two Haskells on a barge, being floated down Tanners Creek and into Norfolk.

An article in the December 5, 1921 Virginian Pilot shows these two Haskells on a barge, being floated down Tanner's Creek and into Norfolk.

The same article also showed two Cumberlands coming here from Penniman.

The same article also showed two "Cumberlands" coming here from Penniman. They're shown here on the barge, at the end of their long journey which began on the York River.

The

The accompanying text in the December 1921 article in the Virginia Pilot.

The Cumberland was another model that was moved from Penniman to Norfolk.

The Cumberland was another model that was moved from Penniman to Norfolk.

The Haskell arrived in Norfolk, and was planted on Major Avenue. In fact, its one of 50 houses from Penniman.

The Haskell arrived in Norfolk, and was planted on Major Avenue. In fact, it's one of 50 houses from Penniman. The vintage image (of a Haskell in Old Hickory) is on the left. The Penniman house (from DuPont Plant #37) is on the right.

There are two Cumberlands on Major Avenue, next to the Haskells.

There are two "Cumberlands" on Major Avenue, next to the Haskells. The Cumberland is also seen above on the barge, being floated down Tanner's Creek.

The third housing style we have from Penniman is The Georgia. This is a modest (but cute) Dutch Colonial. You can see these in the background of the grainy photo from the Richmond News Leader.

The third housing style we've found in Norfolk (from Penniman) is "The Georgia." This is a modest (but darling!) Dutch Colonial. You can see these houses in the background of the grainy photo from the Richmond News Leader.

And it started in Riverview.

And it started with these 16 matching bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk). For years, we'd heard that these matching houses came from The Jamestown Exposition (1907), but that is NOT true. In fact, these are "Dupont Houses" and they were originally built at Penniman, and shipped by barge to Norfolk when Penniman was shut down. Later, we learned that the name of this design is "The DuPont." How apropos!

The original news article from the 1938 Richmond News Leader.

The original news article from the 1938 Richmond News Leader.

To read more about the houses that came to Norfolk from Penniman, click here.

To learn about the murder of Addie Hoyt, click here.

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The Sears Homes of St. Louis (Kirkwood)

January 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

When I first started this Sears House gig, I lived in Alton, IL (near St. Louis) and some of my first discoveries were in the St. Louis area. Below are the Sears Homes I’ve found in the Kirkwood area (part of St. Louis). If you enjoy the link, please share it with friends!

What is a Sears Home? These were true kits containing 12,000 pieces of house. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book that told you how to put all those pieces and parts together. The houses were sold out of the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog, and the houses in St. Louis were shipped from Cairo, Illinois. Sears offered these houses from 1908-1940 and there were 370 different designs. Today, the only way to find these homes in literally one by one.

These photos were scanned from slides, taken in 2002 and 2003, so they’re a little faded.

Enjoy the photos! And if you want to learn how to identify kit homes, click here.

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

One of the reasons there are so many kit homes in St. Louis is because there was a Sears Modern Homes sales center in St. Louis. There were only 40 of these in the country, and these were only placed in areas where sales had been strong. And once a Modern Homes sales center opened, sales were even stronger!

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In the late 20s, there was one at

In the late 20s, there was one at 8th and Olive Streets (from the 1928 catalog).

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And in the early 30s,

And in the early 30s,it had moved to the Wainright Building.

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A full listing of the Sears Modern Homes sales centers appeared on the back of the 1930 catalog.

A full listing of the Sears Modern Homes sales centers appeared on the back of the 1930 catalog.

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The Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

The Sears Lynnhaven, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

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This Lynnhaven has had a not-so-thoughtful addition, but theres no mistaking it as a Sears Lynnhaven.

This Lynnhaven has had a not-so-thoughtful addition, but there's no mistaking it as a Sears Lynnhaven.

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Another Sears Lynnhaven in Kirkwood. This photo was taken in 2003.

Another Sears Lynnhaven in Kirkwood. This photo was taken in 2003.

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The Cedars was a beautiful tudor-esque cottage (1928 catalog).

The Cedars was a beautiful tudor-esque cottage (1928 catalog).

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And heres a *perfect* Cedars! Fortunately (as of 2003), it still has its original siding - CEDAR shakes!

And here's a *perfect* Cedars! Fortunately (as of 2003), it still has its original siding - CEDAR shakes!

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The Chatham was a cute little Dutch Colonial.

The Chatham was a cute little Dutch Colonial.

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And here it is!

A comment below from Judith (shown below) points out that the shed dormer on this little Dutch Colonial extends out too far and it is probably not the Sears Chatham! I'd have to say - she's right, and I am WRONG! Oops!

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The Sears Mitchell was one of their most popular models!

The Sears Mitchell was one of their most popular models!

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And heres an unusually beautiful Mitchell in Kirkwood.

And here's an unusually beautiful Mitchell in brick and stucco.

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The Sears Berwyn was also a very popular house for Sears.

The Sears Berwyn was also a very popular house for Sears.

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Sears Berwyn in brick!

Sears Berwyn in brick! I'm not certain, but I think this house is actually in Richmond Heights. If you know its location, please leave a comment below!

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The Sears Montrose (from the 1928 catalog) was not a popular house!

The Sears Montrose (from the 1928 catalog) was not a popular house!

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A perfect Montrose!

A perfect Montrose tucked away in the pines!

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Sears Brookwood as seen in the 1933 catalog.

Sears Brookwood as seen in the 1933 catalog.

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A picture-perfect Sears Brookwood in Kirkwood!

A picture-perfect Sears Brookwood in Kirkwood!

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Barrington, from the 1928 catalog. The Barrington and the Brookwood look very similar. The Barrington is a little bit bigger than the Brookwood. For a time, I had trouble keeping these houses separate in my mind. And then I thought of this visual clue. The Barrington has three windows in the living room (on the first floor front). The Barrington is a three-syllable word. The Brookwood has two syllables and two windows! Voila!

Barrington, from the 1928 catalog. The Barrington and the Brookwood look very similar. The Barrington is a little bit bigger than the Brookwood. For a time, I had trouble keeping these houses separate in my mind. And then I thought of this visual clue. The Barrington has three windows in the living room (on the first floor front). The Barrington is a three-syllable word. The Brookwood has two syllables and two windows! Voila!

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The Sears Barrington, with its three windows!

The Sears Barrington, with its three windows!

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Someone told me this was a Sears kit house. My, but I stared at this house for hours and hours and I could not figure it out. Then finally, the owners invited me to come into their home and take a better look. Thats when I discovered - it WAS a Sears Home - slightly altered.

Someone told me this was a Sears kit house. My, but I stared at this house for hours and hours and I could not figure it out. Then finally, the owners invited me to come into their home and take a better look. That's when I discovered - it WAS a Sears Home - slightly altered.

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Its a Sears Wilmore, turned sideways on the lot!

The house in Kirkwood is a Sears Wilmore, turned sideways on the lot!

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Words

Notice the bellcast (swoopie) roof on the end of the house? This house is turned sideways on the lot, with that bellcast (shown in the catalog picture above on the left) turned out to the street. In other words, the house in Kirkwood was placed on this lot at a 90-degree angle to the catalog image. The main gable (shown above with the two windows) has been extended out several feet to make a larger living room. The front door was easily moved into that front gable. Pretty interesting changes!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The Back Story of “The Houses That Sears Built”

January 26th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

In February 2012, it will have been 10 years since I published my book, The Houses That Sears Built. Writing that book was a labor of love, but it was also an incredibly intense experience.  By Christmas 2001, I had nearly finished the manuscript.

For our Christmas vacation that year, our family (my husband and three daughters) had planned to fly to Portsmouth, Virginia to visit our families. (We were living in the St. Louis area at the time.)

About three weeks before the holidays, I decided to cancel my plans and stay home and finish up the manuscript. I was on a roll, and after two years, it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and get it done. But one of those “little voices” told me that this was an important trip, and that I needed to stick with the plan and spend Christmas in Portsmouth.

On Christmas Eve, we had dinner with my mother.  We were so happy to see her, and spend time with her. And I had a surprise. I’d just had a big article published in a national magazine.  She was so proud of me, and asked me to read the article out loud to her, which I did. My dear mother looked at me and just beamed.

“My beautiful daughter,” she said with a big smile. “My beautiful famous daughter. I’m so proud of you.”

And at that moment, I almost slipped and told her my secret: My new book was going to be dedicated to her, Betty B. Fuller. The inscription would read, All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always clung to me.

It was a quote from Abraham Lincoln and it described exactly how I felt.

Throughout my life, my mother’s prayers had been such a blessing and support. She was always my #1 cheerleader and my dearest friend.

That night, when we left her house, I told her that we’d be back in just a few hours - on Christmas morning!  She hugged me tight and started swaying side to side a little bit, while whispering in my ear, “My beautiful daughter. I love you so much.”

The next morning, she didn’t answer the door and she didn’t answer the phone. I used my key to get into the house and that’s when we found her - still in bed - ashen and barely breathing.  She never regained consciousness, and died a short time later.

Twelve days later, I returned home, hardly able to think about that book of mine. Suddenly, it seemed so completely unimportant.  However, I eventually pulled myself together enough to finish it and take the manuscript to the printer.

That was February 2002. Later that month, my husband of 24 years told me that he now understood Paul in the Bible, and that like Paul, he realized he was not the marrying kind. He asked for a divorce. And so ended a relationship that had begun in 1968. I’d met Tom when I was in third grade.

I moved out of the family home, and into a low-rent singles’ apartment and tried desperately to start a new life.

The Houses That Sears Built - was more than just a book. It became my raison d’être, literally.  The book - and the career that came with it  - gave me a sense of purpose and pride and unspeakable joy. Less than 60 days after its publication, I was interviewed for a feature article in the New York Times. That was a wonderful break.

Next, I was invited to appear in a new show being developed for PBS, tentatively titled, The History Detectives. From there, I ended up on A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News and more. In July 2004, my book made it to Jeopardy!

By Summer 2006, I’d done more than 500 interviews and had appeared in almost every national newspaper in America, including, Christian Science Monitor, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. In June 2006, my story appeared in the Wall Street Journal - front page - and above the fold! That was the coup of my career.

And in Summer 2006, I met Wayne Ringer. Six months later, we were married.

I’ve always believed in God’s timing, and the timing of this book’s publication and the start of my new life could not have possibly been any better.

And it was FUN. I traveled all over the country and was a featured speaker at countless venues and seminars and preservation conferences and I was treated like a queen. I really liked being treated like a queen!

The book - and the career that followed - restored my soul and healed my shattered self-esteem. Divorce is tough.

In 2004, I traveled to a small town in the Midwest, and stayed at a Marriott Hotel. The organizers of the event had made all the arrangements for me, and that was always much appreciated. When I checked in at the desk, the clerk looked up from her computer screen, smiled at me and said, “You’re Rosemary Thornton?”

I said, “Yes,” and she reached her hand across the counter and said, “Can I shake your hand? I’ve always wanted to meet a real author.”

It was (and still is) one of the best memories of my career.

And it all started with one little self-published tome on Sears Kit Homes.  Ten years ago, this month.

Only 3,000 copies of this first edition were sold, and by then, Id written an updated version, which has sold almost 15,000 copies now.  The first edition now fetches a handsome price.

Only 3,000 copies of this "first edition" were sold, and by then, I'd written an updated version, which has been in print since February 2004. The first edition (now out of print) fetches a handsome price.

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In May 2006, I gave a talk here.

In May 2006, I gave a talk in Jefferson City, Missouri. While in Jefferson City, I had my first telephone conversation with Wayne, the man who'd become my husband.

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In 2010, The History Press contacted me and asked if Id be interested in writing a coffee-table book on Sears Homes. The Sears Homes of Illinois was the result, and this was - without any doubts - my last book on kit homes.

In 2010, "The History Press" contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in writing a coffee-table book on Sears Homes. "The Sears Homes of Illinois" was the result, and this was - without any doubts - my last book on kit homes.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To see the kit homes of Norfolk, click here.

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Sears Kit Homes in My Town: Norfolk, Virginia

January 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 8 comments

How many Sears Homes does Norfolk have? A whole bunch. In fact, Norfolk has more than 80 kit homes from a variety of kit-home companies, including Aladdin, Sears, Lewis Manufacturing, Harris Brothers and Gordon Van Tine.

In 2004, a local college went scouting for kit homes in Norfolk. I read their finished report and was not surprised that they missed most of these 80+ kit homes. This is a work that I have dedicated my life to, and it’s not a project one can endeavor to undertake on a spare weekend.

When I first started hunting for kit homes in Norfolk, I was expecting to find a couple dozen - at the most. I was surprised (and delighted) to find so many of them, and in diverse group of neighborhoods, such as West Ghent, Ingleside, Larchmont, Ocean View, Park Place, Colonial Place, Riverview, Lafayette Winona and more.

Born and raised in Portsmouth, I’ll always be a “Portsmouth Girl.” In 1995, our little family left Hampton Roads and moved to the St. Louis area, where we lived for 11 years.  In 2006, I moved back to the area, met and married a nice guy who worked for the city of Norfolk, and that’s when Norfolk became my new home.

I’m still learning how to navigate the labyrinthine streets, and still making new discoveries. Who knew Norfolk could be so much fun?  :)

To read about the Sears Homes I found in Newport News, click here.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Sears Roanoke, as shown in the 1920 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Of all the houses Ive found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is an older picture, but its a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off of Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and Ive never come across *anyone* who loves (and respects) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

Of all the houses I've found in Norfolk, this is far and away my #1 favorite. This is a perfect Sears Roanoke in Norfolk (off Colley Avenue). The owner (Robert) loves his beautiful Roanoke, and I've never come across *anyone* who loves (and appreciates) the historical significance of his Sears House, more than this fellow. The house is a gem, and thanks to Robert, this 90-year-old home has been faithfully and meticulously restored.

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The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Lebanon, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. Its on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue.

Another treasure of a house, and also in good condition. It's on 28th Street, just off Colley Avenue. See the small pieces of wood that jut out under that dormer window? Those are the old supports that held up the flower boxes (seen in original catalog image).

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The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

The Whitehall is easy to identify with that two-story bay window (1926).

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Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (27th Street).

Next door to the Sears Lebanon is this Whitehall (28th Street).

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Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

Sears Argyle (1919 catalog).

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This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

This sweet little Sears Argyle is hidden away in the 900-block of 28th Street.

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Heres another Argyle in Ocean View.

Here's another Argyle in Ocean View.

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The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

The Alhambra was another popular Sears kit home.

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Heres a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in Ghent.

Here's a modified Alhambra on Westover Avenue in West Ghent. It's one of three exact models, all in a row. A distinctive feature of the Alhambra is the three squared-bay windows.

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The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

The Alhambra floorplan shows those three squared bays.

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One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers La Grange (1923 catalog).

One of my favorites is the Harris Brothers "La Grange" (1923 catalog).

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There are two of these in Ocean View. Heres one on Capitol Avenue.

There are two of these in Ocean View. Here's one on Capitol Avenue. Notice the curved front porch, and casement windows flanking the fireplace.

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Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

Not surprisingly, there are many Aladdin kit homes in Norfolk. Aladdin was a bigger company than Sears, and remained in business un 1981. Aladdin had a huge mill at Wilmington, NC.

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There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

There are two of these Aladdin Edisons right next door to ODU in the 800-block of 46th Street.

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Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Aladdin Virginia from the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

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Aladdin Virginia on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia!

This Aladdin "Virginia" is on Virginia Avenue in the state of Virginia (in Colonial Place). It's in wonderful condition and it's a spot-on match to the original catalog image.

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The Aladdin Pasadena and there are three of them in Norfolk.

There are three Aladdin Pasadenas in Norfolk.

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This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

This Aladdin Pasadena is in the 1600-block of LaSalle Avenue in Lafayette-Winona.

Its turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but theres no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the detail around the front porch.

It's turned sideways on the lot, which made the initial identification a little challenging, but there's no doubt that this is a Pasadena. Look at the architectural details around the front porch. This house is on 49th Street in Norfolk.

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Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

Close-up of the porch on this sideways Pasadena.

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The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof.

The Aladdin Winthrop is easy to identify with those four bricks columns on the porch, only two of which have wooden columns extending to the porch roof. Another interesting feature is the window in the side of the dining room bay.

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This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. Its in the 3000-block of Tidewater Drive.

This Aladdin Winthrop is even the same colors as its original catalog image. It's in Lafayette Winona, and it's in beautifully original condition!

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The Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The "Sheffield" as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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This one is in Lafayette-Winona.

This one is in Lafayette-Winona, and it's a perfect match!

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The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Pomona, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona.

The Aladdin Pomona in Lafayette-Winona. The windows have been changed but it's undoubtedly a Pomona. And it's in a neighborhood with several Aladdins!

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The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

The Plaza was a grand house, and spacious too.

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And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

And here is my #1 favorite kit house in all of Hampton Roads: The Aladdin Plaza, in beautifully original condition.

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Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa.

Gordon Van Tine was another mail-order kit home company that was based in Davenport, Iowa. This design ("The Roberts") was one of their most popular houses.

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This Roberts is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

This "Roberts" is in Ocean View and is beautiful condition!

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The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

The Glenn Falls was one of Sears biggest and best kit homes (1928 catalog).

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And this one is in West Ghent!

And this one is in West Ghent!

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The Sears Avondale was a popular house.

The Sears Avondale was a popular house (1919 catalog), and spacious, too.

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And this one is on Victorian Avenue. Its well-hidden by the trees, but theres no doubt that its a Sears Avondale.

And this one is on Victoria Avenue. It's well-hidden by the trees, but there's no doubt that it's a Sears Avondale. This is a mirror image of the catalog page above. Notice the large bay window? It's on the "flip side" of the catalog picture.

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The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

The Sears Vallonia was one of Sears best-selling homes (1925 catalog).

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Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), its been converted into a duplex, but its definitely a Vallonia.

Located in Ocean View (on Mason Avenue), it's been converted into a duplex, but it's definitely a Sears Vallonia, with an enlarged dormer.

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Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And a Sears Westly on Tennesee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of these houses are post-1940s.

And a Sears Westly on Tennessee Road. This was a real surprise, because most of the houses on this street are post-1940s.

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And heres a Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

And another Sears Westly (now a duplex, sadly) in Ocean View.

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The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

The Sears Barrington was a popular house (1929 catalog).

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This Barrington is in Ocean View, and its a good match to the catalog picture.

This Barrington is in Ocean View, and it's a good match to the catalog picture.

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The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor.

The Sears Americus is also easy to identify, because that bumped-out wall on the second floor does not exist on the first floor. The porch roof also catches my eye, because it juts out beyond the home's main wall, and is shaped like a sideways "V."

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This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes.

This Americus is in Park Place is in the 600-block of 27th Street. Park Place has several kit homes. There's a special place in hell for the guy who did this siding job. Look what he did to the eave brackets. Plus, like so many other Sears Homes in Norfolk, it's been turned into a duplex.

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There is not one, but two Aladdin Venuses (or woult that be Venii?) in Park Place.

There are two Aladdin "Venuses" (or would that be "Venii"?) in Park Place.

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This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. Its on 38th.

This Aladdin Venus still has its original casement windows. It's on 38th Street.

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And this Aladdin Venus is on 36th Street.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. There was a Mama Bear-sized Venus and a Papa Bear-sized Venus. This one (on 36th street) is the larger model. The one on 38th Street (shown above) was the smaller model.

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Norfolk is also home to many plan book houses. Plan books were akin to kit homes, but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally.  This house shown here is a Homebuilders Carrville.

Norfolk is also home to many "plan book" houses. Plan books were akin to "kit homes," but with plan book homes, you ordered the blueprints and a list of building materials that would be needed. The actual building materials were then obtained locally. This house shown here is a "Homebuilder's Carrville."

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And heres a pristine example in Ocean View.

And here's a pristine example in Ocean View. The Ocean View home has straight gables, unlike the catalog image, which has the clipped gables. That minor alteration would have been easy to do.

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Putting these photos together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Looking for kit homes is always fun, but after a few hours, both Teddy and I come back home dog tired.

Putting this blog together took about 50 hours of work (spread out over a period of months). Finding these early 20th Century kit homes is always fun, but also a bit tiring. After a few hours of "house hunting," Teddy and I usually return home "dog tired."

As mentioned, there are more than 80 kit homes in Norfolk. The above are just a few of them.

Please share this link with friends!

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

To see pictures of kit homes in Colonial Place, click here.

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A Not-So-Nobby Neighborhood in Newport News With Numerous Kit Homes!

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

It’s called, “East End,” and it’s a badly blighted, crime-ridden part of the otherwise lovely, history laden city of Newport News (Virginia). Despite the fact that I’m a native of Tidewater, I never knew this neighborhood existed, until I stumbled upon it while looking for a particular house in Hampton!

After my fortuitous stumble into East End, I discovered a Sears kit home I had never seen before. After 12 years of playing with kit homes, that doesn’t happen too often these days. And yet here it was, in Newport News, which is next door to Norfolk (where I live). To learn more about these early 20th Century kit homes, click here.

The next day I returned to East End to get a better photo of this Sears House, and I found several more kit homes. I returned a couple days later and spent 90 minutes driving to and fro in this neighborhood. It’s my hope and prayer that this research might encourage the important people in Newport News to think about what can be done to preserve and protect this truly remarkable collection of kit homes.

As I told my husband, this is the type of discovery I’d expect to make in a Chicago suburb (where there’s an abundance of kit homes). Here in Virginia, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And due to the straitened economic circumstances of this neighborhood, some of these houses are in largely original condition. (In addition to the Sears kit homes, I also found several houses from Aladdin, which also sold entire kit houses through mail order. In fact, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears!)

The research and writing of this blog consumed many, many hours of my life. Please share this link with others, who may have any interest in our cultural and architectural history.

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes I found in Hampton, click here.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. Its a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one Ive seen in person.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. It's a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one I've ever seen "in the flesh."

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Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this homes original builder to leave this wonderful home. More than 50% of the time, these homes were built by average men and women who were just trying to capture a piece of the American Dream.

Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this home's original builder to leave this home that he'd built - with his own hands - for his family. These homes were built to last for GENERATIONS, and they were made with superior quality building materials. This house is on Marshall Avenue.

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

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Here it is, in PRISTINE condition. Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

Here it is, in PRISTINE condition, and sitting unobtrusively on Hampton Avenue (in Newport News). Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me!

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me! This image (shown here) is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog. This is a classic Arts & Crafts design, and a beautiful house.

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A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. Made me gasp out loud, followed by paroxsyms of great joy.

A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. When I happened upon this house, I made a high-pitched happy noise, followed by paroxysms of great joy. But this poor old Aladdin Brentwood is in rough shape, and needs quite a bit of work. The balcony's railing (upper left of photo) is literally falling off the house. This house is across the street from the Pearl Bailey Public Library.

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

Side by side comparison to the two houses. Pretty sweet house!

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog. The L-shaped front porch is a distinctive feature on the Aladdin Venus.

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And here it is.

What is it about this color and Aladdin Homes in East End?

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Another very nice match.

Another very nice match. As a side note, photographing this house was very difficult, as it was on the right side of the road on a one-way street (26th Street), and I wasn't prepared to park the car, and hoof it to the house just to get a good shot.

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

And here's a Sears Westly in good condition on 23rd Street.

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Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

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The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

Ouch. At least the satellite dish is dressed up for the holidays.

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

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I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but Im not convinced.

I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but I'm not convinced. There are a lot of things that are "just right" and match the Pelham very nicely. Notice the squared bay with a shed roof, and the four round columns on the front porch. It's a good match to the Pelham, but not perfect. Hard to see here, but in "person" you can tell that four windows in that gabled dormer were removed and sided over. And check out the action on the back roof. This classic bungalow is becoming an A-Frame. Icky.

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If you look closely at these windows, you can seem that a few have been blanked out and covered up.

If you look closely at this dormer, you can see that a few windows have been removed and covered up.

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From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

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This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right.

This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right. This house has so many odd architectural details (the pedimented porch, the two different-size dormers on the side, the bay under the larger dormer), but it's not 100% perfect.

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At the end of the day, Teddy and I were tired, and ready to come home.

At the end of the day, Teddy The Amazing House Hunting Dog was tired, and ready to move on to the next adventure - LUNCH! We'd both had an exciting day with lots of fun discoveries, but we were glad to come home and chow down on some tasty kibble.

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I’m confident that there are many more kit homes in this small part of Newport News, and I hope to return one day (with a driver), and do a little more searching. It’s hard to focus on houses when there are so many people milling about in the street.  :(  Plus, while I was in this area, I saw TWO drivers blow past stop signs, without even pausing to glance at traffic. Scary. And then sometime last night, some poor soul was shot repeatedly in this very area.

Please leave a comment below, and please share this link with friends, via Facebook, twitter or even plain old email!

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

To read about kit homes in nearby Hampton, click here.

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Lost in Schenectady!

January 16th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In 2004, Dale Wolicki invited me and Rebecca to visit him in Michigan. One of our stops was Bay City, where we saw all manner of Aladdin kit homes, including “The Oxford.” Our wonderful tour guide (Dale), told us that the photograph of the Oxford model (shown in the 1931 catalog) was the very same Oxford that had been built in Bay City. It was the “original model,” and the only Oxford in Bay City.

Sears was the most-well known of the kit home companies, but Aladdin was bigger.  Aladdin was the first kit home company, starting business in 1906. Sears started two years later, in 1908. Aladdin outlasted all the others, remaining in business until 1981. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Aladdin sold more than 75,000.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

I’ve only seen two Oxfords in my travels. The first was in Bay City, MI and the second was in Lorain, Ohio. And apparently, there’s a third one in Schenectady, NY (according to the testimony below).

Sch

The flared front gable makes this house very distinctive. Image is from the 1931 catalog.

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And theres one

And there's one in Schenectady, NY, built by Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Newell.

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Heres the house we saw that day with Dale. Its in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1932 catalog above.

Here's the house we saw that day with Dale. It's in Bay City, and is the same house shown in the 1931 catalog above. This photo was taken in 2004. Must have been July, because there's no snow on the ground.

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Flo

I love this floorplan. Notice the "Radio Room" on the first floor! This was a room dedicated to that most important appliance - the radio! Today, we build entertainment centers bigger than this!

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Secon

The largest bedroom is a mere 12 by 13. Not very big!

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The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford.

The 1931 catalog had a two-page spread on the Oxford, and yet the captions mention that some of these images are NOT pictures of the Oxford.

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My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views.

My favorite feature in this little 1931 catalog are the interior views. The caption states that two small bedrooms were turned into one large bedroom.

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Living

Nice big living room. Love the furniture.

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Kit

But this classic 1931 kithcen is the best room in the house.

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And it has a breakfast nook.

And it has a breakfast nook. I have a thing for breakfast nooks. Again, this is apparently NOT the Oxford's kitchen because there's no provision for a breakfast nook in the floorplan.

Click here to read more about breakfast nooks.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

The cover of the 1931 Aladdin catalog is a study unto itself.

To read more about the cover of this Aladdin catalog, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Married By Commerce; Divorced By The Interstate

January 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, the Sears Mill at Cairo, Illinois was an impressive operation, covering 40 acres and employing about 80 full-time workers. About 20 acres were “under roof.” In other words, the site had 20 acres of buildings.

That’s a lot of buildings.

Each day, the railroad cars brought enormous quantities of yellow pine and cypress into the mill, right out of the virgin forests in Louisiana and Mississippi. The 80 employees turned those logs into 10-12 kit homes per day, and each pre-cut home had 12,000 pieces of lumber. That’s a lot of lumber and a lot of work.

The mill (actually in a tiny town just outside of Cairo) was in Urbandale, Illinois. It was located on “Sears and Roebuck Road.” When the interstate came through in the 1970s, it cut a wide swath right through Sears and Roebuck Road, creating two stretches of dead end street on either side of I-57.

On one side, it’s now known as Sears Road. On the other, it’s Roebuck Road.

And on Roebuck Road, there’s another bonus: The Sears Wexford.

A Sears House on Roebuck Road. Or maybe it’s a Roebuck house on Roebuck Road?

Either way, Garmin apparently never got the memo that Sears Roebuck Road had been sliced into two pieces.

And to hear the song that inspired blog’s title, click here:  Married By The Bible, Divorced By The Law.

Special thanks to long-time Cairo resident Richard Kearney, who gave up a day of his life to be my tour guide throughout this area.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

Garmin never got the memo about the divorce of Sears and Roebuck Road.

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Sears

Sears Road is right off of State Highway 37 in Urbandale, IL.

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And Roebuck Road is on the other side, accessible by Seven Mile Road. Note the little Sears Wexford, waving merrily from the background!

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Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the Bridgeford) on Roebuck Road.

Close up of the Sears Wexford (also known as the "Bridgeford) on "Roebuck Road."

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Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

Original catalog image of the Sears (and Roebuck) Wexford (from the 1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog). The house in Urbandale is a spot-on match!

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Comparison of the two houses.

Comparison of the two images.

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This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, annoucing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

This item appeared in the February 1912 issue of American Carpenter and Builder, announcing the opening of the new mill at Cairo.

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Close up of the text.

Close up of the text.

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The only thing that remains at the site of the old Sears Mill are these two Rodessas, built about 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

The only remnant of the old 40-acre Sears Mill in Cairo/Urbandale are these two Rodessas, built in 1918, to demonstrate the superiority of Sears pre-cut homes. One house was built using traditional methods (stick built, with all pieces cut by hand), and the other Rodessa was a pre-cut Sears Home.

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The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Rodessa, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Warning: Graphic Imagines (Sears Verona)

January 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The photos below are not for the weak-kneed. And if you have a special affinity for Sears Houses, well, please look to the right of the screen and click on something else. Fast.

Still with me?

The Sears Verona was a big fancy Colonial and and in my travels, I haven’t seen too many of them. The Verona had about 2,000 square feet and featured many spacious rooms and fine accoutrements, such as coffered ceilings, a breakfast nook, a butler’s pantry, grand entry hall, large sunporch and a living room that was 375 square feet, or about half the size of many of Sears best-selling bungalows. This was one of their best homes.

To read about the large collection of Sears Homes in Northern Illinois, click here.

To read about my great Aunt’s exhumation in Lake Mills, click here.

Verona too 1921

Not a bad price for 2000 square feet!

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Close-up of the Living Room shown in the 1921 catalog.

Close-up of the Living Room shown in the 1921 catalog.

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Interiors

The dining room shown above looks a little spartan (1921 catalog).

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Sears Modern Homes were sold from 1908-1940

The Verona was featured on the cover of the Sears Modern Homes catalog in 1923.

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And it was a happy home

And it was such a happy home!

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And this is actually a testimonial for the house shown below.

And there's a Verona in Cleveland, too!

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Verona

Even the flower boxes still remain on this beautiful Verona in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Veroan

One of my favorite finds of all time: This perfect Verona in Norwood, Ohio. The photo was taken in 2003.

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Verona floor

The Verona was an incredibly spacious home.

And here’s where it gets ugly. And graphic. There was a Sears Verona built at Grayslake sometime in the early 1920s. Grayslake was the site of Richard Warren Sears summer estate. In 1906, the Chicago architecture firm of Nimmons and Fellows was commissioned to build a home for Mr. Sears. From what I can glean, this Verona was built on the estate in the early 1920s, to serve as a caretaker’s home.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, Bob Brown (of Chicago) contacted me and shared an amazing story, shown below.

The long driveway leading into the estate was “Sears Boulevard.” This Verona was the home of John and Ruth Mogg, and they were the caretakers of the Sears Estate.

The Moggs took care of the property, which included the large horse stables, the grounds, and the boats on the docks of Gages Lake. The Country Squire Restaurant was located on the southwest corner of the property and recently closed. Mrs. Mogg passed away sometime in the 70s but was very active with the Grayslake Historical Society. John Mogg was a volunteer fireman with Grayslake.

From 1975 - 1984, I was a member of the Grayslake Fire Department. In the summer of 1980, this Verona was offered for sale. The price was $1.00, but the buyer had to move the house. No one came forward.

Rosemary, this old house was in great shape. It was used for the Jaycees Haunted House in October 1980, and then, I’m sorry to say, we used it for practice fires for our fire department. If I’d known then what I know now, we would have found a way to save it.

Many thanks to Bob Brown for providing this history on the property and also for the amazing photos below (from 1980).

Bob Brown Wildfire

Sadly, this grand old Verona, located on Richard Sears summer estate, was burned down in 1980. The property owners attempted to sell the house for $1, but there were no takers. (Photos are copyright 1980, Bob Brown and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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fire

Poor Verona. Poor old house. (Photos are copyright 1980, Bob Brown and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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burning

There are no words. It's a sad, sad sight. (Photos are copyright 1980, Bob Brown and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To hear Elvis Presley sing “Burning Love” click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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The “Boom Towns” of Dupont - (Second Update)

January 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Since I moved to Norfolk in September 2006, the 16 identical bungalows on Ethel Avenue have been whispering my name, and imploring me to come close, and learn more about their unique origins. Problem was, I could never quite make out what they were saying.

For years, I pored through my vintage catalogs from Sears, Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling Homes and even Pacific Ready Cut Homes, hoping to identify them as kit homes from a mail-order company.

I never could find a matching design.

Someone in town said the houses were built for the Jamestown Exposition (1907) and moved from that site to their resting place in Riverview (Norfolk). That didn’t ring true, because these little bungalows were more typical of the early 1910s.

And then we learned that DuPont had a munitions plant in Penniman, Virginia (about 30 minutes from Norfolk), and that the houses might have come from Penniman. And then I started doing research on Hopewell, Virginia and learned that Hopewell has also been the site of a DuPont munitions factory. So Mark Hardin (Hopewell resident and fellow researcher) and I drove around Hopewell, trying to find our “Ethels” (as they came to be known).

There have been many interesting discoveries along the way. To read a full history of our* project, click here.

In short, DuPont had at least twelve designs of houses that were built for their workers in factory towns such as Dupont, Washington, Louviers, Colorado, Ramsay, Montana, Old Hickory, Tennessee, and Hopewell and Penniman Virginia.

In the 1910s and 1920s, it was widely believed that providing housing for employees created a more stable work force. In the case of DuPont, their plants manufactured things that went BOOM, such as dynamite and gun powder and gun cotton. DuPont built their factories outside of population centers, due to the constant threat of explosion. (In November 1915, 31 men died in a horrific explosion at the DuPont plant in New Jersey when a horse’s shoe created a metal spark, igniting several thousand pounds of black powder.)

After The Great War was over (November 11, 1918), some of these factories - such as the one in Penniman - were no longer needed. An unknown number of houses at Penniman were put onto a barge and floated down the York River and Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River and then to the Lafayette River to Norfolk, Virginia. According to an article in the Richmond News Leader (1938), more than 50 houses came to Norfolk.

And then on January 9, 2012, Robert Hitchings (Head, Sargeant Memorial Room, Norfolk Public Library) sent me a photo of these houses coming to Norfolk via barge (see below).

And if anyone knows where I might find more of these “Dupont Designs” in Norfolk, please leave a comment below!

To read the first blog on this topic, click here.

*David Spriggs and Mark Hardin have done most of the research on this subject. On this project, I’ve been the blog writer and photo taker! :)

Houses

Photo from 1921 Virginian Pilot shows the houses being transported by barge down the Lafayette River. These are the houses that now sit on Major and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. There are two Dupont Designs shown here. The house on the left is the Dupont "Haskell," and the house on the right is the "Cumberland."

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These houses came down the York River, from Penniman, Virgina and more than 50 of these houses ended up in Norfolk.

Awesome photo, showing the Haskell and the Cumberland models floating down the river.

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What the article doesnt say, is that msot of these houses ended up on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk.

This appeared in the Virginian Pilot on December 5, 1921.

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On June 22, 1938, an article appeared in the Richmond News Leader.

On June 22, 1938, an article appeared in the Richmond News Leader. This was the caption that accompanied the photos of Penniman. We're hoping to find those photos!

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H

On the left is a vintage picture of a Dupont Design (The Haskell) that was built in Old Hickory, TN. On the right is a house in Norfolk (on Major Avenue). We now know that most of the houses on Major and Glenroie Avenue came from Penniman (site of a Dupont Munitions Factory) and were floated by barge to this location. According to an article in the "Richmond News Leader" (June 1938) there are 51 of these "Dupont Homes" in Norfolk, in varying designs.

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Of all the Dupont houses on Major, this one retains most of its original features.

This Dupont "Haskell" still retains most of its original features. You can see the unique window arrangement on the Haskell design in this photo, with the left side of the brown house and the left side of the white house next door (which is also a Haskell).

The Haskell was probably the most popular Dupont design.

The Haskell was probably the most popular Dupont design.

And some have gabled roofs, but theyre all Dupont houses.

Much of Glenroie Avenue has these Dupont Haskells, shipped from Penniman.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant in Tennessee) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

The DuPont Georgia was apparently a popular design in both Penniman and Old Hickory.

The DuPont "Georgia" was apparently a popular design in both Penniman and Old Hickory.

Dutchie

There are nine of these "Georgia" (Dupont' designs) on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. These Norfolk houses are a perfect match to the houses in Old Hickory, TN.

OOO

Another "Georgia" on Major Avenue.

The Cumberland is the house shown in the barge photo (newspaper article) above.

The Cumberland is the house shown in the barge photo (newspaper article) above.

And heres the real life example.

And here's one of two Cumberlands on Major Avenue. It is a perfect match to the Dupont Cumberland found in Old Hickory, TN.

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Riverview. Note the unusual attic window.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Norfolk. Note the tall thin attic window which is a perfect match to the Old Hickory house above. There are other architectural features which lead us to believe that this is also a "Dupont Design." This house was floated by barge to its location here in Norfolk. This is a big house to move!

Close-up of the attic window.

Close-up of the attic window found on all the two-story Dupont designs.

I spent many hours of my life, poring through old mail order catalogs, trying to identify these bungalows as kit homes.

And it all started with these houses on Ethel Avenue (which are also DuPont designs).

And there are dozens of Ethels in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant.

And there are dozens of "Ethels" in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant. This Ethel is in Dupont, Washington (and shares the neighborhood with 100 identical twins).

Theyre 3,000 miles away, but their identical to our Ethels in Norfolk.

They're 3,000 miles away, but these houses in Dupont, Washington are identical to our "Ethels" in Norfolk on Riverview.

While we call them Ethels, they were actually given a name - The DuPont.

While we call them "Ethels," they were actually given a name - "The DuPont Model."

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window on these "Ethels" in Riverview (Norfolk) is a pretty distinctive feature. And it's a spot-on match to the Ethels (er, Duponts) in Dupont, Washington.

Dupont

Pretty interesting that they called this "Red Cross Dynamite."

The picture above was from a DuPont pamphlet, but there was an employee newsletter called, “The Projectile,” which featured a story on the building of these houses. Finding that would also be an incredible bonus!

We’re still hoping to find more “Ethels” (and Haskells and Cumberlands and Georgias) in Norfolk and other parts of Hampton Roads. If you know the location of any more of these “DuPont Designs,” please leave a comment below!

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 Sears Homes, click here.

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“The Lewis San Fernando Looks Its Prettiest When Seen Through a Garden Gate…”

January 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

So reads the text in the 1920 Lewis Manufacturing catalog (shown below).

Lewis Manufacturing (based in Bay City), was one of the six national companies that sold kit homes through mail order catalogs. The San Fernando was one of their most popular homes. The houses of Lewis Manufacturing are typically found in the Midwest and in New England. Lewis had a sales office in Syracuse, NY so I’m certain there are many of these Lewis Homes in and around the Syracuse area.

Lewis Homes

Cover of the 1920 Lewis Homes catalog.

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The Lewis San Fernando was one of their most popular designs.

The Lewis San Fernando was one of their most popular designs.

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Nice floor plan, too.

Nice floor plan, too.

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This photo was taken in 2003. Hopefully this house has been repainted, because the purple really does not do it justice. Thats my dear friend Dale Wolicki in the front yard.

This photo was taken in 2003. Hopefully this house has been repainted, because the purple really does not do it justice. That's my dear friend Dale Wolicki in the front yard.

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My buddy

My buddy Dale and I love reading and learning (and writing!) about these old houses! Dale even managed to put himself into a 1920 Lewis Homes catalog!

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Ooh, and heres the info on the Lewis Office in Syracuse!

Ooh, and here's the info on the Lewis Office in Syracuse! This faded text appeared on the front page of this 1920 Lewis Homes catalog, which happens to have been a gift from Dale in 2003.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about Addie Hoyt, click here.

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