Home > Uncategorized > Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

In my prior blog, I mentioned that HGTV’s House Hunters featured a “kit house” that was in Nashville. A Facebook friend and fellow Sears House lover shared some additional information on the program, enabling me to figure out what exactly HGVT was talking about.

Let me start off with this:  It was not a kit house. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the motto of too many of these remodeling shows is, “Why let details get in the way of a good story?”

In fact, the house shown on House Hunters is located in Old Hickory, near Nashville, TN, which happens to be the site of a World War One munitions plant built by DuPont. You can learn more about Old Hickory here.

When America became involved in The Great War in April 1917, there was an urgent need for more munitions for the “boys overseas.” DuPont responded to this by building or modifying several plants around the country to make munitions. Old Hickory was built from scratch and was a phenomenal logistical effort, in every way imaginable. To learn more about this, you can read my book, which has much informtion on the build-up at Old Hickory.

Penniman, Virginia was also the site of a DuPont-built World War One munitions plant, and the houses at Penniman were the same models as the houses built within the Old Hickory community. These houses were the work product of DuPont. The lumber came from a variety of sources, but the designs were created by DuPont Engineering, and these models can now be found in many World War One company towns, such as DuPont, Washington; Ramsey, Montana; Hopewell, Virginia; Carney’s Point, New Jersey; Old Hickory, Tennessee; Sandston, Virginia; and Penniman.

Penniman was a city of 15,000 people that was born in 1916 and was gone by 1921, and the 200+ houses within Penniman were moved to other sites, including Norfolk and Williamsburg. In fact, I’ve written a book about this amazing place, located less than seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg.

The city that DuPont built at Old Hickory fared better. It still exists, and many of the 600+ houses that were built by DuPont are still in their same spot. These houses from DuPont were not kits, but they were based on plans that DuPont used at several other World War One munition plants around the country.

The house featured on House Hunters was known as The Florence, and was a darling cottage with many windows and something few of these plant houses had: A real masonry fireplace (see pictures below).

To summarize, the house featured on HGTV as “a kit house” was not a kit house. It was one of many houses designed by DuPont Engineering and built at several munition plants around the country.

If HGTV wants to be considered a credible source of information, they need to spend five or six minutes on Google chasing down some of these stories.

If not, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read the prior blog about this program, click here.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey, Robin Hurowitz, and Rachel Shoemaker for contributing to this blog!

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Old Nashville

Thanks to Robin Hurowitz for supplying a few screen shots of the show on HGTV. I'm not going to show the other shots from this episode because it's too depressing for words.

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House

My #1 partner in crime, Rachel Shoemaker, found the original listing of this house on Zillow, which provides some wonderful details not otherwise available. The name of this model was The Florence.

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ff

There are several "Florences" within Old Hickory. Prior to the convergence of the construction crew, the house was in delightfully original condition. I'm not sure what all happened inside the house. Don't want to know.

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ff

The colors, the many tall windows, the size (just under 800 square feet) all make this the perfect house for a young couple. When built, there was a small transom spanning that front door, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Florence.

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Cute front

And there's that masonry fireplace, sitting at an angle in the living room.

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HOUSE

These framing and flooring of these homes is probably Southern Yellow Pine, probably harvested from Mississippi (but that's a guess, based on what I know about the houses in Penniman). I do know that these are pine floors.

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Fireplace

Here's the floorplan for The Florence. The house in Old Hickory is "flipped" so that it's a mirror image of this house (shown above). When built, this house had several walls, which are now gone.

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The rear of the home shows that it was also a perfect match to this model.

The rear of the home is also largely original, and shows that it was also a perfect match to this Florence catalog image.

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Kitchen went bye

The kitchen was one of my favorite features of this house (as built). That right there is my dream kitchen. Absolutely, my dream. Oh, to find a house with that kitchen. It also went bye-bye in the remodel.

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catalog

The Florence, as shown in an old catalog showcasing the DuPont models.

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Florence

And here's a Florence with its original front door in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was originally located at Penniman, and moved after the war (along with 200+ houses). Williamsburg has a handful of Penniman houses.

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F

It's a beautiful house and in very good condition. I haven't had the heart to watch the entire episode, but I'm pretty confident that the home's exterior was undamaged by the "remodeling."

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NOT a kit Old Hick

The Florence is not a kit home, but it did come from DuPont.

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And amazingly it circles back to the story of Penniman

And amazingly, this whole thing circles back to the story of Penniman, a village outside of Williamsburg with more than 15,000 inhabitants at its peak (in late 1918). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Whisnant in front of Florence

The Whisnant family stands in front of a Florence on the streets of Penniman (1918). Image is courtesy of the Whisnant family, and is reproduced with their permission.

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HGVT really needs to do a little research before spreading this information. However, if they don’t, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

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  1. July 22nd, 2017 at 12:42 | #1

    A simple google search for “Upson Board” solved that mystery quickly. Not a kit home.

    I’m not sure why HGTV couldn’t figure that one out. Upson Board was a product and those weren’t kit home instructions. (eyeroll) My first thought when seeing the walls and nothing else yet was a panelized home.

    Which brings me to another point, I looked at every available listing I could find in that neighborhood when I figured out the address, and not one had Upson Board visible.

    Not saying it wasn’t used, just couldn’t see the obvious signs. And that same fireplace, I can’t count how many there were.

    If the HGTV show had said Old Hickory instead of Nashville that would have been a no brainer and saved an hour of time figuring this out. LOL

  2. Dale Wolicki
    July 22nd, 2017 at 13:20 | #2

    Now be nice. The “H” in HGTV does not stand for History so lets not set unrealistic expectations for historical accuracy. That’s why we have History Channel, oh wait …. ummmmm.

  3. July 22nd, 2017 at 13:54 | #3

    @Dale Wolicki
    Be nice, Bob’s watching.

  4. July 22nd, 2017 at 23:33 | #4

    Charming throughout, but I have a problem with the placement of the Kitchen door. Thanks for a great story.

  5. Debbie
    July 23rd, 2017 at 09:53 | #5

    Recently, I read about an interior design blogger, who says that she lives in a 1963 Sears kit home.

    I rolled my eyes. Yes, if people would do their research . . .

  6. Curious
    July 23rd, 2017 at 18:56 | #6

    I have a bet with my wife, and I hope you can settle the score…

    Did homeowners build their houses (or did most outsource the building)?

    My bet is that the homeowners built their own houses. I hope I am right, because I want to build my own house one day.

  7. Katie
    July 30th, 2017 at 18:02 | #7

    I think Elkins WV is a location with many, many Sears houses.

    I know you are familiar with this area, and I am wondering if you have found more homes here that you have not mentioned in your blog.

    I just stumbled across your site Friday, and I had no idea about Sears home until then. Great blog, great information!!

  8. July 31st, 2017 at 09:20 | #8

    I did a blog on Elkins, WV years ago. I did find several, but not a zillion.

    http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/2010/08/22/the-sears-homes-in-elkins-west-virginia/

  9. Janet Cronin
    August 1st, 2017 at 19:01 | #9

    Hi Rose,

    On the Houzz website you have a picture of a wooden storm door/screen door. I was wondering where you bought this door.

    I had one on my Westinghouse home years ago and got rid of it and now need to replace the storm door I have and would like to go back to the original look.

    Also, I was told the house across the street from me is a Sears home.

    Thanks you any help you can give.

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