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Archive for July, 2018

Penniman: A Fun and Fascinating Talk in Richmond on July 18th!

July 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

The fun starts at 5:30, but if you come early, you can meet the author (that’d be moi).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) is at the Library of Virginia (in Richmond), at 800 East Broad Street.

Free parking can be found underneath the library.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history. At its peak, more than 15,000 people occupied the village of Penniman.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

Please come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and moved to nearby communities. More than 60 ended up in Norfolk, Virginia. We're still missing more than 100 Penniman houses. Is there one in your neighborhood?

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Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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An Aladdin “Colonial” in Lynchburg!

July 11th, 2018 Sears Homes 9 comments

Years ago, I did a survey of kit homes in Lynchburg but apparently, I missed a couple.

Earlier this week, I was in Lynchburg for other reasons, and on my way to an appointment, I made a wrong turn and stumbled upon two beautiful Aladdin kit homes, literally across the street from each other.

The houses are on Brevard Street, and prior to yesterday’s “excursion,” I’d never been through that neighborhood.

While Sears Kit Homes are more well known, Aladdin was actually a bigger company. Sears started selling kit homes in 1908, but Aladdin began two years prior. Sears was out of it in 1940, but Aladdin remained in the kit-home business until 1981. As a newly married woman, I remember studying the pages of the 1978 Aladdin catalog, dreaming of building my own home with my handy husband.

These kits came by boxcar (usually) in 12,000-piece kits, and the instruction books were more than 70 pages long. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house completed within 90 days.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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1916

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Located on Brevard Street, this house has been through a lot of insensitive remodeling, but it's still standing. I don wonder who thought it'd be a good idea to remove the porches.

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And just on the other side of the street is this Aladdin Pomona (complete with a 1980s trash can in the front yard). The house is in wonderful condition, but I was heartsick to see that the original windows - with diamond muntins - were tossed out at some point. What a pity.

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The Pomona, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog. Those windows are what make the house.

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Here's an Aladdin Colonial in Kinston, NC.

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Roanoke

Roanoke Rapids, NC is filled with Aladdin Homes, from the simple to the grand. This Colonial retains that distinctive half-round front porch.

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Another view of the Aladdin Colonial.

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Learn more about Aladdin here.

Learn more about what I’ve survived here.

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Spotted in the Wilderness: A Perfect Elsmore

July 9th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

Whilst driving along State Route 501, between Lynchburg and Glasgow, I spotted this Elsmore in Big Island, Virginia. (And why was a town high atop a mountain named “Big Island”?)

Nonetheless, this Elsmore is a beauty, and it looks like it stepped right off the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Two years ago, I swore that I was done with Sears Houses, but these days, as my healing progresses, the special ones do catch my eye and warm my heart.

To read about another delightful Elsmore, click here.

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The Elsmore, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Elsmore, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note the colors of this pretty thing.

Note the colors of this pretty thing.

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What a beauty - and its a perfect match to the catalog image - down to the colors!

What a beauty - and it's a perfect match to the catalog image - down to the colors!

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This house sits on Lee-Jackson Highway in Big Island, Virginia. Capturing a photo of this beautiful old house was quite a thrill. This road has no shoulders; just deep ruts on either side that are fairly terrifying, and it's a major trucking route. I was unable to stop so I slowed down on this incredibly twisty road and snapped several photos out of the passenger window. Then I turned around and did the same thing out out of the driver's side. It was not something I'm going to do again. And for the record, Route 501 (Lee-Jackson Highway) is one of those roads where even the driver gets car sick. However...what a house!

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The image shown here

The image shown here is still zoomed in quite a bit. The house sits high on a knoll.

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Lynchburg and the surrounding areas are so very beautiful, but these mountain roads are a little intense for me right now.

Lynchburg and the surrounding areas are so very beautiful, but these mountain roads are a little intense for me right now. Pre-2016, there was nothing I'd love more than zipping along a canyon road in a snazzy red car. Now, I find myself getting fairly queasy - when *I* am driving! Maybe in a couple years, I'll be able to drive these mountain roads with relative ease.

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JJ

A beautiful house in a beautiful place, and it overlooks the James River.

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Route 501 runs beside the James River. While some folks may love these roads, theyre not fun these days for me, and getting a picture of a house on one of these roads - Oy vey!

Route 501 runs beside the James River. While some folks may love these roads, they're not fun these days for me, and getting a picture of a house on one of these roads - Oy vey!

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To read about another delightful Elsmore, click here.

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Multitudinous Blessings

July 5th, 2018 Sears Homes 12 comments

It’s amazing how something as pedestrian as an old-house website can turn out to be such a catalyst for multitudinous blessings.

Through this website (and its accompanying page on Facebook), I have met so many people. With few exceptions, old house people are the finest people around.

Two years ago, after the Bad Thing, I decided to shut down this website - as soon as I had the emotional wherewithal to do so. I put my Sears House ephemera in cardboard boxes and told my friend to give all of it to the local college library. I was done. I never wanted to see another Sears House again. Ever.

Fortunately, my friend didn’t listen to me, and stashed the boxes in a storage unit.

More than a year later, I asked him what became of all my catalogs. I couldn’t find them in my rental house, and I had no memory of telling him to dispose of the collection. He said, “You told me to get rid of them.”

With more than a little trepidation, I asked, “Did you?”

He said, “No, I kept them. They’re in storage.”

In short order, he retrieved them from a nearby storage unit, and my ephemera and I were re-united.

That’s something for which I’m also very grateful.

Rediscovering those almost lost catalogs stirred something in me, and gently pulled me back toward my first love: Old houses.

And through writing blogs on a host of topics (including grief and pain), I was surprised (and delighted) to find that I felt nurtured and buoyed by the kind words of long-time readers. I still re-read those supportive comments again and again and again.

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When visitors to this site leave comments, openly sharing their own stories of tragedy and loss, I feel so very comforted. I feel less alone in my tragedy and pain. I feel less alone in the world. It’s as though those people - people struggling under the heavy weight of their own pain and suffering - have opened up the circle around their heart and invited me in. It’s a sacred sharing, and I treasure every insight, every kind word, and every loving thought.

I will always remember how that made me feel, so thank you for that.

And if you’ve been a faithful reader of this blog but have never left a comment, I hope you’ll do so now. And if you’re one of my faithful commenters, I hope you’ll leave a comment today!

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Learn how to identify Sears Homes by clicking here.

Read about one of my favorite Sears Homes in Hampton Roads here.

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My blog passed a milestone recently with 2.5 million visitors.

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Yesterday, I celebrated my 59th birthday with a group of faithful, loving and supportive friends. It truly was one of the loveliest events in my lifetime. Despite having such a wonderful day, I suffered from horrible nightmares last night (July 5th). By 6:00 am this morning, I was dressed and on my bike, pedaling as fast as I could to stave off the anxiety. I'm happy to say that it worked. On the ride home, I saw this image and captured it with my fancy phone. This is less than one mile from my home in a suburban area in Suffolk.

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Learn how to identify Sears Homes by clicking here.

Read about one of my favorite Sears Homes in Hampton Roads here.

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Ten Things You Should Never Say to a “Suicide Widow” (or Any Trauma Survivor)

July 1st, 2018 Sears Homes 10 comments

This emotion-filled blog - which took about eight hours to write in July 2018 - has been removed.

My husband spread his misery far enough. I won’t promote it further.

I do recommend this book (shown below). It’s the best thing on this topic that I’ve found.

And if you do encounter someone lost in trauma, remember these three steps:

1) Show up. Be a presence.

2) Shut up. Be a quiet presence.

3) Don’t cheerlead. Just listen and don’t talk, except to say, “I love you, and I’m here with you.”

This is the best book I've seen on this topic.

This is the best book I've seen on this topic.

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Phenomenal book - I have read it cover to cover.

Phenomenal book - I have read it cover to cover.