“I Bet a Man a Hat Today…”

March 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

For four years, I’ve been researching Penniman, and still, the most wonderful surprises keep popping up.

Last week, fellow history buff Mike Powell discovered a wonderful article in the Peninsula Enterprise (Accomac, Virginia) about moving houses from Penniman to Norfolk. It was dated December 24, 1921.

Emboldened by this enchanting discovery, I dragged my buddy Milton Crum down to the Newport News Public Library to see if we could find anything more in the local papers about these houses being moved. At this point, all we’d seen was the blip in the Virginian Pilot (with photo) from December 5th, 1921 (see below).

Lo and behold, Milton discovered an indepth article in the Newport News Times-Herald (November 23, 1921), which included a lot of specific information on the mechanics of moving a house - by barge - in 1921.

The article, titled “Plan to Move 31 Houses to City From Yorktown,” said,

W. T. and Guy Hastings purchased 31 more residences built by the government…The purchase of the 31 houses is the result of the success met in moving five, which were bought from the government some weeks ago.

“I bet a man a hat today,” said Mr. Hastings, “that I could have all 36 houses at Norfolk within five months, and I belive that I am going to win the bet. The work of moving them down to the water has been carried on by five men but today, I sent ten more men up the river and we shall move faster now.”

The article goes on to say that they started with a tractor, and using wooden logs and cast-iron pipe, they moved the houses down to the waterfront. Later, they used a steam derrick and made better progress. From this account, I also learned that the houses were “scattered about at Penniman,” and the average distance from house to riverfront was about four blocks.

And it’s within this article that we learned that the government built 275 houses at Penniman.

The article found by Mike Powell in the Peninsula Enterprise offered some interesting insights, too.

W. T. Hastings of Norfolk has just moved eight houses across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, a distance of about 24 miles. During the war, the government built a war city at Penniman. All of these houses are of the very best material and are so well constructed that they could not be demolished without wrecking them beyond repair.

It goes on to say that Hastings had originally intended to disassemble the houses and rebuild them elsewhere.

[Hastings] found that the houses had been built on the cost-plus plan, and there were so many nails in them it would mean almost total destruction to tear them down.

My favorite piece of this article contains this little tidbit:

Several workmen crossed the bay on the first barge that brought the houses. They had an oil stove in one of the houses. They got hungry and decided to cook some bacon and eggs. They also heated some coffee. They enjoyed a meal cooked in one of the houses while it was being towed to Norfolk.

Today, almost 100 years later, I’ve found more than 60 of these houses in Norfolk, about two dozen in Williamsburg (most of which have been torn down) and that’s it. I know there are more, but finding them is proving quite difficult. The good news is, there’s one for sale right now in Williamsburg, and it’s a mere $900,000.

Inch by inch, I’m working on completing my manuscript on Penniman. It’s slow going, but there is some progress every day.

Join the fun! If you’ve found any amazing articles about Penniman, please drop me a note at Rosemary.ringer@gmail.com!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Penniman was a

Penniman was quite a place. At its peak, there were 15,000 people living and working within its borders. That's the York River in the background. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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House

Built as a shell-loading plant for WW1, Penniman was short lived. Three years after DuPont agents first started buying up farm land on the York River, it was all over and Penniman was sold off. More than 60 of the two-story houses built at Penniman ended up in Norfolk. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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At Penniman, workers filled 155mm and 75mm shells with TNT and Amatol.

At Penniman, workers filled 155mm and 75mm shells with TNT and Amatol. You'll notice that some of these buildings have two-story chutes leading to the ground. Alice Hamilton was a female physician and researcher who studied the problem of TNT poisoning in WW1 in America, and she wrote a book titled, "The Dangerous Trades." In that book she talks about touring a plant like Penniman and was told that she should keep alert to sparks from static electricity, and if she saw one, "Dash for that door and slide down and when you hit the ground, don't look behind you and keep right on running." Milton calls these, "Get the heck out doors." Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Penniman

The houses were built near the York River (at top of page). Our Ethels are by the water tower (far left). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Hse

Here's a close-up of The Haskell, which was built at Dupont Munitions Plants in Penniman, Hopewell (Virginia), Old Hickory, Tennessee, Carney's Point, New Jersey and more. Many Penniman Haskells ended up in Norfolk.

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In fact, Mr. W. T. Hastings moved into one of the houses that he shipped in from Penniman. This photo was taken about 1937.

In fact, Mr. W. T. Hastings moved into one of the houses that he shipped in from Penniman, and gifted several of the houses to family members. This photo was taken about 1937. He's missing his hat. I hope he didn't lose that bet.

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Three Haskells were moved to Ocean View, to 13th View Street in Norfolk.

Three Haskells were moved to Ocean View, to 13th View Street in Norfolk.

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Heres a glimpse of the three Haskells about 1969.

Here's a glimpse of the three Haskells about 1969 (Norfolk Tax Assessor's Office).

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Here are some of Mr. Hastings homes floating down the Chesapeake Bay. This is from the Virginian Pilot (December 5, 1921).

Here are Mr. Hastings' homes floating down the Chesapeake Bay. This is from the "Virginian Pilot" (December 5, 1921).

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According to these newspaper articles, the houses moved by Hastings were up to four blocks in from the York River.

According to these newspaper articles, the houses moved by Hastings were up to four blocks in from the York River. This map shows - in detail - the location of the residences in Penniman. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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One of the choicest tidbits in these articles is the story that the workers cooked a nice breakfast on the oil stove in the Penniman house. Why did the engineers/architects decide on oil cook stoves for their little houses? Without exception, every house that DuPont erected in a WW1 munitions plant had a centralized steam heating plant (for obvious reasons), but why an oil cook stove? Ive read that the oil cook stove was very efficient. Was this a way to make sure there were no embers flying out the chimney? Matches were prohibited on the reservation. If you were caught with matches on your body, you were given one warning. The second time, you were fired. Were oil stoves matchless?

One of the choicest tidbits in these articles is the story that the workers cooked a nice breakfast on the oil stove in the Penniman house. Why did the engineers/architects decide on oil cook stoves for their little houses? Without exception, every house that DuPont erected in a WW1 munitions plant had a centralized steam heating plant (for obvious reasons), but why an oil cook stove? I've read that the oil cook stove was very efficient. Was this a way to make sure there were no embers flying out the chimney? I wish I knew.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Mr. Jones, Where Are Your Lovely Photos?

February 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

In that process of rummaging through my notes on Penniman, I was reminded that I’d been looking for photos taken by Drewry Jones of Williamsburg. Despite lots of poking around, I never have been able to locate those photos (originals or reproductions), or anyone who has even heard of Mr. Jones’ collection of photos.

The photos appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch in an indepth article on Virginia’s Own Ghost City: Penniman (June 1938). The article featured a wide photo of Penniman’s village (with all those little houses).

Despite two trips to Hagley Museum and Library (in Wilmington, Delaware) and several billion trips to area museums and libraries, I’ve never seen anything like those photos. They were truly unique in that they captured a great view of Penniman’s residential village.

Augustus Drewery (sometimes spelled “Drewry”) danced off this mortal coil on April 8, 1977. His obituary was published in the Newport News Daily Press on April 10, 1977, and named two nephews as his lone survivors.

I’ve sent two letters to Mr. Jones’ only surviving nephew (”Dr. John M. Pitman” of Williamsburg) and haven’t heard a peep. That was 18 months ago.

The rest of Mr. Jones’ obit reads,

Augustus Drewery Jones of Williamsburg died Friday in a Williamsburg Community Hospital after a long illness.

A lifelong resident of Williamsburg, Mr. Jones was a graduate of the College of William and Mary. After a long career with the Peninsula Bank and Trust Company, he was appointed state treasurer of Williamsburg-James City County and retired from office in 1959.

He was past chairman of the board of deacons and ruling elder of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, a member of the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities, the Pulaski Club, Sons of American Revolution, Williamsburg Rotary Club, and a former member of the Williamsburg Rotary Club.

Mr. Jones loved Penniman. In fact, in the early 1920s, he had one of the old Penniman houses moved to a lot on South England Street, and he lived there until his death. In fact, that house is currently for sale! Click here to see pictures!

And he owned photo(s) of Penniman - that he shared with the Richmond Times Dispatch - which were taken from an angle that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

Drewry Jones was fairly well-connected, as an alumn of William and Mary College, a banker with the Peninsular Bank and Trust Company and state treasurer of James City County. Someone somewhere must know this fellow.

I’d be so grateful if anyone could help me find out what became of Mr. Jones’ collection of photos.

For the intrepid researchers here, below is a list of where I have already checked for these photos.

1)     Valentine Museum

2)     York County Museum

3)     William and Mary Swem Library

4)     Virginia Historical Society

5)     Preservation Virginia

6)     Colonial Williamsburg ’s “Rockefeller Library”

7)     York County Library

8)     Waterman’s Museum ( Yorktown )

9)     Virginia Department of Historic Resources

10)   Library of Virginia

11)   Newport News War Museum

12)  Richmond Times Dispatch

So where are Mr. Jones’ photos?

There are a handful of Penniman houses in Williamsburg. Click here to learn more.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

See the interior of Mr. Jones’ home by clicking here.

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PHotos

Here's a grainy reproduction of Mr. Jones' photo, as seen in the Richmond newspaper (June 2, 1938).

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Here's the original newspaper reference to "a print belongin gDrewry Jones of Williamsburg" (RTD, June 2, 1938).

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If you squnit your eyes a lot and look closely at this photo of Penniman (1918), you can see two of the DuPont "Georgias" in the photo. As one historian said, "Penniman was not erased, it was dispersed." Many of these houses were moved to nearby cities. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Georgia

Drewry's house was a DuPont design, The Georgia."

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House

Drewery loved Penniman. He purchased this house from DuPont's 37th munitions plant on the York River, and had it moved to Williamsburg. Drewery lived in this house on South England for many years.

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Drewr

After Mark Hardin first spotted this house, we traveled out to Williamsburg to see it "in the flesh." It's had some pretty substantial additions added onto it in the intervening 90 years.

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Heres a Georgia that started life at Penniman, and landed (with 64 other Penniman houses) in Norfolk, Virginia. The houses were shipped by barge from Penniman to the Riverfront neighborhood in Norfolk (Glenroie Avenue and Major Avenue).

Here's a Georgia that started life at Penniman, and landed (with 64 other Penniman houses) in Norfolk, Virginia. The houses were shipped by barge from Penniman to the Riverfront neighborhood in Norfolk (Glenroie Avenue and Major Avenue). Notice the windows flanking the front door.

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The Georgia was designed by DuPonts architects, and was *probably* built with building materials from North American Construction Company (also known as Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes). The houses were built by Hancock-Pettijohn. Shown below is a chit found at the old Penniman site, maybe used for checking tools out of the tool shed.

The Georgia was designed by DuPont's architects, and was *probably* built with building materials from North American Construction Company (also known as Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes). The houses were built by Hancock-Pettijohn. Shown below is a chit found at the old Penniman site, maybe used for checking tools out of the tool shed.

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The only other tidbit I have is that on March 17, 1918, this item appeared in the Virginia Gazette.

The only other tidbit I have is that on March 17, 1918, this item appeared in the Virginia Gazette. Seems Mr. Jones resigned from C&P (as manager) on March 1, 1918.

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And on January 15, 1926

And as of January 15, 1926, Mrs. Drewry Jones was chair of The Little Theater League.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Hiatus

February 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 12 comments

In early January, someone I dearly love entered the hospital, due to a cataract of age-related problems. Doris was almost 89 years old. In a few days, she was discharged to a long-term care facility. After a few days there, a medical emergency arose.

On February 1, 2015, we made the difficult decision to stop aggressive (and painful) medical treatment, and allow Doris to pass on in peace.

These decisions were in accord with Doris’ wishes, expressed clearly on the day this decision had to be made, and in years prior. Doris also had made these wishes legally known in her Advance Medical Directive, all of which the long-term facility tried to ignore and circumvent, openly and surreptitiously.

As my dear friend Lisa said, “This is a woman who lived her whole life with dignity. She should be allowed to die with some dignity.”

Thus began a harrowing few days, and the nursing staff in the long-term facility made our life a living hell, for “allowing Doris to die.” (BTW, this is a well-known, popular facility in Norfolk, Virginia. Email me for more information.)

When hospice arrived, they were our heroes. The chaplain told me and Lisa, “I wish we had more families like you. Too many people say, ‘Do whatever you have to do, but don’t let her die!’ and the loved one ends up in a nursing home, curled up in a fetal position, unaware that they’re even in this world.”

Sunday night, February 1st, Doris asked both me and Lisa to stay with her, and we did. She was clear that it was the right choice, but she was also dealing with some fear. We were melting, but we tried to be brave for her. Lisa and I stayed with her ’round the clock, snatching bits of sleep here and there.

Our beloved Doris passed on February 5th at 5:18 am.

In addition to the non-stop stress and angst purposefully inflicted on us by this facility, we also had the emotional stress of dealing with the passing of a loved one.

For these reasons and more, I’m going to take a break from Facebook, Sears Homes, writing blogs and more. There are more than 900 blogs on this site and thousands of photos. Enjoy them. Learn from them. Share what you’ve learned.

And if you’re so inclined, send a few prayers my way. Lisa and I would be grateful.

Rosemary Thornton

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I met Doris when I was born in 1959, but admittedly, she remembers our first meeting better than I do. She was my mothers nearest and dearest friend. Mother used to tell me, I only need one friend, because shes such a good friend. That was Doris.

I met Doris when I was born in 1959, but admittedly, she remembers our first meeting better than I do. She was my mother's nearest and dearest friend. Mother used to tell me, "I only need one friend, because she's such a good friend." That was Doris. Pictured here is Betty Fuller (far left), Doris (center) and June (right) in 1961, when they took a cruise to Bermuda. June - Doris' lifelong companion - passed in June 2009. When Mother passed in January 2002, Doris and I became even closer. My first book was dedicated to Mom, but she died before it was published. I gave the very first copy (intended for Mom) to Doris. I loved her dearly and I miss her sorely. I take comfort in knowing that the gang is together again, laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying each other's company.

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Strathmore + Willard = Strathard?

January 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, Im a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable.

The Strathmore has always been one of my favorite models of Sears Homes. Then again, I'm a real sap for Tudoresque designs, and these Sears Tudors are utterly adorable (1936 catalog). Seems like a very practical house, too.

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The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor thats also a darling little house.

The Willard is another Sears neo-tudor that's also a darling little house.

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It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. Ive found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama!

It must have been a big seller for Sears, too. I've found Willards throughout the country, including unusual spots like Norfolk, Virginia and Tallahassee, Alabama! And the Willard was featured in this advertisement, promoting the low cost of owning a Sears House.

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Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldnt decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

Apparently, sometime ago in Norwood Ohio, someone couldn't decide between the Willard and the Strathmore.

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So they built this.

So they built this. It's a Sears Willard, with the Strathmore foyer. Pretty cute, isn't it?

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Nice match!

Nice match - at least on the front porch!

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If you know the precise address of this house, please send it along. It’s in Norwood, Ohio and the street number is 2215 (visible in the photos above). All I need now is the street’s name!

Update! Dale Haynes (from our Sears House Facebook group) discovered the street address! This house is on Glenside in Norwood, Ohio! Yay for Dale!!!  :)

Want to learn more about why Norwood is so important to the story of Sears Homes? Click here.

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Teddy The Dog Needs Advice

January 27th, 2015 Sears Homes 11 comments

Frequent visitors to this page will know that Teddy the Dog is a prominent and important part of my life. Yesterday, we returned from another visit to the vet and learned that Teddy is (again) suffering from some type of allergic dermatitis. This time, it’s in her ears.

More medication has been prescribed, but I’m starting to think this is food related. For the last three years, she’s been on Purina One Dog Food. I was suitably impressed that “chicken” was its first ingredient, but I’ve since learned that meat as a first ingredient is not really enough to assure that it’s a quality product.

In fact, this website states that Purina One is a sub-standard product.

I’m posting this here to ask if anyone can recommend a kibble that is ideal for dogs with a tendency toward allergy-based dermatitis.

Teddy and I thank you!

To read more about Teddy, click here.

Interested in reading about identifying kit homes? Click here.

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Doesnt *every* dog have a monogrammed bed from Orvis? :)

Doesn't *every* dog have a monogrammed bed from Orvis? :)

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Teddy has a friend spend the night.

Teddy has a friend ("Roxey") spend the night.

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Teddy was a beautiful baby.

Teddy, at eight weeks. She's being held by my beautiful daughter, Corey.

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The dog days of Teddy.

The dog days of Teddy.

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Teddy and I used to drive out to the old TCC campus (Suffolk) and take a long walk along the edge of the Nansemond River. This is also the site of Pig Point, where unused shells from Penniman were stored.

Teddy and I used to drive out to the old TCC campus (Suffolk) and take a long walk along the edge of the Nansemond River. This is also the site of Pig Point, where unused shells from Penniman were stored.

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This was actually a picture of my freshly painted sunporch, but the worlds most persistent photo bomber appeared.

This was actually intended to be picture of my freshly painted sunporch, but the world's most persistent photo bomber appeared. Apparently, she spotted a squirrel in her back yard.

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During our last episode with dermatitis, I made up this goofy little sweater for Teddy, to keep her from gnawing on the hot spot on her front leg.

During our last episode with dermatitis, I sewed up this goofy little sweater for Teddy, to keep her from gnawing on the "hot spot" on her front leg. It worked well, and it was so darn cute.

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Teddy has always been game for every adventure.

Teddy has always been game for every adventure, even a walk in one of our rare snow storms.

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And shes the consummate house-hunting companion, always on the lookout for kit homes!

And she's the consummate house-hunting companion, always on the lookout for kit homes!

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Thanks for any advice! Please leave a comment below!

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The Meadow-Moor: Supersedes The Commonplace!

January 25th, 2015 Sears Homes 4 comments

What a month! Two weeks ago, an elderly friend took a bad fall and I’ve been spending a little time helping her “get back on her feet” - literally and figuratively! Between that, and trying to write a book about Penniman (which is 100 years old in 2015), it’s been a very busy time.

Last year, my buddy Dale Wolicki sent me these wonderful photos of a rare Sterling “Meadow-Moor” that he discovered in Rocky River, Ohio. I’ve never seen a Meadow-Moor and according to Dale, this is the first one he’s seen, too!

Thanks to Dale for sharing his photos!

Enjoy the pictures, and please leave a comment below.

To visit one of Dale’s websites, click here.

To learn more about Sterling Homes, click here.

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The Lewis Meadow-Moor (1914 catalog).

The Sterling Meadow-Moor (1914 catalog).

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Spacious, too!

Spacious, too! Love the "cupboard buffet" and Solarium.

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More

Back in the day, the 2nd floor bathroom (usually the only bath) ended up on the front.

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I'd spend my whole life on that sunporch.

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hoouse

Still has its thatch-effect roof, too! What a cream puff of a kit house! Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To visit one of Dale’s websites, click here.

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Lost in New Orleans, Part II

January 9th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Despite much good help from many good people in New Orleans, the missing Sears House (Model 264P165) remains coquettishly elusive.

Perhaps I should put her image on the back of a milk carton with the words, “Have you seen me?”

However, while checking out a potential sighting, I spotted a Harris Brothers “1512″ in the 1400-block of Adams Street.

Harris Brothers, like Sears, also sold kit homes though a mail-order catalog. Harris Brothers was one of six national companies selling kit homes in the early 1900s. Based in Chicago, they were originally known as Chicago House-wrecking Company. (One hundred years ago, “wrecking” was a term that meant disassembling a house so that it could be rebuilt at a new site.)

The HB 1512 I spotted in New Orleans looks like a real beauty, too.

Do the owners know that they have a kit house? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes don’t realize what they have.

To read Lost in New Orleans, Part I, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes, based on lumber markings? Lookie here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Whilst poking around for the Lost Sears House, I found this kit home from Harris Brothers!

Whilst poking around for the Lost Sears House, I found this kit home from Harris Brothers!

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This is from the tax assessors office. Lots of trees there.

This photo is from the tax assessor's office. Lots of trees there.

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This image is from Google Maps. Can no one take a picture of this house when its note Summer? LOL.

This image is from Google Maps. Can no one take a picture of this house when it's not Spring or Summer? However, that is a lovely Tulip Tree in the foreground.

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Reminds me of my favorite photo that a reader sent in, asking me to identify their kit home.

Reminds me of my favorite photo that a reader sent in, asking me if I could help with an identification. I wrote back and said, "Yes, I think it's a Silver Maple."

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Back to our house...This is a lovely home and in good condition. According to the assessors floorplan, its also the right size for a HB 1512.

Back to our house...This is a lovely home and in good condition. The colors are unusual for an early 20th Century bungalow, but I like it. According to the assessor's floorplan, it's the right size for a HB 1512.

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And heres the 1512, as seen in the 1923 catalog.

And here's the 1512, as seen in the 1923 catalog.

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Nice little layout, too.

Nice little layout, too.

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House

With two bedrooms upstairs!

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Meanwhile...

Meanwhile...Still looking for this.

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Somewhere in New Orleans, this house is giggling...

Somewhere in New Orleans, this house is giggling and fluttering its window shades...

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To read Lost in New Orleans, Part I, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes, based on lumber markings? Lookie here.

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Lost in New Orleans!

January 7th, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

What are the odds that this rare and wonderful old Sears House is  still alive and well in New Orleans?

I don’t know enough about NOLA to even venture a guess.

Last night, I went to a favorite site (Realtor.com) and looked up “houses for sale” (single family and 50+ years old) and that brought up only a handful of listings. Apparently, there’s been a huge amount of redevelopment in New Orleans.

A reporter from this area has asked me to find some Sears Homes in New Orleans. I’d love to start with this one.

Any ideas?

If you’re here for the first time, you may be wondering, what is a Sears House? In the early 1900s, Sears sold entire kit homes through their mail order catalogs. The 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book that promised the homeowner, “You can not make a mistake.” Typically, it took the average neophyte builder 3-6 months to complete assembly of his home.

Want to see the fanciest kit home that Sears offered? Click here.

Do  you know where this house is? Please leave a comment below.

And please share this link with your New Orleanian friends on social media!

Oooh, part II is here!

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This house was built in New Orleans. Is it still alive?

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Modern Home 264P165 is a model I've never seen in real life, and yet, we know there were at least three built (and perhaps many more). This image was in the 1914 catalog, and yet it does not appear in 1912 or 1916, so it was short-lived. Where's the house in New Orleans?

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Fortunately, the floor plan is odd enough that it should be fairly easy to identify.

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"Particularly planned for southern states..."

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And this explains why!

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To read about a beautiful Sears House in Texas (which is a beautiful story), click here.

Do  you know where this house is? Please leave a comment below.

And please share this link with your New Orleanian friends on social media!

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“The Charm of the True Colonial is Perennial”

January 5th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Throughout my time on this earth, I’ve always had a soft spot for a center-hallway Colonial. Perhaps this is because I lived in one from July 1959 (birth of a seven-pound old house zealot) to April 1978 (zealot leaves to get married).

In 2007 when I got married again (and for the last time, I might add), I moved into another center-hallway Colonial, reminiscent of my childhood home. Not only did it remind me of the family home in Waterview (Portsmouth, VA), but it looked like a good place to drop both anchor and money.

Gordon Van Tine offered a Colonial, known as “Modern Home #601″ and later named “The Shoreham.”

Even today, sitting in my perfect Mid-Century Modern brick ranch, I still swoon when I gaze upon the pictures of these early 20th Century Colonials. The copy writers for GVT were right: Its charm is perennial.

To read more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Interested in reading about the plan-book houses of Waterview? Click here.

Hey - are you familiar with Bluefield, WV? If so, I’m missing a couple houses there. Please leave a comment below if you know the area?

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house

GVT Home #601, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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Okay, I know youre just here for the pictures, but take a moment and actually *read* this text. Its a great read!!

I know you're just here for the pictures, but take a moment and actually *read* this text. It's worth it. The Colonial has survived "The horrors of the Mansard era and the Victorian period..."

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houe

In 1929, it became known as The Shoreham (as in, are you shore this is ham?). The dormers went bye-bye, too.

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Floorplan

Busy little floorplan. I love the coat closet's placement.

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Floopr

My oh my, but there's a lot going on in the kitchen.

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fefe

GVT #601 (1926 catalog).

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Bluefield WV

My friend Ersela and I discovered this house in Bluefield, WV. It's a real dandy, isn't it?

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515 Nanse

My childhood home at 515 Nansemond Street, as photographed by my father on moving day, April 1957.

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Gosnold Avenue

Our beautiful former home on Gosnold Avenue in Colonial Place. I had made a plan with my friend David Strickland to custom-build cut-out functional shutters for the home's front. I was going to paint them black, but life took a few turns and we ended up selling the home and moving to another part of Norfolk. I've always thought this house was one of the prettiest homes in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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The house

The GVT #601 (the Colonial shown at the top of the page) sat next door to a GVT #603 (this house). I'm sorry to say I don't know which street it was on, but I'd love to find out - and maybe even get a photo. These houses were close to the river (parallel to the river) and on a main drag. Do you know where they are? :/

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To read more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Interested in reading about the plan-book houses of Waterview? Click here.

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Customized Wardway Homes: Kinda, Sorta, Maybe

January 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Here’s the kind of “research” that makes me 1/3rd sad, 1/4th disappointed and 29/50ths disheartened.

There’s a fellow in Wisconsin who recently discovered that he has a Wardway Home, and has written a blog about it.

Cool. Mega kudos to him for writing a blog about his Wardway Home.

But…

He tried (in vain) to identify it. Finding nothing close, he decided that it was a “customized Maywood.”

Ruh Roh.

He then adds, “The wall boards are stamped with ‘Montgomery Ward & Co., Davenport, Ia. to R. L. Sizer, Wisconsin.’”

I suspect that he meant to say that the studs (vertical wall members) are marked, because I’ve never ever heard of wallboards being stamped with shipping information. Ever.

Typically, shipping information is found on shipping labels (see image below), which are then affixed to millwork (moldings and trim).

Next comment:  “It was obvious that Mr. Sizer was cost-conscious from the first time we entered this house. Touring the basement, it was pointed out that the floor boards had been used for framing the foundation.”

Say what?

I’ve seen floor joists (2×8) used as temporary forms when pouring cement for basement walls, which leaves a trademark white/gray stain on the lumber, but I’ve never ever seen anyone use 3/4″ tongue-and-groove white-oak floorboards for “framing a foundation.”

A minor point, but using framing members as temporary forms was commonplace, and not a cost-cutting measure.

He also writes: “Kit houses or as Ward called them, ‘ready-cut houses,’ were not uncommon. According to the book, ‘Houses By Mail,’ over 100,000 were built in the United States between 1908 and 1940, the majority from Sears.”

Mixing apples and oranges makes a delightful fruit salad, but in historic architecture, it’s confusing.

Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes. Dale Patrick Wolicki (an architectural historian and co-author of Montgomery Ward’s Mail-Order Homes), estimates that about 25,000 Wardway homes were sold.

Lastly, the homeowner claims that while the Wardway designs shown in the catalog are not a good match, he did find one home that “does bear a resemblance,” the Wardway Maywood.

Hmmm… Given this his home is a one-story house, and the Maywood is two-story, that’s a real mystery.

Based on other comments within the blog, I’m confident he’s got a Wardway home, but I wish he’d done a little more research. Written historical records need to be inexorably, meticulously and assiduously accurate.

In my opinion, of course. ;)

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork.

Shipping labels are often found on the backside of millwork. I've never seen one on wallboard.

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Wardway 1931

Here's a Wardway "Maywood" as seen in the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a customized Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

Here's a "customized" Maywood in Battlecreek, MI.

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Dale Wolicki found the actual house featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above).

Dale Wolicki found the actual house ("customized Maywood") featured in the Wardway brochure (shown above). Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reprinted with written permission.

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Ward

Wardway offered "architectural services" for folks who wanted a unique design. The center image shows a customized Maywood in the Chicago area. Note that it looks like a Maywood with a garage added to the side.

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The author

The author says that this home (the Wardway Maywood) does "bear a resemblance" to his customized Wardway, "especially in the floor plan." Unless he's got a bedroom set up in the closet (which does have a nice shelf), I'm baffled on this one. Shown above is the first-floor plan for the Wardway Maywood.

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The

Here's the subject house, the "customized Wardway Maywood." The small inset is the 1931 Maywood.

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Frankly, I think it looks more like a customized Brentwood.

Frankly, I think it looks more like this kit home: The "Brentwood."

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Or the Carmen.

Or maybe the "Carmen."

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Or maybe its a Magnolia, customized.

Or maybe it's a Magnolia, customized.

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To learn more about identifying marks on lumber, click here.

Interested in learning more about wallboard in early 20th Century Sears Homes? Lookie here.

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