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Penniman Par-TAY! It’s DONE!

May 24th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Updated! Good lecture. Good times.  :D

Ghost Towns.

Virginia History.

Phenomenal Personal Sacrifice.

Women workers.

And a devastating epidemic that wiped out so many workers that the local cemeteries ran out of space.

Penniman has all of these elements and more, and it’s a great story that needs to be told.

On Saturday, May 26, 2018, I’m giving a talk on Penniman at the James City County Library, at 2:00 pm.

YOU MISSED IT! ;)

If you’re able, please attend and learn more about this forgotten chapter of Virginia’s history!

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Bricks from the Penniman smokestack were salvaged to build a school for African-American children.

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My information on Penniman is always expanding and changing! Last week, I obtained this Penniman fob on Ebay.

The information on Penniman is always expanding and changing! Last week, I obtained this Penniman fob on Ebay. This fob would have been worn by the workers at the DuPont plant, six miles outside of Williamsburg. Who is this young man? How I wish that I knew.

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The rear of the fob shows more detail.

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Come learn about Penniman!

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Pulchritudinous Poquoson and Its Kit Homes

February 5th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Several months ago, I went looking for a GriefShare group to join, and chose one in Poquoson (Virginia). The primary reason was this: I didn’t know anyone in Poquoson, so if I had a panic attack or started crying or acted like a fool, I could surreptitiously slip out the side door and no one would ever know I was there.

As the weeks passed, I started coming early on Wednesday nights for the church supper, and then I joined a group for weekly trivia night at a local bar after the GriefShare meeting.

After spending so much time in Poquoson, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a drive around and see how many kit homes I could find. I drove through probably 75% of the area, and I found a few.

I did not find any Penniman homes, but I suspect there are (or were) a few of those too. (Penniman was a WW1-village just outside of Williamsburg, and is now a ghost city.)

What is a “Sears kit home”? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything from the Sears Roebuck catalog, including a  house. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Click here to learn more.

Enjoy the pictures below, and please share this link with your history loving friends.

And if you’re on Facebook, please share the link there!

You can read more about Penniman here.

Want to read a story that will bring tears to your eyes? Read about my sweet daughter here.

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Poquoson is an Indian word for marsh which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

According to several online sources, Poquoson is an Indian word for "great marsh" which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

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This Sears Hamilton was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. Its been through a lot of changes, but its definitely a Hamilton.

This Sears "Hamilton" was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. It's been through a lot of changes, but it's definitely a Hamilton. Many of the houses in Poquoson have been elevated several feet due to flooding.

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The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its flipped (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and flipping the design was a very common alteration.

The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its "flipped" (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and "flipping" the design was a very common alteration.

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Side by side, you can really

With the two images side-by-side, it's easy to see the similarities. The Poquoson house does not have the fireplace (which was an option).

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The Sears Conway is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

The Sears "Conway" is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

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The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

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Because the Conway was a small home, its very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage.

Because the Conway was a small home, it's very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage. This is a really nice example of this popular bungalow.

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Sadly, the details around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. Ick.

Sadly, the details and bracketing around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. That's also a very common "renovation" (blech).

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1914 Moosejaw

I also discovered a couple "Aladdin kit homes" in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the business (1908 to 1940). Aladdin was in business from 1906-1981.

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Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin Sheffield.

Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin "Sheffield."

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It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

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A close-up view of the scrolled rafter tails.

Those oversized hipped dormers are a dead give-away.

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And

And the scrolled rafter tails are also quite unique.

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The view down the other side also gives many clues.

The view down the other side also gives many clues.

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I also discovered a couple Aladdin kit homes in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known.

And just across the street is the Sheffield Grocery! It's a sign!

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Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin Sunshine.

Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin "Sunshine."

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Is this an Aladdin Sunshine? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. Its close, but not quite right. And yet its only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

Is this an Aladdin "Sunshine"? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. It's close, but not quite right. And yet it's only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

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This house is another head-scratcher. Its very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

This house is another head-scratcher. It's very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

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Is it a Wardway Sheridan? Its darn close!

Is it a Wardway Sheridan? It's darn close!

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Its another house thats really, really close.

It's another house that's really, really close. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's 92% likely that this is a Wardway "Sheridan." I do know that this house is very shy about getting its picture taken. I made three trips to Poquoson at three different times in the day and every time, the pictures came out poorly.

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And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. Ive been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? Its quite distinctive!

And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. I've been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? It's quite distinctive!

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While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, youll know that Penniman was a Ghost City just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations.

While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, you'll know that Penniman was a "Ghost City" just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations. Given its location, it seems likely that a few of these Penniman houses landed in Poquoson.

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In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to nearby cities.

In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to "nearby cities."

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One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where theyre still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where they're still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

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The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

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And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman.

And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman and moved to other areas.

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You can read more about Penniman here.

How did they move the houses? Learn more about that here.

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Where’s Rosie?

April 8th, 2016 Sears Homes 10 comments

That might be the question on my friends’ lips, as I’ve well nigh disappeared from polite society for the last several weeks. I didn’t realize how long I’d been “under the radar” until last night, when I glanced at an entry in my personal journal and saw that I went silent the second week of January.

That was three months ago.

After years of researching and writing about  Penniman, I realized that this book would never be completed unless I made it my raison d’être and singularly devoted myself to that task. For the last 90 days, I’ve spent 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week, finishing up this manuscript with a few days off from time to time. There were days that I worked for 16 hours straight. Not a fun time.

It’s been intense, and now the first draft is done. From here, it gets much easier.

We’ve been researching this topic since 2010, but it turned the corner and became a “manuscript” about three years ago. For more than 18 months, an entire room of my beautiful old house has been in a state of great disarray and extreme messiness. Wednesday night, I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning (that’d be Thursday morning) pulling notes down from the walls and tidying up. My entire collection of research now sits in five large plastic bins, ready to be stowed.

Before I dismantled The War Room™ I snapped a few photos.

I seriously thought about titling this blog, “So you want to be a writer?” but decided against it. When my children were young, my daily prayer for them was, “May these three sweet girls realize their full potential in this life.” I think some of those prayers rebounded into my own life, because researching and writing this book has required 100% of all my emotional, mental, physical, spiritual and intellectual abilities.

But I must add, now that it’s done, I’m a very happy girl. My feelings of joy and satisfaction and accomplishment are unmatched in my life experience, and those are some very good feelings. Enjoy the photos, and you can expect to hear more about “the book” very soon.

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If there was a single word that could be used to describe this mess, it might be post-it notes.

If there was a single phrase that could be used to describe this research effort, it might be "post-it notes." There were many of these involved and in many places.

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There were a few on the fireplace mantel.

There were a few notes on the fireplace mantel. This was late in the process. The notes on the left were the "completed" tasks. The ones on the right were the "need to be done." That's my dear sweet Mama are on the far right, smiling at me as I toil away. She passed 14 years ago.

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These were the books that I used most often.

These were the books that I used most often, a collection of newspaper articles from the "Virginia Gazette" and the "Daily Press." There are a few post-it notes here, too.

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Early on, Teddy figured out that post-it notes were the best way to get my attention.

Early on, Teddy figured out that post-it notes were the best way to get my attention.

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The 1950s lamp was not spared the indignity of note placement.

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Not counting the material adorning the walls, the notebooks were an impressive lot.

Not counting the material adorning the walls, the notebooks were an impressive lot. There were seven additional notebooks that didn't make it into the pile. The rolled documents are maps.

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There were a few post-it notes within the pages, too.

There were a few post-it notes within the pages, too.

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When Wayne came home, I insisted he pose here too.

When Wayne came home, I insisted he pose here too. He was instructed to "look professorial and erudite." I think he nailed it.

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Perhaps I should have asked him to look patient. He never said a word when I started covering the walls with 100-year-old newspaper stories - you know - the walls hed just painted the year before...

Perhaps I should have asked him to "look patient." He never said a word when I started covering the walls with 100-year-old newspaper stories - you know - the walls he'd just painted the year before...

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Ever the varnished door was not spared.

Even the varnished door was not spared.

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And nothing accents a 1950s Mid-Century Modern house like cheap plastic banquet tables.

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All in the name of history!

All in the name of history!

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And it all started with those little bungalows in Riverview...

And it all started with those pretty little bungalows in Riverview, moved to Norfolk from Penniman...(Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware).

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To learn more about Penniman’s little houses, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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