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CQ, CQ, CQ…Hopewell?

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got on the ham radio, calling CQ on the 40-meter band.

My second contact was “Bob.”

In a flash, my buddy Milton (sitting with me) looked up Bob’s call sign on his computer, and started laughing hysterically.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “This guy’s in Hopewell!”

My oh my.

How is it that I can transmit a 100-watt signal through a magnificent antenna strung up high in the trees; a signal with the capacity to bounce off the ionosphere and travel all the way around the world, and I end up to talking to Hopewell?

Fortunately, Bob from Hopewell was a very pleasant fellow and we had a lovely chat.

He asked me if I was familiar with the many older homes in Hopewell. I told him that I was! And I suggested he check out my website.

Oh MY!

To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To visit the website for the Norfolk Ham Club, click here.

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Henry

One of my very favorite movies is "Testament," which tells the story of a small town outside San Francisco, after San Francisco takes a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. In "Testament," Henry Abhart is the hero, because he's able to talk with the outside world when all other lines of communication have been lost. I highly recommend this movie. It's a tribute to the fact that, Ham Radio will always be reliable when other communications systems have failed.

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best

The best of both worlds: A fine-looking antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Illinois.

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W

Sears Avondale as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To read about Hopewell, click here.

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Carnation Kit House: You’re Gonna Love It In an Instant

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

UPDATE! Rose will be giving a talk in Richmond on September 25th at the Virginia Center of Architecture! Click here for more details!

Hopewell! Alas, poor Hopewell.

They have an interesting collection of Aladdin kit homes, and yet for reasons that elude me, they’ve done nothing to promote these homes.

One example is this Aladdin “Carnation” (shown below). It sits in a working class neighborhood within Hopewell that has suffered two egregious fates: 1) These kit homes - modest, working class homes - have been largely ignored, and 2) Many of these modest homes have already been demolished.

For years, I’ve been trying to identify this particular house, as it’s smack dab in the middle of an Aladdin neighborhood (in Hopewell), but I couldn’t find a perfect match.

And then recently, while I was scanning a 1916 Aladdin catalog, I discovered this particular model.

One day - some day - I’m going to create a post of all the cool and unusual Aladdin homes I’ve found within this working class neighborhood in Hopewell. Today, I’ll just focus on my newest find: The Aladdin Carnation.

To read about the only Aladdin Brighton I’ve ever seen (and it’s within Hopewell), click here.

To learn more about the “back story” of Hopewell’s confusion on kit homes, click here.

Wondering where that title came from? Click here.

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For years, I was trying to match up the Hopewell house Id found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasnt a good match.

For years, I was trying to "match up" the Hopewell house I'd found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasn't a good match (1916 Aladdin Catalog).

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And then I discovered this house: The Carnation.

And then I discovered this house: The Carnation. It's very similar to the Forsythe (shown above) but it's a little bigger and has the double windows. The floorplan is radically different.

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house

Cute house, too. I love the windows flanking the door.

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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And lookie next door! Theres another Aladdin house, but I cant quite make it out.

And lookie next door! There's another Aladdin house, but I can't quite make it out.

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Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!

Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!

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The floor plan

Note the built-in "permanent furniture" in the front bedroom!

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hosue

Many of these "permanent family abodes" have already been torn down in Hopewell. It's so troubling for so many reasons, but in my opinion, the working class neighborhoods are an important part of our cultural and architectural heritage as well. More and more communities are coming to recognize that simple fact.

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Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home.

Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home. One of these houses is not like the other. Three of these homes are Sears Magnolias. One of these houses is in Hopewell. Which one is not a Magnolia? If you guessed the brick colonial (lower right), you guessed right. And yet in Hopewell, for many years, they claimed that this house was a Sears Magnolia, and when I tried to correct this error, I was not well received.

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To learn more about Hopewell’s booboos, click here.

Interested in learning how to identify kit homes by the marks found on lumber? Click here.

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Carney’s Point, NJ: Then and Now

May 7th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, we drove from Norfolk to Philladelphia to visit the National Archives and Records Administration.

En route, we took a slight detour to Carney’s Point, NJ to check out the houses in that neighborhood. Carney’s Point, like Penniman, eventually became the site of a World War 1 DuPont munitions plant.

In 1891, E. I. DuPont de Nemours bought the land from the descendant of an Irish immigrant (Thomas Carney). DuPont wanted the 17-mile-square-tract to build a manufacturing plant for one of their best-selling products: smokeless gunpowder.

When The European War began in July 1914, demand for smokeless gunpowder exploded (so to speak). (World War I began in Europe in July 1914, and was originally known as The European War.)

After The European War started, Carney’s Point went from a population of 2,000 (pre-War) to 25,000 (early 1917).  In their rush to provide housing for their employees, they turned to Aladdin, and created - literally - a neighborhood full of Aladdin kit homes.

We went to Carney’s Point with a photograph in hand and a mission. I wanted to take a photo that replicated a pre-WW1 photo of the same neighborhood. Mark Hardin found this vintage image (see below) and even figured out what street it was on. Milton and I both snapped several photos, trying to re-create the original image from the vintage photo.  And his photos came out much better than my own. I hate it when that happens.  ;)

Actually, I was very grateful to find that his photos had come out so pretty.

Do the folks in Carney’s Point know that they live in a neighborhood full of Aladdin kit homes?

To learn more about Virginia’s Own Ghost City (Penniman), click here.

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Mark Hardin found this photo from about 100 years ago.

Mark Hardin found this photo of Carney's Point ("DuPont's New Village). We suspect the photo was taken in the late 1910s. Perhaps someone who's familiar with children's clothing can give a better guess. On the left, is an Aladdin Georgia, followed by an Edison. On the right is a Cumberland model, an Edison, a Jackson/Grant, and another Edison. This neighborhood had dozens of Aladdin kit homes.

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My friend Milton snapped this photo (which came out better than my own photos) and it shows the neighborhood from the same angle.

My friend Milton snapped this photo (which came out better than my own photos) and it shows the street view. From our best guess, these photos were taken more than 90 years apart. Photo is credit 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Carney

Side-by-side comparison of the two images. I was hoping some kids might come running out, as it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but no kids ever appeared. They were probably inside playing with their Wii or their Ipad or something. Unlike the 1910s, when kids were sent outside and expected to entertain themselves for several hours with a stick and some dirt.

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To read about the other cool houses I found in Carney’s Point, click here or here.

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The Edison: One of the Prettiest Little Bungalows Ever Built

November 21st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Aladdin Edison must have been a very popular house for Aladdin. It was small (600 square feet), affordable ($750 in 1914) and from an architectural standpoint, a real cutie pie. According  to the 1914 catalog, it was “One of the prettiest little bungalows ever built.”

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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In 1914, it was known as the Denver.

In 1914, it was known as the "Denver."

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There were minor differences

There were minor differences between the floorplan for the Denver (1914) and the Edison (1919).

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Edison

In the 1919 floor plan, the dining room has been moved to the front of the house and a bedroom has been enlarged. The bathroom got a lot smaller though. Good grief - six by eight? You'd have to step into the hallway to change your mind. Oh wait, there is no hallway. And a bedroom lost a closet.

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It wasnt until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too.

It wasn't until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too. The dormer on the Denver (right) is not as high on the roofline as the dormer on the Edison (left). That's a significant difference. The Denver (right) has four small windows across the front. The Edison has two big and two small.

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But

But I'd have to say I like the Edison better. And look at that hammock on the front porch!

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And heres a pretty little bungalow in Norfolk.

And here's a pretty little Edison in Norfolk. Looking good, too! However, it should be very afraid. It's perilously close to Old Dominion University, and colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Will it live to see its 100th birthday?

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It sits next door to this Edison (on 49th Street).

It sits right next door to this Edison (on 49th Street). Will ODU be able to resist gobbling up TWINKIE Edisons? Doubtful. Two little Edisons together - forever. I hope.

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In 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch (Norfolk).

In April 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch newspaper (Norfolk). My new full-time job is reading through hundreds and hundreds of pages of old newspapers, looking for information on Penniman. In the process, I do find some really unexpected and cool stuff, such as this ad. Even in 1923, it was described as "beautiful." Is it the blue house or the green house there on 49th Street? I wonder. But if you take a close look at this house, you'll notice that it has all the same furniture as the Edison in the 1919 catalog. Oopsie. Looks like J. Wesley Gardner infringed someone's copyright! The ad also says it has a poultry house in the back yard.

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Heres a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA.

Here's a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA. Ah but wait, look at that dormer! It's a Denver!

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Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

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And another.

This Hopewell Denver has a "sensitive" addition. Looks darn good!

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Oh NO!!! Blind!

Oh NO!!! It's had its eyes gouged out!!! This poor dear is in Hopewell, too.

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Oh

The tree in the front yard is dying of embarrassment.

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Lynch

The Edison seems to be prone to abuse. This unfortunate thing is in Lynchburg. Wrought iron? Really? And I'm not sure why there are two reflectors at the base of the step. Is it so people won't drive into the living room at night?

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Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons.

Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons. This one is a little rough around the edges.

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This one wishes someone would give it an overdose

This one is "all fixed up" (shudder). It's also in Roanoke Rapids.

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A palate cleanse.

This one needs some love, but the Japanese Lanterns are a nice touch (Roanoke Rapids).

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Heres a sweet little

And I saved one of my favorites for last. It's a a sweet little Denver in Crewe, VA. Seems likely that the addition (left front) was done when the house was originally built. This house is on Route 460 on the left side heading east. I always wave "hello" when I drive past it. Something about this little bungalow in Crewe always makes me smile.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

How many kit homes does Hopewell have? Click here to learn more!

To learn more about Roanoke Rapids and their amazing collection of houses, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Choo-choos in Crewe, and Sears Homes Too!

May 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the late 1800s, the repair shops for Norfolk and Western’s steam locomotives were based in Crewe, Virginia. In the mid 20th Century, railroads abandoned steam (and their repair shops) and turned to diesel-electric locomotives.  One of the legacies left behind from Crewe’s former glory as a railroad town is a delightful train museum and a few kit homes, from Sears (Chicago) and Aladdin (Bay City, MI).

In late Spring 2011, I traveled through Crewe on my way home from Lynchburg, and found these delightful kit homes.

Enjoy the photos, and as always - please share the link with your real friends and your virtual friends, too!  :)

To read another amazing blog about Crewe, click here.

edison

Aladdin was actually another kit home company that (like Sears) sold their houses through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started selling their kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears (1908). In Virginia, I've found many more Aladdins than Sears homes, probably because Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC.

Edison

Aladdin Edison on Route 460 in Crewe.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza in brick.

The Lynnhaven is one of my favorite Sears Homes, because it’s both stylish and practical, and it was one of Sears best selling models.  This house was offered from the late 1920s to the end, when Sears offered their last catalog in 1940.

Railroad towns and kit homes go together naturally, just like carrots and peas. These kit homes would arrive in a boxcar, in 12,000 pieces. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a man of average abilities could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in a mere 90 days. In fact, most people needed a little more time than that.

Sears offered about 370 designs of their kit homes, and during their 32 years in the kit home business, Sears sold about 70,000 houses.

Aladdin was a larger company, selling more than 75,000 homes, and they were in business from 1906-1981.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven from the 1936 Sears catalog.

Lynnhaven

Lynnhaven in Crewe.

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog

Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog. It was also known as the Bridgeport, but this little home's best chums call it "Wexxie."

Wexxie

This little house is not a spot on match to "Wexxie" but it's distinctive enough that I'd be willing to bet 50 cents it is indeed the real deal.

My favorite find in Crewe was the Sears Lucerne. This is the only Lucerne that I have seen in my many travels, and the one in Crewe is just a spot-on match to the original catalog image! And look at the price!  This darling little house could be yours for $867.

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.

Comparison of the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.

More train coolness at Crewe

More train coolness at Crewe

The little train museum in Crewe is a delight, and well worth your time. It’s staffed by devoted volunteers and it’s a lovely way to spend some time. As a hard-core train buff, I loved the hands-on displays and being able to soak in the happy ambiance of the old Norfolk and Western steam engine (pictured above).

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.

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Remarkable Roanoke Rapids: Full of Aladdin Kit Homes

May 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

In late 2006, my dear friend Dale Wolicki drove from Michigan to Norfolk, Virginia to watch me get married. After the ceremony, Dale mentioned that after the wedding, he was heading south to Roanoke Rapids, NC to check out a large collection of Aladdin kit homes in that small town. My newly married ears perked right up.

“Large collection?” I asked.

“No don’t go getting any ideas,” he said. “You have to promise me that you’re not going to make your new husband drive you around to look at kit homes on your honeymoon.”

I smiled.

“I mean it,” he continued. “Promise?”

I couldn’t make any such promise.

My husband knew what he’d signed up for when he married me. We went to Roanoke Rapids on the way home from our honeymoon. It was fabulous, and just as Dale had promised, the area was awash in Aladdin Kit Homes.

I returned to Roanoke Rapids several times in the next several years, and took many photos. Eventually, Our State magazine did a feature story on this dazzling array of Aladdins there in Roanoke Rapids.

Below are photos showing a few of the many Aladdins we’ve discovered in Roanoke Rapids.

Aladdin Brentwood

Aladdin Brentwood

Close up

Close up

Aladdin Brentwood (one of two in Roanoke Rapids)

Aladdin Brentwood (one of two in Roanoke Rapids)

Aladdin Villa from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Villa from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Villa

Aladdin Villa on the main drag in Roanoke Rapids. It's a perfect example of the Villa, which was Aladdin's biggest and best model.

Aladdin Colonial, from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Colonial, from the 1919 catalog.

One of the best features of Roanoke Rapids is they have three of Aladdins biggest and best models, such as the Villa, the Brentwood and this house, The Colonial.

One of the best features of Roanoke Rapids is they have three of Aladdin's biggest and best models, such as the Villa, the Brentwood and this house, The Colonial.

Aladdin Sunshine

Aladdin Sunshine

Perfect Cadillac.

Perfect Sunshine, slightly obscured by unfortunate placement of utility pole.

Aladdin Rochester

Aladdin Rochester

Aladdin Virginia

I suspect the house above is an Aladdin Rochester. The details seem right -down to the bumped-out vestibule on the front. The porch has been enlarged a bit, but that's not a major modification.

One of my favorite houses is the Aladdin Pomona

One of my favorite houses is the Aladdin Pomona

And this is one of my favorite Pomonas - right on the rail road tracks - and in PERFECT condition!

And this is one of my favorite Pomonas - right on the rail road tracks - and in PERFECT condition!

From the 1919 catalog.

From the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Herford

Roanoke Rapids has several blocks of these modest "worker's cottages," alternating the Aladdin Herford (above) with the Aladdin Edison (a couple pictures below). The streets are filled with these two styles of homes. The house above is for sale, but I'm guessing it needs a new central air unit.

Another Herford.

Another Herford. In this image, it was the photographer that was slightly tilted. The house was fine.

Aladdin Edison

Aladdin Edison

The Edison was an incredibly modest house, as you can see from this close-up of the floorplan.

The Edison was an incredibly modest house, as you can see from this close-up of the floorplan.

Aladdin Edison in the flesh!

Aladdin Edison in the flesh! How 'bout those icicle lights!

Aladdin Edison - close-up

Aladdin Edison - close-up

Aladdin Edison

Aladdin Edison. As you can see, some of these houses need a little love.

And some have been blinded.

In better shape, but it's a pity that its dormer windows were obliterated.

Another Edison in Roanoke Rapids

Another Edison in Roanoke Rapids

Aladdin Marsden

Aladdin Marsden

Perfect Marsden in Roanoke Rapids.

Perfect Marsden in Roanoke Rapids.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza

Another perfect Aladdin: The Plaza

Another perfect Aladdin: The Plaza

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

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills! (Part VII)

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yes Virginia,there’s an awesome collection of kit homes in Hopewell but they’re mostly kit homes from Aladdin!  Hopewell does have a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

But the Aladdin kit homes number in the dozens.  And in addition to the Aladdin kit homes in the downtown area, it seems likely that Hopewell might have kit homes from Sterling Homes (yet another kit home company).

And I would never have guessed this on my own, without the help of fellow kit home aficionados Mark and Lisa Hardin.

In downtown Hopewell, there are dozens of Aladdins, but amongst those Aladdins are also several models of house that I’ve not been able to identify.  In Mark’s email, he theorized that at least one of the “mystery models” might have come from Sterling Homes.  After looking at the pictures, I think he might be right.

If he is, this certainly adds even more intrigue to the mystery of those little houses in Hopewell. Are all of them kit homes? We know that Hopewell has kit homes ordered from Sears and Aladdin. Do they kit homes from Sterling , too?

An exampele of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

An example of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

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Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

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The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

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First, my favorite Edison in Hopewell.

A real-life example of the Aladdin Edison in Hopewell.

The above photos provide two of the many examples of both Sears and Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell.

And then there’s Sterling Homes. Like Aladdin, Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sterling was successfull in selling their kit homes nationwide, they were a much smaller company than Aladdin or Sears. To learn more about Sterling, click here.

Pictured below is the catalog page for the Sterling Homes “Browning-B.” The “B” is usually a reference to a different floorplan for the same house design. (Despite looking through my reference materials, I never did find a “Browning-A.)

Compare the catalog page with the Hopewell houses. The roof on the back of the house doesn’t drop down near as far as the front. And look at the pair of gabled dormers, connected by the small shed dormer. Most interesting is the bay window on the front of the house, next to the front door.

Sterling

From the Sterling Homes catalog.

Sterling

There are several of these models in Hopewell's downtown area, interspersed with Aladdin kit homes. Is this the Sterling "Browning B"? It sure is a perfect match. The only flaw is the size of the eaves on the dormer window. Everything else is perfect, and that's remarkable, because this is a very unique house.

Aladd

Another Sterling Browning-B in Hopewell? Appears to be!

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Sterling

A close-up of the house as it appeared in the catalog.

Another one

Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Thanks again to Mark and Lisa for this find! I don’t think I’d ever have thought to check my Sterling field guides to identify these houses in Hopewell, Virginia!

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is here. And number five is here. And after you read the sixth part, you’ll be all caught up.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Customized Kit Homes: A Puzzle!

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

About 30% of kit homes were customized when built. That’s almost one out of three, and that’s one of the things that makes identification of these homes so difficult. And that doesn’t count modifications and remodeling!  Today, some of these kit homes - first built in the early years of the 20th Century - are almost 100 years old. Lots of things can change in 100 years, especially when it comes to old houses.

Below is a picture of a house in Dublin, Virginia (Pulaski County) taken by Mike and Bev Pinkerman. As a kindness to me, he went through town snapping photos of several old bungalows, and this is one of the photos that he took. And Bev has been faithfully sending the photos to me via email!

At first glance, I thought, “Well, it kinda looks like an Aladdin Detroit.”

Like Sears, Aladdin was another kit home company that sold entire kit homes from their mail-order catalog. The 12,000-piece kits were then shipped by boxcar. The homes came with a 75-page instruction book, detailed blueprints and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house ready for the wife and kids in 90 days.

Looking at the Pinkerman’s photo, I started thinking, “This is a Detroit, but one that’s been modified.”

If you look at the catalog image, you’ll see a small shed dormer. If you look at the Dublin house, you’ll see it has an enlarged shed dormer, but what’s really interesting is that those unusually shaped windows - in the center - are a spot-on match to the Detroit’s dormer windows. And while the center window is a perfect match, the extra windows (on either side) are more traditional double-hung windows!

An interesting find, to say the least! And yes, I think it is an Aladdin Detroit, with extra space on the second floor!

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Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin

Aladdin Detroit in Dublin, Virginia. Photo is courtesy of Mike and Bev Pinkerman.

Floorplan

Adding width to that shed dormer on the second floor would have the effect of giving more square footage to the second floor bedrooms and also adding one window to each of those bedrooms.

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Close-up on the windows

Close-up on the windows shows that it is the same casement windows as used in the Aladdin Detroit.

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Close-up

Close-up of the catalog image of the Aladdin Detroit.

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Comparison the two houses

Comparison of the two houses

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House

The Aladdin Detroit

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A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake

A perfect Aladdin Detroit in Chesapeake, Virginia. This one has an addition on the rear of the house. Notice how the foundation changes at the same point where the roofline changes.

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Hopewell’s Historic Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills! (Part III)

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much focus is put on those eight Sears Homes, while the many Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in Hopewell, I might feel snubbed!

The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these “workers’ cottages” also have an important story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s getting lost - quickly. Judging by the landscape in this neighborhood (where the Aladdin Homes are located), countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the rest of these houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country.  At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Take a look at some of the Aladdin kit homes still standing in Hopewell (near the downtown area).

Aladdin Homes came with their famous Dollar a Knot guarantee.

Aladdin Homes came with their famous "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Close-up of the Florences floorplan

Close-up of the Florence's floorplan

Close-up of the house itself.

Close-up of the house itself and the happy people on the front porch.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Aladdin Florest

Aladdin Florence looking basically like it did when built in the 1910s.

Florence

This Florence is in mostly original condition! The attic windows are original, too. But hey, where are the happy people on the front porch?

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the house itself.

Another shot of the original catalog page.

Another one!

Another view of the Florence in Hopewell.

Empty

This spacious empty lot sits squarely in the middle of the neighborhood with all these Aladdin kit homes. It seems quite possible that many Aladdin kit homes have been razed.

I am qualified to have an opinion on this, and I’m of the opinion that these little houses are worthy of some sort of historical designation, even if it’s nothing more than a city-supplied placard for the front yard!  These photos that I’ve posted represent a mere smattering of the collection of Aladdin Homes near the downtown area. And as I mentioned in a prior post, they also tell a story about Hopewell’s history.

Want to read more about Hopewell?  Here’s Part I and Part II.

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