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Posts Tagged ‘aladdin homes’

Another Mystery in Richmond!

March 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 16 comments

My blog on the Sears Houses in Richmond has gotten several hundred views in the last few days. I am tickled pink to see it, but I wish I knew what led folks to a 15-month old blog!

But in the meantime, I’ve made another *fascinating* discovery, which might lead me to a neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!

Today, David Spriggs and I were doing research at the Norfolk Public Library, and I found this article (June 16, 1921) in the Richmond Times Dispatch. At first glance, it looks like another 1920s ad, but look closely.

Article

The "beautiful bungalow" shown in the advertisement is a Sears Elsmore.

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Check out the fine print.

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And you can buy “all the material necessary to build this charming bungalow” - from Sears!
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If you look closely at the house in the ad, youll see its a Sears Elsmore.

If you look closely at the house in the ad, you'll see it's a Sears "Elsmore." In fact, it's the picture right out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog!

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This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

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Heres an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these beautiful bungalows built in Richmond?

Here's an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these "beautiful bungalows" built in Richmond?

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Perhaps someone familiar with Richmond can help me find this neighborhood! Was the builder successful in pitching these Sears kit homes to the people who bought his lots?

This could be fun!!  Please leave a comment below if you know where this area is!

To learn more about the Sears Homes I found in Richmond, click here.

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The Home of C. F. Sauer, in Richmond

February 28th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

UPDATED!  See new photos below!!

Today, I was at the Norfolk Public Library reading an old Richmond Times Dispatch from October 23, 1921 when I stumbled across this “pictorial record” of a fine old house in Richmond.

It caught my eye for several reasons:

1)  In the 1921 article, it was claimed that this was one of the oldest houses in its neighborhood (”The Lee District”).

2)  It had been moved from another location (from Broad Street to Grace Street).

3)  It’s massive and grand, and has a brass fireplace mantel (yes, brass).

4)  It was occupied by General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War (”Battery #10″).

And it’d be interesting to know if the owners are aware that these interior photos were featured in a 93-year-old Richmond newspaper.

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House

"Talavera is probably the oldest house in Lee District, being built 90 years ago when this part of Richmond was all woods" (Richmond Times Dispatch, October 23, 1921)

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Heres my favorite part

And was moved from Broad Street (I wonder where!), and was moved to Grace Street.

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Mr. C. F. Sauers home had a brass fireplace mantel.

Mr. C. F. Sauer's home had a brass fireplace mantel.

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Sitting room

Wonder who the fellow in the picture is?

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According to the caption,

According to the caption, the sideboard (barely visible in this image) is more than 100 years old (in 1921) and is made from solid oak. Despite repeated efforts, this was the best photo I could get from the old newspaper pages.

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Is the old C. F. Sauer house still alive and well?

Is the old C. F. Sauer house still alive and well?

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Ooh, a nice update! The house is alive and well! Heres a picture of it, as seen on February 28, 2014. Thanks to Brice Anderson for snapping a picture for me!  (Picture is copyright 2014 Brice Anderson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Ooh, a nice update! The house is alive and well! Here's a picture of it, as seen on February 28, 2014. Thanks to Brice Anderson for snapping a picture for me! (Picture is copyright 2014 Brice Anderson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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House

What a pleasure to see that this old house still looks much like it did when photographed for the Richmond Times Dispatch in 1921. What a pure joy!

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And this is the same C. F. Sauer that, at the tender age of 21, founded his own spice and seasonings company.

And this is the same C. F. Sauer that, at the tender age of 21, founded his own spice and seasonings company, which is still in business today. (Picture is copyright 2014 Brice Anderson and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To read about the Sears Homes I found in Richmond, click here.

And to see what I found in Sandston, click here!

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Those Riverview Bungalows and a Virginia Ghost Town

February 7th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

If you love history or if you just like looking at pictures of old houses, you won’t want to miss our talk at the next CPRV Civic League Meeting.

David Spriggs and I will give a talk Monday night, featuring more than 100 vintage photos (many of which were recently discovered) showcasing a chapter of Riverview’s history that has been all but forgotten.

The talk is at 7:00 pm at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 Lavalette Avenue in Norfolk (February 10th, Monday).

Scroll on down for a quick preview of some of the images we’ll be featuring Monday night.

Enjoy the photos below - and hope to see you Monday night!

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The image on the left

The house on the left is on Ethel Avenue in Riverview (circa 1948). The house on the right shows the same bungalow in Penniman, Virginia (Spring 1918). The photograph on the right was taken shortly after the house was built. Penniman was located six miles east of Williamsburg, and it was a town "built by DuPont." After World War I, the houses in Penniman were placed on barges and moved to several cities, including Norfolk! Cheatham Annex is now located where Penniman once stood. Photo on right is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Penniman was located on the York River and covered more than 6,000 acres.

Penniman was located on the York River and covered more than 6,000 acres. At its peak, Penniman had about 15,000 residents, and had its own hospital, hotel, movie theater, bank and post office. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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If

If you look closely at the screened-in front porch of this Riverview house, you'll notice the original railings in place from its former life on the York River. This house is also on Ethel Avenue (1948).

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Penniman was

The houses that now sit on Ethel and Lavalette were the "permanent houses" built at Penniman, and they can be seen in the background (near the water's edge). Most of the houses seen in this photo were temporary structures with tarpaper siding and roofing. Pretty primitive. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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If you look

If you look closely at these 1948 photos, you'll see extra skirting around the bottom of the houses. This is probably from "the big move" and was an effort to cover up the new foundations built for the incoming houses.

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The houses were shipped from Penniman by barge.

The houses were shipped from Penniman by barge. The houses shown here ended up in the Riverfront neighborhood (Major and Glenroie Avenue). The photo is from the December 1921 Virginia Pilot. Many thanks to Robert Hitchings for finding this newspaper article!

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One of our big breaks came when fellow researcher Mark Hardin discovered that our Ethels had been built at Dupont, Washington (another DuPont plant) and Ramsay, Montana.

One of our big breaks came when fellow researcher Mark Hardin discovered that our "Ethels" had been built at Dupont, Washington (site of another DuPont plant) and Ramsay, Montana. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

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This

This photo shows the original placement of the Ethel Bungalows at Penniman. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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And we discovered that this house (and a second one on Beach Street) also came from Penniman.

We discovered that this house on Ethel (and another one on Beach Street) came from Penniman.

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Hope you can join us Monday night, at 7:00 pm at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 Lavalette Avenue in Norfolk.

To see images of several “Ethel Bungalows” from 1948, click here.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Moving Houses in 1916: Slow, But Doable!

December 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

Whilst researching Penniman, I’ve had the occasion to talk with many historians and museum curators and too many to count have told me, “One hundred years ago, houses just weren’t moved. People didn’t have the means to move an entire house like they might today.”

Typically, I try really hard not to roll my eyes.

And sometimes, you can convince them that, yes, ours was a much more thrifty society in the early 20th Century and we were not likely to waste anything, certainly not anything as big (and labor intensive and expensive) as an entire house!

And then they’ll say, “Well, little tiny houses maybe, but not big houses.”

Alas!

Last week, I was reading through a book that Bill Inge found for me, “Manufacturer’s Record” (December 1916) when I discovered this small advertisement for a house-moving company. Check out the photos below, for it’s almost unbelievable.

Thanks again to Bill Inge from providing me with another cool vintage book on historic architecture!

To read another blog about house moving 100 years ago, click here.

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Word press

Before Bill Inge, I'd never heard of "Manufacturers Record." It's quite a large tome!

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barge Dec 1921

My interest in moving houses was piqued when I learned that more than 60 houses were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk. And better yet, these 60 houses were moved to Norfolk by barge! (Photo is from the Virginia Pilot, December 1921). Thanks to Robert Hitchings for finding this wonderful photo!

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house house house

While reading the Manufacturers Record, I found this advertisement at the bottom of a page. This fellow claims that he had been moving houses since 1875!

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house that is shown here

And see the description he has offered here? The house that was moved was an all brick house, and it measured 50' by 75 feet, and it was raised four feet, turned 90 degrees and moved 300 feet. I love this photo because it demonstrates that the house was moved on rails. YES, on rails. The rails (typically two) were laid in front of the house, and it was slid across those rails, which would then be moved from the rear, back to the front.

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househouse

Close-up of the house. Now that's a big house!

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hou house

And I love the description: "Largest movers of Buildings in the United States."

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Shiawassee

One of the finest examples of early 20th Century moving that I've ever come across is this picture from the Shiawassee History website. See link below. If you look at the image above, you'll see rails laid down in front of the house. At the website (below), there's a thorough explanation of how this move was accomplished, but in short, the horse walked in a circle around that capstan which was anchored to a tree or some solid object. The winding of the rope around the capstan acted like a winch, pulling the house forward on those rails, SLOWLY.

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Many thanks - again - to Bill Inge - for sharing his knowledge and his cool old books!

To visit the Shiawassee History website, click here.

To learn more about the mechanics of moving houses in the early 20th Century, click here.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Looking for the story about Penniman soldiers? Click here.

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Bob Beckel’s Christmas Crescent

December 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

Friday night, Milton and I turned on the television and saw “The Five” (talk show on Fox News, with five commentators, including Bob Beckel).  Within 30 seconds, the program showed a picture of Bob Beckel’s house, and I exclaimed to Milton, “Oh my goodness. It’s a Sears Crescent!”

Sure enough, after I got a close look, I saw it was a Christmas Crescent.

What is a Sears house? Sears homes were 12,000-piece kit houses, and each kit came with a a 75-page instruction book. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have it assembled in 90 days. The instruction book offered this somber warning: “Do not take anyone’s advice on how this house should be assembled.” The framing members were marked with a letter and a three-digit-number to facilitate construction. Today, these marks can help authenticate that a house is a kit home.

Searching for these homes is like hunting for hidden treasure. From 1908-1940, about 70,000 Sears Homes were sold, but in the 1940s, during a corporate housecleaning, Sears destroyed all sales records. The only way to find these homes is literally one-by-one.

Or one television show at a time.  :)

At some point, the classic Crescent windows in Mr. Beckel’s house were discarded and replaced (and that’s a real pity) but the house does have its original cypress clapboards. The small shed dormer was probably added later, but it *might* have been original to the house. There was some usable space on the 2nd floor, and dormers are a frequent addition to the Sears Crescent.

Mr. Beckel, did you know you have a Sears house? If you’re like 90% of Americans, you did NOT know - until now!

To read more about the Sears Crescent, click here.

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Bob Beckels house, all decked out for the holidays.

Bob Beckel's house, all decked out for the holidays. Although it's barely visible in this photo, at the top of the porch's arch, you can see a faint triangle there. This is one of the classic signs of a Sears Crescent.

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Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Crescent from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Judging by the placement of the fireplace, Mr. Beckels house is a

This photo shows that triangle on the porch's peak more clearly. And notice the three large columns on the corners of the porch. All classic Crescent features. And it has its original siding!

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Flippped

The Crescent was offered from 1918-1928. Image above is from the 1928 catalog. Note the unusual windows, the triangle in the porch's peak, and the three columns. That massive porch is its most distinctive feature.

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RaleighThe dormers were original to this Crescent in Raleigh, NC.

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A darling

A darling little Crescent in Wheeling, WV, sitting like a jewel atop the hill.

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One of my favorite Crescents in Bloomington, IL.

One of my favorite Crescents in Bloomington, IL. It still has the original lattice work, as shown in the catalog images. And like Mr. Beckel's house, it has the optional fireplace.

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In 1928

In 1928, the "super-sized Crescent" (as Mr. Beckel has) was a mere $2,195. The larger floorplan is shown in the upper right. The 2nd floor layout is on the lower right.

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This testimonial

Jerome Kelly from an unnamed city really loves his little Crescent.

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To learn more about the Sears Crescent (with interior views), click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

Are there more kit homes in Beckel’s neighborhood of Brookmont? Without a doubt. There was a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center nearby, and these were only placed in communities where sales were already strong. Plus, sales went way up after one of these retail stores was opened in the area.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Travel Back In Time With Me and Say Hello to The Ethels!

November 25th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

Thanks to a well-organized city assessor’s office in Norfolk, I was able to see and photograph several vintage photos of our “Ethels” (in Riverview - Norfolk) from the late 1940s and early 50s.

And I must say, it was very interesting!

These were the houses that were built at Penniman, VA (DuPont’s 37th munitions site) and moved - by barge - to Riverview. You can read more about that here.

The main reason for today’s blog is that I just *LOVE* looking at vintage pictures of houses, and the only thing better than looking at them myself is sharing the images with others. These early 20th Century bungalows looked so pure and simple and sweet back in the day. Best of all, when most of these photos were taken, the siding salesman hadn’t been invented yet.

And because of the Penniman connection, I have a special fondness for our Ethels.

So stroll down Ethel Avenue with me through the 1940s, and take a peek at our Ethels!

(Photos are courtesy Norfolk City Assessor’s Office.)

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Ethel

To begin, here's an Ethel in its native habitat: Penniman, VA. These homes were built in Spring 1918 by DuPont to house the munitions workers at the plant. While built based on DuPont plans, the construction of these homes was actually funded by the U. S. Government. After The Great War ended, the government sold them off as salvage in an effort to recoup some of their investment. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Lava

Here's an "Ethel" in 1948. In the back yard, you can see the rear of another Ethel. And check out the sweet ride in the driveway. When photographed, this Ethel was a mere 30 years old, and had lived in Riverview for 25 years.

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Lava Eth

Some of the photos were crisper than others, and some photos were newer than others. Wish I knew what kind of car that was (right corner). That might help "date" the photo.

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238

This Ethel is looking so pretty and pure, but then again, it's still so young.

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more

And this Ethel has a flower box. How sweet is that? Pretty house!

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house hosue house

The Ethels looked a lot better without substitute siding.

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hello

Fine-looking house, and check out the curious housewife.

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oeek a boo

I recognize that look. It's a "what-the-heck-are-they-doing-photographing-my-house" look.

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house house

You can see the original railings on the other side of the screened porch.

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houseie

People loved their porches in the days before air conditioning.

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house hosue

And there's a curious feature I've noticed in these vintage pictures: There's additional wooden siding below the home's skirt board. I suspect that this has something to do with the house being built elsewhere and moved to this site, but exactly what it means is a mystery.

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house house

Here's another close-up on the extra clapboards *below* the skirt board. I don't recall ever seeing anything like that before, and I've seen a lot of pre-1920s housing.

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Amptjer

Another close up, and this one has cedar or cypress shakes to fill in the gaps. On most frame houses (such as our Ethels), the skirt board is the bottom-most vertical trim piece. Why did they add the extra trim?

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notice

In these Penniman photos (from 1918), there is some skirting but it's vertical planking and is used to keep the rodents and wind out of the crawl space. That extra siding below the skirt board was done at the Riverview site for reasons that elude me. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Mr. Hubby has mixed feelings about spending his lunch hour at City Hall, helping the crazy wife organize files and study old pictures, and yet, he remains a good sport about it all.

Mr. Hubby has mixed feelings about spending his lunch hour at City Hall, helping the crazy wife organize files and study old pictures, and yet, he remains a good sport about it all.

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Want to see how many houses you can fit on a barge? Click here.

If you have a theory as to why that extra material was added below the skirt board, please leave a comment below!

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William & Mary and Penniman, Virginia

November 16th, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

After the War to End All Wars ended (November 1918), the whole world changed.

The bloom of Virginia’s youth had gone to Europe to fight in The Great War. Between mustard gas and powerful munitions, many suffered crippling injuries and many never made it back home at all. Most of the young men who saw battle were never the same again.

Returning vets got hit with two obstacles to home ownership: During the war, resources had been diverted to the front, and housing analysts estimated that 1-2 million housing units were needed immediately for the returning soldiers. Secondly, after the war, the cost of building materials soared, with prices doubling and tripling in the months following.

These were challenging times for many colleges, and William and Mary was no exception.

Due to a growing enrollment, the college needed more space for dorms, classrooms and dining areas. Perhaps someone at the college pointed out that with the closing of Penniman, there would be many buildings available for sale - cheap.

According to the Board of Visitors’ minutes from June 8, 1920, William and Mary’s Committee on Student Accommodations paid $985 for their first two “temporary” Penniman buildings, with $3,000 set aside for their re-building.

In reading the minutes I was interested to learn that the college did not merely “move” these structures. They disassembled them, and then hauled the building materials to the campus and re-assembled them, board by board. Kind of like building a pre-cut Sears kit home, but without a 75-page instruction book or numbered lumber.

On October 4, 1920, the BOV minutes stated that the, “President of the College was authorized to dismantle and bring the buildings recently purchased from the government at Penniman to the College and rebuild them here at an approximate cost of $5,000.”

I hope President Chandler was handy with his hands.

On January 8, 1921, The Flat Hat (student newspaper) reported that the “Hotel at Penniman has been bought and will be moved on the campus in the near future,” with construction beginning in mid-January.

Judging by the description, this was a large building.

One “wing” of the new building was for the Biology Department (five large laboratories and a lecture room). Another wing would be used as a dining hall (with seating capacity of 150 students) and another wing would serve as a dorm, with space for 50 students.

In June 1923, the BOV minutes reported that there was a great need for additional class room space. Mr. Bridges and Colonel Lane were instructed to run out to Penniman and “make some purchases at Penniman on the 13th of June, so that the temporary buildings may be constructed cheaply.”

Reading these minutes, you get the impression that they were running out to Penniman like we run up to the Home Depot.

It was recommended that the new building be placed behind the existing Citizenship Building “even though it may look bad to connect cheaply with the steam pipes” (that’s my favorite part).

William and Mary thought much more highly of these “temporary buildings” after they were erected on the hallowed grounds of the campus. In a document titled, “Valuation of College Land and Building,” they estimated that the value of two of their Penniman buildings (presumably the two with an estimated $5,000 outlay), to be $45,000 (June 1923).

Wow! At that kind of appreciation, they should have bought everything Penniman had to offer!

In June 1925, a fire destroyed the “Penniman Building”  (the one used as a dining hall/biology building). In 1926, the college was given a $60,000 grant (by the Virginia General Assembly) to put up some prettier buildings that did not look bad or connect cheaply with the steam pipes.

To learn more about Penniman, click  here.

To read about another interesting facet of Penniman’s history, click here.

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house with iron

According to the caption that appeared with this photo in "The Romance and Renaissance of the College of William and Mary in Virginia" (1924), the original tar-paper siding on this lovely building was replaced with "galvanized iron." Frankly, I think that's got to be a misstatement. Perhaps they intended to say galvanized metal. You have to wonder if the W&M folks went to Penniman and said, "Could you please sell us the ugliest structure you have on this 6,000 acre site?" Now *that* would be a believable story. And who decided to ramp up The Ugly by covering this building with metal? Did W&M have an abundance of students that liked to practice archery with flaming arrows? (Photo is from "The Romance and Renaissance of the College of William and Mary in Virginia," William & Mary Endowment Association, 1924, with special thanks to Terry Meyers and Kris Preacher for providing a digital version of this wonderful old photo.)

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house longer

Here are the Twin Uglies in their native habitat at Penniman, Virginia (1918). The vertical line is from the stitching of the two photographic images into one glorious whole. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Longer view

Longer view showing The Twin Uglies at Penniman, with the York River in the background. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house

Also shown in "The Romance and Renaissance of the College of William and Mary in Virginia," is this building. The book states that it was moved to the college campus about 1924, which isn't right, unless you put a lot of weight on that word "about." "The College of William and Mary, A History, Volume II" states that these buildings were built at Penniman in 1914. That's also a little boo boo. (Photo is from "The Romance and Renaissance of the College of William and Mary in Virginia," William & Mary Endowment Association, 1924, with special thanks to Terry Meyers and Kris Preacher for providing a digital version of this wonderful old photo.)

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house house house

Construction on Penniman began in April 1916. Within Penniman, this was known as a "boarding house," (admittedly, a much gentler term than "barracks," the word that was used to describe these buildings in W&M literature). As built, the structure might have had as many bedrooms as there are windows (40+), with 4-8 bathrooms and a long central hallway. No need for a kitchen because there was a mess hall in another part of the village. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house house house

As you can see from this 1918 photo, W&M had many buildings from which to choose. At its peak, Penniman had 15,000 people within its borders. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Penniman Hotel

As to the 1921 acquisition, there's only one building at Penniman that resembles a hotel, and that's this long structure shown above. When "The Flat Hat" stated that W&M had purchased the "hotel at Penniman," surely they didn't mean those crummy boarding houses or one of the Twin Uglies. If so, I hope that the student that wrote that piece had a chance to travel around a bit after he graduated. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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hotel hotel hotel

A more expansive view of The Penniman Hotel. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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barge Dec 1921

Here in Norfolk, our 50+ Penniman houses arrived whole and intact (and by barge!). Thanks to Robert Hitchings for finding this wonderful photo in the December 1921 Virginia Pilot.

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house house

By May of 1921, The Garden City Wrecking Company (a 1920s term for architectural salvage) was inviting the general public to come pick at the bones of Penniman. Pretty depressing, really, and yet also shows how prior generations took recycling very seriously. The same colleges that rant and rave about saving every scrap of paper don't hesitate to tear down old houses, thus sending 300,000 pounds of irreplaceable building materials to the landfill. I now have first-hand evidence of three colleges tearing down three rare kit homes in the last 10 years. This advertisement appeared in the May 1921 Virginia Gazette.

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After the war, building material costs soared.

After the war, returning vets wanted homes of their own, but the cost of building materials had soared. Plus, housing analysts estimated that 1-2 million housing units were needed immediately. It was the high cost of lumber that probably inspired W&M to turn to Penniman for their building needs. (This photo came from Stereoscope cards that I found at a friend's house. The images are quite clear, given their age and original purpose.)

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

To read about Penniman’s forgotten flu victims, click here.

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Sandston, Virginia: Another DuPont Town

November 10th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

Figuring  out how many of the old Penniman houses were shipped to Norfolk has been a challenge. In addition to the many “DuPont Designs” found at Old Hickory (Tennessee), we’ve been finding additional designs at other DuPont plants around the country.

And last month, I purchased “DuPont: One Hundred and Forty Years” (Dutton, William S., Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), and found this:

DuPont Engineering Company was operating a shell-loading plant at Penniman, Virginia…and it was operating plants for the bag-loading of cannon powder at Tullytown, Pennsylvania and at Seven Pines, Virginia, all vitally important projects” (p. 247).

Took me and the hubby a few minutes to figure out that Seven Pines, Virginia was now Sandston. And my heart sank a little when I learned that Sandston is also the site of the current Richmond Airport.

Colleges and hospitals are notorious bungalow eaters. Only one corporate entity is worse: Airports.

On Saturday, as Milton and I were returning from the Virginia Historical Society (in Richmond) we saw the Sandston exit off I-64. I couldn’t help but take the exit into the small town of 7,500 people (2010 Census). And there in Sandston we found many examples of our DuPont houses.

However, I suspect that dozens (or more) were torn down when the airport was built. In fact, uncharacteristically, they apparently tore down the big fancy DuPont models and left an abundance of the modest “Six-Room Bungalows” (and yes, that was their official name).

Surely there are some vintage photos of Sandston (pre-airport) somewhere in the world. If so, I’d love to find them. Because based on our 30-minute visit to this town, there is at least one never-before-seen DuPont model present in Sandston that we’ve not seen in any other DuPont towns.

And I’m also wondering if the residents of Sandston know much about the history of their many pre-WW1 bungalows.

Lastly, it’s a puzzle as to why DuPont had so many munitions plants in such a small area of Virginia. There were munitions plants at Penniman, Hopewell and Sandston (then Seven Pines). At least Hopewell and Sandston got to keep a few of their old DuPont houses.

To  learn more about Penniman, click here.

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One of finer homes in the DuPont line was the Arlington.

One of "finer" homes in the DuPont line was the Arlington. This house was built at Carney's Point, NJ, Old Hickory, TN and probably at Penniman as well.

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To the typical McMansion buyer, this may look like small potatoes, but for industrial housing, this was high living.

To the typical McMansion buyer, this may look like small potatoes, but for "industrial housing," this was high living. Typically, these homes were for the supervisors of the plant.

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Arlington

This Arlington looks darn good considering that it was built as industrial housing in 1916.

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Another Arlington in Sandston.

Another Arlington in Sandston. This one is in beautifully original condition.

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The Haskell was also present at

The Haskell was also present at Carney's Point, NJ, Hopewell, Penniman and Sandston.

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This was not a very wide house.

This was not a very wide house. In fact, it appears to have been about 20' wide.

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This is a sideways Haskell in Willoughby Spit (Norfolk). It was moved here in the early 1920s - from Penniman.

This is a "sideways" Haskell in Willoughby Spit (Norfolk). It was moved here in the early 1920s - from Penniman. It's not a very big house.

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There are several of these houses in Sandston. Too wide to be a Haskell and too narrow for the Arlington. Ive dubbed it a Baby Arlington.

There are several of these houses in Sandston. Too wide to be a Haskell and too narrow for the Arlington. I've dubbed it a "Baby Arlington."

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Another Baby Arlington

Another "Baby Arlington"

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And yet another.

And yet another.

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Another DuPont model at Sandston is The Ketcham.

Another DuPont model at Sandston is The Ketcham.

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Dupon

The windows have been replaced in this old DuPont house, but it's still readily identifiable as a "Ketcham."

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Dupont kit

I'd just love to know if the homeowners know about the unique history of their old house.

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And

Ketcham Number Three, in Sandston, Virginia.

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But hands down, the #1  most prevalent house found in Sandston is the

But hands down, the #1 most prevalent house found in Sandston is the"Six Room Bungalow."

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And

And they are everywhere in Sandston. In the last 97 years, they've undergone all manner of renovation.

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Some

Some are mostly original.

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Some

Some have had been thoughtfully added on to.

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Some

Some look like quite modern and tidy.

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Some

Some are barely recognizable as one of DuPont's "Six Room Bungalows."

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Some

Some have had a rough time of it.

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What happened to the big fancy modes there in Sandston?

What happened to the big fancy DuPont models that were almost surely there in Sandston?

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house

Were they reduced to rubble when the airport was built?

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Mark Hardin found this in Sandston. Very interesting marker, but is it right? The 230 houses

Mark Hardin discovered this plaque for Sandston, Virginia. Very interesting marker, but is it right? The "230 Aladdin Houses" are (apparently) the DuPont houses. In Penniman, Virginia and DuPont, Washington, E. I. DuPont Nemours contracted with local business to build these company houses. Did they use a different approach in Sandston? Photo is copyright Leon Reed, 2010.

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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The Mystery of Our “Ethels” in Riverview is SOLVED!!

November 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 6 comments

Soon after I moved to Colonial Place/Riverview (Norfolk) in March 2007, I heard the story about the little bungalows in Riverview that (allegedly) had been moved there from The Jamestown Exposition (1907). According to the local legend, the houses had been built for the Exposition (at Sewell’s Point in Norfolk), and later moved to Riverview.

For the last 14 years, I’ve researched and studied kit homes sold by Sears, Aladdin, Montgomery Ward, Gordon Van Tine, etc. And one thing I’ve learned is that “legends” about the origins of these homes are often way off. In fact, more than 80% of the people who think they have a Sears House are wrong.

So I’ve come to learn that “local legends” are often not reliable.

After looking at the bungalows on Ethel Avenue, I seriously doubted the veracity of the Exposition story. The build-date for the “Ethels” (our pet name for the bungalows) felt wrong. The houses looked like they’d been built after 1910.

And that’s how it all began.

For the last three years, David Spriggs (Norfolk), Mark Hardin (Hopewell) and I have been researching this story, and it’d take a full book to review the sum total of what we learned along the way. (And within the next six months, that book should be finished. More on that later.)

Looking back, it’s fun to see the progression and evolution of our thought processes. At first, I suspected the “Ethels” were from Aladdin (a kit home company). After all, when you’re a kit house historian, that’s your natural default. Despite lots of digging through lots of old catalogs, I couldn’t match them up.

Our first big break came when Mark Hardin discovered our Ethels out in Dupont, Washington and Ramsay, Montana, the site of two DuPont World War One-era munitions plants. The houses had been built there in the 1910s, to provide housing for the workers at the DuPont plants.

Penniman (about six miles east of Williamsburg) had been the site of DuPont’s 37th munitions plant, and it had closed down after The Great War had ended (November 1918).

Could our Ethels have come from Penniman?

Our next big break came when Robert Hitchings (another extraordinary historian) said that there were several houses on Major Avenue (a Norfolk neighborhood known as “Riverfront”) that had been brought in by barge. Within about six weeks, Robert gave us a 1921 clipping from the Virginian Pilot, showing a barge bringing the houses down the York River. Read more about that here.

Break Number Three was also from Mark Hardin. He found an article in a 1938 Richmond newspaper, detailing the fascinating history of the “ghost city” of Penniman, Virginia. At its peak, the village boasted of 15,000 residents. It had its own bank, post office, YMCA, hospital, and schools. A grainy picture from the Richmond paper showed several Penniman houses, at Penniman. Those were the same model houses now sitting on Major Avenue. More on that here.

With that 1921 Virginian Pilot article in hand, David was able to find a local descendant of Mr. Hastings (a local stevedore who’d brought the houses into Norfolk by barge). I sent the descendant a note and she contacted me. She was able to fill in a lot of blanks, and tell us where even more of the Penniman houses were located (in Willoughby Spit).

And yet, we didn’t have any pictures of our Ethels on barges or at Penniman. We had a barge-load of circumstantial evidence that these houses came from Penniman, but we wanted more.

Digging for information on Penniman was very challenging. We searched and searched, and found bits and pieces here and there, but nothing substantive. When “The War to End All Wars” finally ended, all traces of Penniman went with it.

And then finally, after three years of research, I hit the Mother Lode.

Hagley Museum and Library (in Wilmington, DE) is a 235-acre site that is home to the original DuPont estate and gardens. According to Wiki, Hagley Museum and Library “tells the story of the people who worked for the DuPont company in the 19th Century.”

And fortunately, those folks kept good records. After a few emails and phone calls to Hagley, I learned that Hagley had many photos of Penniman. I literally jumped in the car and drove 483 miles (round trip) to look at those photos.

And let me tell you, it was worth the trip.

On October 25, I spent several hours at the Hagley Museum and Library, learning all about life in Penniman in the late 1910s. It was quite a thrill to look at the 100+ photos of a place that was now all but forgotten. It was remarkable to look into the faces of the men and women of Penniman, working assiduously to “stuff one [shell] for the kaiser,” and doing their part to win “The War to End All Wars.”

And best of all, I spotted the Ethels in their natural habitat.

As an architectural historian, I can tell you, that was a very happy memory that I won’t ever forget.

Three years of searching. Hundreds of  miles traversed. Countless hours of research. Mystery solved.

Below are a few photos that tell the story of our Ethels, and where they came from and where they landed.

And if you’d like to learn more. Rosemary and David will be giving a Powerpoint Presentation on “The Ethels and Penniman” in Feburary 2014 at the CPRV Civic League Meeting in Norfolk.

Thanks so much to David Spriggs and Mark Hardin for helping solve an architectural mystery!

There is one more piece of the puzzle we’d really like to solve. We’re told by long-time Riverview residents that there is a picture of The Ethels, fresh off the boat, being rolled up Lavalette Avenue on pilings or logs. There has been a whole slew of us (David Spriggs, Milton Crum, Bill Inge and more) methodically searching the local papers for this photo, but we’ve found nothing. We’d love to find it!

If anyone has information on where we might find this photo, we’d be grateful to know.

To read Part I of this story, click here.

To read part II of this story, click here.

To read part III, click here.

To read more about Old Hickory (another DuPont plant with the same houses), click here.

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The Ethels have been a  mystery

The true source of these "Ethels" (as we call them) has been a puzzle for many years. Here are three in a row on Ethel Avenue in Riverview (Norfolk). The tax records give a build date of 1918, which (to my amazement) is right.These houses were built at Penniman in Spring 1918, and sometime in late 1923 or early 1924, they were floated down the York River to Lafayette River and into Riverview. According to DuPont's literature, this particular model was called, "The DuPont." Sadly, one of these old Penniman houses was torn down about 2008.

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Highland Park

There are two Ethels in Highland Park (49th Street) in Norfolk, side by side. Despite the oversized addition on the second floor, this house is in wonderfully original condition. (Photo is copyright 2009 David Spriggs.)

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Dupont Mark

Mark Hardin found The Ethel in several other DuPont towns, such as DuPont, Washington, where they have more than 100 of these houses, lined up - one after the other - like little soldiers. In fact, Mark found that there's a "Penniman Street" in Dupont, Washington. The house shown above is in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

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Penniman houses 1938

One of our big breaks was when we found this in-depth story about Penniman in the Richmond News Leader. The article was dated June 1938, and gives an amazing insight into life in Penniman.We'd love to find Dick Velz' family and find out if they have any more information on Penniman. It's a long shot, but it's a shot.

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Penniman

At its peak, there were about 15,000 people working at DuPont's 37th munitions plant in Penniman. The houses were packed in there pretty tightly. Most of the houses had "rubberoid exteriors." In other words, they were pretty primitive. The Ethels were the better houses, and had a little bit of space around them. At the back of the photo you can see the "better class of houses" and the York River. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house house

Close-up of those finer homes at the back of the photo. The houses in the foreground were pretty simple dwellings, and most didn't have wood exteriors, but "rubberoid" (not unlike tar paper). (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house native

Another panoramic shows the Ethels in place within Penniman. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house house

The Ethels sat down by the York River for the first few months of their young lives. Five or six years after they were built, they were moved to Norfolk, Virginia. The two-story houses were "Haskells" and were moved to Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue (Riverfront area) in Norfolk. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house house house Penniman

Three little Ethels in a row in Penniman. Check out the board walk. The houses were probably built on brick pillars, and the planks were added around the foundation to keep out the wind and the critters. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house penniman

The Haskell (two-story house) is facing the York River. The Ethel is facing the fire hydrant. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Another big break came

Another big break came when Robert Hitchings found this article in the Virginian Pilot (date December 1921). Warren Hastings moved at least 50 of these Penniman Houses to Norfolk. A man named George Hudson *apparently* moved our Ethels to Riverview. In October 1923, George Hudson bought the lots where the Ethels now reside, and like Hastings, Hudson owned a stevedore business (barges).

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Riverview front

Several Penniman houses landed on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. The house on the left is a vintage image of a DuPont design, known as "The Haskell." The house on the right is on Major Avenue. It apparently survived its trip down the York pretty well.

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Houses in Willougby

Thanks to Warren Hasting's granddaughter (still living in the area), we found these Haskells in Willoughby Spit. They were also moved from Penniman by Warren Hastings.

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houses in

The yellow Ethel in Highland Park looks like such a happy Ethel.

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houses david

A side-by-side comparison of the two houses shows there can be no doubt as to their origins! The house on the right is from Penniman. (Photo on left is copyright 2008, David Spriggs; Photo on right is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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Photo in Penniman

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the forward-thinking people of DuPont, who hired photographers to document Penniman with these oversized panoramic photos the village. These photos (now safely stored in the archives at Hagley) provide an incredible level of detail, showing life in Penniman in 1918. (Courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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To learn more about this fascinating topic, check out the links below.

To read Part I of this story, click here.

To read part II of this story, click here.

To read part III, click here.

Want to contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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What Do George Bailey and Sears Roebuck Have in Common?

July 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of my favorite movies is the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Many folks think it’s a movie about one man’s life making a difference in this world, but I saw it a different way. I saw it as a movie that explained why homeownership is so important.

In the first years of the 20th Century, magazines and newspapers of the day declared that Americans had a patriotic duty to be homeowners. It was well-understood that home ownership was a boon to individuals and their families, but the “patriotic” angle made the point that homeownership also benefited neighborhoods and communities, and by extension, it benefited cities and even the country, as a whole.

To put a contemporary spin on this, what better modern-day model do we have than Detroit? How much of Detroit is now rental (non-owner occupied)? Despite 30 minutes of searching, I wasn’t able to find an answer, but I’d guess it’s a lot. (Heck, how much of Detroit’s housing is just not occupied by anyone?)

The early Sears Modern Homes catalogs made this point in a variety of ways, but in short it said this: Homeowners have a vested interest in their community and communities with a large percentage of homeowners will enjoy a greater proportion of prosperity, stability and peace.

In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey sees what Bedford Falls, would have looked like if he’d never been born. Without George’s positive influence and his ever-fledgling Building and Loan, the modern subdivision of Bailey Park would never have been developed and many residents would have remained renters, rather than homeowners.

Without the Bailey Building and Loan, George finds that Bedford Falls is full of substandard rental properties.

And because there are so many rental properties, there is less stability in the family, and in a broader context, there is less stability in the community as well.

Look at Bert (the cop) and Ernie (the cab driver).

In this alternate “George-less” world, Ernie does not live with his family in their own “nice little home in Bailey Park,” but instead, he lives is a decrepit shack in Pottersville and it’s implied that this hardship is largely to blame for the fact that Ernie’s wife “ran off three years ago and took the kid.”

The streets of this alternate-Bedford Falls (now named Pottersville) are lined with liquor stores, night clubs, pawnbrokers, striptease shows and pool halls. Gaudy neon signs flash “girls, girls, girls” and illumine the night-time corridors of Main Street. Citizens are neither calm nor law-abiding and brusque policemen struggle to keep peace and order.

George’s revelation that he really had a “wonderful life” stemmed in part from the realization that his meager efforts to give people the chance to become homeowners gave them a feeling of accomplishment, prosperity, security and pride. By extension, the whole community benefited in important, significant and enduring ways.

I’m of the opinion that Sears was, to small communities in the Midwest, what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls.

Sears empowered and enabled tens of thousands of working-class and immigrant families to build their own home. What would countless Midwestern towns have become without Sears homes?

How many towns in the Midwest were spared the fate of becoming a Pottersville, thanks to these little kit homes? Probably many.

Sears Modern Homes made a significant difference in many communities throughout the Midwest.

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In the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the real heroes are the people who kept this little Building and Loan afloat, enabling countless residents to become homeowners.

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In the end, George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many peoples lives, enabling them to become homeowners. He saw that his town would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brothers Building and Loan.

George realized he had a wonderful life because he had touched so many people's lives, enabling them to become homeowners. The angel ("Clarence") showed George that Bedford Falls would have collapsed into blight had it not been for Bailey Brother's Building and Loan.

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The value of homeownenrship was also touted in

The value of homeownership was also touted in the front pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog (1921).

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Father is throwing out rent receipts - because theyre worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

Father is throwing out rent receipts - because they're worthless - whilst dreaming of his very own home.

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Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway.

Meanwhile, Father and Mother are dreaming of owning their very own Sears Hathaway. Even the little girl is lost in bliss! Is there a Hathaway in Lima, Ohio? It'd be fun to know!

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A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

A real live Hathaway in Hampton, Virginia (Old Wythe section).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Learn more about the biggest and best Sears Home by clicking here!

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