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Posts Tagged ‘aladdin kit homes’

Is That Really a Sears Kit Home? Nine Easy Ways to Tell.

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again - How do you identify a Sears Kit Home?

First, begin by eliminating the obvious. Sears sold these homes between 1908-1940. If your home was built outside of that time frame, it can not be a Sears catalog home. Period. Exclamation mark!

The nine easy signs follow:

1) Look for stamped lumber in the basement or attic.  Sears Modern Homes were kit homes and the framing members were stamped with a letter and a number to help facilitate construction. Today, those marks can help prove that you have a kit home.

2) Look for shipping labels. These are often found on the back of millwork (baseboard molding, door and window trim, etc).

3) Check house design using a book with good quality photos and original catalog images. For Sears, I recommend, “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (all color photos). For Wardway, there’s “The Mail-Order Homes of Montgomery Ward.”

4) Look in the attic and basement for any paperwork (original blueprints, letters, etc). that might reveal that you have a Sears home.

5) Courthouse records. From 1911 to 1933, Sears offered home mortgages. Using grantor records, you may find a few Sears mortgages and thus, a few Sears homes.

6) Hardware fixtures. Sears homes built during the 1930s often have a small circled “SR” cast into the bathtub in the lower corner (furthest from the tub spout and near the floor) and on the underside of the kitchen or bathroom sink.

7) Goodwall sheet plaster. This was an early quasi-sheetrock product offered by Sears, and can be a clue that you have a kit home.

8 ) Unique column arrangement on front porch and five-piece eave brackets (see pictures below).

9) Original building permits. In cities that have retained original building permits, you’ll often find “Sears” listed as the home’s original architect.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To read another article, click here.

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Lumber was numbered to facilitate construction

Numbers

The numbers are usually less than an inch tall and will be found near the edge of the board.

The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

See the faint markings on this lumber? This mark was made in blue grease pencil and reads, "2089" and was scribbled on the board when the lumber left Cairo, Illinois. This was a photo taken in a Sears Magnolia in North Carolina. The Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as #2089

Sears Magnolia was also known as Model #2089.

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Homes

Shipping labels can also be a clue that you have a Sears Home.

"The Sears Homes of Illinois" has more than 200 color photos of the most popular designs that Sears offered and can be very helpful in identifying Sears Homes.

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home

Ephemera can help identify a house as a Sears Home. This picture came from an original set of Sears "Honor Bilt" blueprints.

Ephemera

Ephemera and paperwork can provide proof that you do indeed have a Sears Home.

Haa

Plumbing fixtures - such as this bathtub - can provide clues, as well. I've found this "SR" (Sears Roebuck) stamp on bathtubs, sinks and toilets. On the sink, it's found on the underside, and on toilets, it's found in the tank, near the casting date.

Goodwall Sheet Plaster

Goodwall Sheet Plaster was sold in the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalogs. This was a "fireproof" product that was much like modern sheetrock.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

About two dozen of Sears most popular designs had a unique column arrangement that makes identification easier. The Vallonia was one of those 24 Sears Homes with that unique column arrangement.

Close-up of the columns.

Close-up of the columns.

And in the flesh...

And in the flesh...

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Houses should be a perfect match to original drawings found in the Sears Modern Homes catalog. This is where people get into trouble. They ignore the details.

Sears Mitchell in Elgin, Illinois.

Sears "Mitchell" in Elgin, Illinois.

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The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

The Sears Winona, as featured in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The house in Raleigh (see below) is just a spot-on match, a rarity in a house of this age!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Winona in Raleigh, looking PERFECT!

Sears Auburn in Halifax, NC

Sears Auburn

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

And a dazzling Auburn in Halifax, NC.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Pheonix from the 1919 Modern Homes catalog.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

And a lovely Sears Pheonix in Newman, IL. Photo is courtesy Rebecca Hunter.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Send Rose an email at thorntonrose@hotmail.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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So, What Did You Learn?

May 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

It was about a year ago today that this website was redone and revamped. I’ve been trying to - systematically and patiently - post a few of the 35,000 photos I’ve taken in the last 10 years of researching kit homes.

Have you enjoyed the site? Have you learned something new from the 200+ posts (and 1000+ photos) that I’ve put here in the last year? Earlier this month, this site had its 100,000th visitor.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, I’d sure be grateful to hear from you. If you’ve learned something wonderful, please tell me, and leave a comment below.

Like Twain, I can live for a couple months on one good compliment.  :)

And in the meantime, I think I’ll take a few days off from blogging and dream about my future life in the mountains.  I love the mountains, and one day, I’ll live there.

Beauty

Valley view of Hightown, Virginia (very near the West Virginia border).

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 6)

May 20th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows that were originally built at another location, and then moved here by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.  (Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs for finding that date, and also finding the name of the man who moved them!  To learn more about what David learned, click here.)

Back in April, we learned that 3,000 miles away in Dupont, Washington, there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory there. Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington, I now have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in Fall 1909.

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” (our pet name for these little houses) in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington and Butte, Montana.

Recently, in the name of history, old-house lover Mark Mckillop took a trip to Dupont, Washington and photographed more than 100 of the houses in that tiny village , and then sent me the photos. His photographs prove (as we suspected) that the Ethel Bungalows in Dupont are indeed identical to the Ethel Bungalows here in Norfolk.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing (and fascinating) story.

Despite all we’ve learned, may unanswered questions remain. Are these “Ethels” kit homes from Aladdin? Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington.

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Have you seen this house?

May 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

These fine-looking bungalows (see below) are in Dupont, Washington. In fact, there are several of these bungalows (built in the early 1910s) in Dupont, Washington.  Today, I’m trying to figure out where I’ve seen this house before, because if I can figure THAT out, it’ll help me solve some other mysteries I’m working on.

I know I’ve seen this house elsewhere (in places other than Dupont, Washington) and I’m 92% sure I saw it in Boise, IdahoUPDATE:  Having heard back from several people in Boise, I’m now thinking I must have seen it in California (probably near Anaheim).

Dupont, Washington was named for Dupont (which built a factory there before WW1). Dupont (the company) built several of these houses for their workers in Dupont (the city). And Dupont (the company) also built several houses (for workers) in Hopewell, Va.

When comparing this house to others, please notice that this is not just another bungalow. This house has very distinctive details around the eaves and the front porch has massive eave brackets.

These photos (below) are all of the same model but with some variations (such as different dormers), and these houses have had some changes through the years, but that massive oversized eave on the front is one feature that has not been altered in any of these photos.

Have you seen this house? If so, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the kit homes in Boise, click here.

Thanks to Mark Mckillop for providing the photos!

housie

One of the distinctive features of this house in Dupont is the oversized eave on the front. Notice the four brackets, which are also massive. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

housie

Those are some big brackets. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

house

This house has a shed dormer (while the house above has a gabled dormer). This house retains its original porch railing. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

house

Another house with original railings. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

house

Different dormer (again), but those four brackets are consistent with the other houses. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

house

Close-up on the front porch. (Photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes in Boise, click here.

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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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The Stockley Gardens Art Show and my 70th First Date

May 16th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In May 2006, after 69 first dates (it’s true, I counted), I sat down at my favorite internet dating site (Match.com) and tried one more time.

This time, three new guys popped up. One in particular captured my attention. His profile said that he played the guitar and sang songs and enjoyed woodworking. Judging by his well-written profile, he was also a capable wordsmith. His profile photo showed a man with a bushy beard and silver hair and a green flannel shirt.

Mr. Green Flannel looked fuzzy and cuddly - a good combination.

And the singing? Be still my quivering heart.

“Singing silly little love songs” was on the very first draft of my four-page “What I Want In a Man” mission statement and that bullet point remained throughout that document’s countless revisions.

All three men looked promising, so I dashed off a quickie note, tweaked ever-so-slightly to make it seem like a personal note. Within 48 hours, there was an email reply from Mr. Green Flannel. The other two men never replied.

Mr. Green Flannel was intrigued and wanted to know more. I sent back another note and gave him my phone number. I didn’t hear from him again for several days and assumed he’d lost interest. And then the evening of May 10th,  my cell phone rang. It was Mr. Green Flannel.

Within moments of this first phone call, I was on the fast track to love. Stretched out on top of the fluffy comforter of my queen-size bed, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as he told me about his life. He was intelligent, articulate, interesting and well-spoken. Unlike 97.52% of the world’s population, Mr. Green Flannel spoke in full sentences, peppered with beautifully descriptive words, phrases and expressions. Every now and then, he used a word that I didn’t know. His ability to out-vocabulize the well-read, smarty-pants author swept me off my feet. He spoke slowly and purposefully and all of his words were laced with a delightful West Virginian accent.

As we talked, I learned we had much in common. His first story and my first story (involving our fathers) were much alike. We’d both lost our mothers on Christmas Day. Not too many people share that experience. We were both history nuts. And I made him laugh and vice versa. After a long, enjoyable telephone conversation, we agreed to ratchet up to a face-to-face meeting.

We made plans to meet on Saturday morning, May 20th at 9:00 a.m. at a downtown coffee shop. This suited me well. I was a morning person and I was a lot more charming and witty first thing in the morning. And if it turned out that this guy was nothing but bad news, I could spill my hot chocolate on the table and be out of there in a flash.

This time, I feared I may have over-reached. Date #70 was a highly intelligent, well-educated man with a prestigious job and he was handsome and witty and intriguing and had the most beautiful male voice I’d ever heard. I’d traveled down this well-worn path many times before. Same man, different body. And this story always had the same ending: Sadness and regret, self-recriminations and tears and a night or twelve of crying myself to sleep.

Like the proverbial moth to the flame, I was attracted to intelligent, well-educated, charming men and they were no good for me.

I said a little prayer and asked God to send some big chubby angels to help me through the next few hours.

Date #70 had told me that he was one of those people who was never ever late. That meant that he arrived 10-15 minutes early everywhere he went, which meant that I should arrive at least 30 minutes early; 10 minutes to beat him there and five minutes to calm down my frenzied, frizzy hair, with five minutes left over to mentally practice making an incredible first impression. The coffee shop had free wi-fi, so that gave me an excuse to take my laptop and surf the net and pretend to be one of the beautiful, happening people.

I arrived about 8:30 and ordered my hot chocolate. About 8:50 am, my last first date walked through the door.

He was shorter than I thought. Or maybe the doorway to the old building was unusually high. He was wearing a green plaid flannel shirt, clean blue jeans and a belt with a West Virginia buckle. West Virginia’s upper-most hinterlands were hidden underneath his muffin top. He was grinning. And he was cute as a button.

“You must be Rose,” he said with that enchanting West Virginian drawl.

“I am. And you must be Wayne.”

I managed to rise to my feet without falling over. A good start.

“Nice to meet you,” he replied through perfectly aligned teeth.

He was way too relaxed. He appeared to be someone who actually enjoyed dating. I wasn’t sure what to think of that. Did that indicate good self-esteem (a plus) or a smarmy familiarity with the ladies (a big negative)? His body language suggested he was comfortable and planning to have a splendid time. He looked both relaxed and alert. He seemed happy and eager to get to know this newest offering from the internet dating world.

We sat down together and engaged in the idle chatter that is the on-ramp to meaningful dialogue on a first date.

Less than 15 minutes into the date, my well-honed listening skills failed me. I gazed into his kind eyes and looked at his pretty red lips and wondered if he knew how to kiss a woman. His beard was also very distracting. He had a beautiful silver beard with a few remnants of the original red and brown. It was a really, really good beard. It was a very manly beard. And there were a few gray chest hairs sprouting from his open shirt. A manly man with a manly beard and manly chest hair.

He talked very slowly and yet, he spoke in whole paragraphs. No fragmented sentences and no umms or uhhs or rambling ideas. If someone were sitting in the corner writing down his words, there’d be no revision or correction needed prior to publishing.

He was a darling man and I’m sure the women loved him. Why was this guy on the loose, I wondered. Why did the last 27 women send him packing? Drug addict? Alcoholic? Gasoline sniffer? Or maybe, just like Date #49, he liked looking at pictures of naked men. Or maybe he was one of those guys who threw off his clothes as soon as he came home from work and donned women’s silk underwear and stiletto heels and pranced around his bachelor pad, lip-synching Carly Simon songs? Or maybe he was on probation and just got out of the Big House and this whole lawyer thing was a ruse. I glanced at his ears, hoping to find a bright, yellow warning label that might give some insight. He’d been caught and released by several other women, but he’d never been tagged, darn it.

Somewhere, amidst all this mental meandering, he handed me his card. Both he and his card claimed that he was a city employee (and a high ranking one, at that). I glanced at the card, which bore an impressive title.

“Wow. That’s quite something,” I said out loud.

“If you’re going to fake an identity, you probably should go for something a little more plausible,” I thought to myself. Surreptitiously, I ran my thumb over the card’s face. The city logo wasn’t embossed and the card stock was an inferior grade.

“I finally snag a big fish and it’s nothing more than a cardboard cut-out of a trout,” I told myself.  And then, trying desperately to salvage something from this masquerade, I decided that Date #70 would be a great story for the book. As #70 talked some more, I listened closely to his words and watched his body language and looked deeply into his eyes and that’s when I started to think he might be legitimate. Maybe, just maybe, he really was a lawyer and maybe, he really did work for the city.

And I remembered a story he told me during our first phone call. At a party, a woman asked him what he did for a living. He replied that he was a lawyer. Over the noise and din, she thought he said he was a logger. He laughed about it. “I guess I do look more like a logger than a lawyer.”

After about 90 minutes, he invited me to attend a local art show with him. It sounded like fun and I hadn’t been to an art show since my mother was an exhibitor in 1978. As we strolled around the Stockley Gardens Art Show, I had a recurring urge to reach out and hold his hand but hesitated. A raging internal debate about handholding ensued.

Was it forward to reach out and grab someone’s hand? If I held his hand within 90 minutes of the first meet and greet, did that mean that we’d be kissing within the next hour, breathing heavy by noon and then back at his place for hot sex by 3 o’clock? Is that how men think? Was it wise for a woman to send that message so early on the first date? Or maybe I was thinking about this all wrong. Maybe, if I reached out for his chubby little mitt, he’d see my sweet and playful side. Maybe he’d think it was cute, like reaching behind him and snapping his suspenders. But snapping suspenders and holding hands are two different things. Did male/female hand-holding constitute foreplay in today’s dating world? I couldn’t decide. And then there was the whole matter of rejection. I’d die from sheer horror if Date #70 rejected a hand-holding.

It was too risky. I decided not to reach out for his hand.

Walking along the city sidewalks, he stopped me for a moment and said, “Hold on,” and then he took a step or two backwards and gracefully positioned himself on my other side.

“A gentleman always walks on the street side,” he said.

“Nice,” I replied, “but do you know why a gentleman always takes the street side?”

He did. Mr. Green Flannel knew the reason why. (Gentlemen, in days of yore, walked on that side to protect a lady from the mud and muck thrown by a passing carriage.)

Now I wanted to grab him by the lapels on his flannel shirt and tell him that he was the man I’d waited for and dreamt about and prayed for and I could show him my four-page mission statement and it was very clear on all these points and could we just forego all the societal silliness and get married that afternoon and wouldn’t it be great to tell our kids that we got married on the very day we met and plus, was anyone ever married in a green flannel shirt, with the bride wearing red sandals and sporting a black laptop case as an accessory? It’d all be grand.

To read the rest of the story, buy Rose’s book here.

But I’ll give you a sneak peek of the ending. They lived happily ever after. And once a year, they attended the Stockley Gardens Art Show and strolled through the many exhibits, talking about that fortuitous first date.  :)

The Eight-Cow Wife

Photographic proof of the happy ending. :)

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Ocean View and Their Delightful Bunch of Kit Homes

May 5th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

When Sam Evans met the woman of his dreams, he waited three years to pop the question. Her response was swift and sure.

“Sam,” Ollie Mae replied, “I’m only 12!”

When Sam told me this story more than 70 years later, he added, “I just didn’t want wait ’til the last minute!”

Sam and Ollie Mae grew up together in Ocean View, a delightful little piece of Norfolk that sits on the Chesapeake Bay.

When I moved back to this area in 2007, I was happily surprised to find an abundance of kit homes in Ocean View.  Below are some of the architectural treasures I’ve found in Ocean View. To learn more about the kit homes here in Norfolk, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

This Arts & Crafts bungalow is the Sears Ashmore and its one of my favorite houses. Its a real beauty of a house, and Ive seen about five in my many travels, so its pretty rare.

This Arts & Crafts bungalow is the Sears Ashmore and it's one of my favorite houses. It's a real beauty of a house, and I've seen about five in my many travels, so it's pretty rare.

And heres that Aristrocrat of Bungalows on a side street just off of Granby in Ocean View.

And here's that "Aristrocrat of Bungalows" on a side street just off of Granby in Ocean View.

Sears

Sears Walton as seen in the 1921 Modern Homes catalog

Sers
Sears Walton in Ocean View!Sears Argyle

Argyle. It's not just for socks.

Are these owners proud of their Sears Argyle? Id say yes.  :)

Are these owners proud of their Sears Argyle? I'd say yes. :)

This is a Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 catalog.

This is a Sears Alhambra as seen in the 1921 catalog.

And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

And this is a Sears Alhambra, sans Spanish-flavored extras!

The Vallonia was a very popular model. This Craftsman style bungalow had an expandable attic and was perfect for a growing family!

The Vallonia was a very popular model. This Craftsman style bungalow had an expandable attic and was perfect for a growing family!

This Vallonia has been converted into a duplex, but its still in good condition.

This Vallonia has been converted into a duplex, but it's still in good condition.

Note the detail on the porch columns. About two dozen Sears Homes had this unusual arrangement on the porch columns.

Note the detail on the porch columns. About two dozen Sears Homes had this unusual arrangement on the porch columns.

Close-up of the column on the Ocean View house

Close-up of the column on the Ocean View house

There are two of the Harris Brothers kit homes in Ocean View. Very unusual house. Harris Brothers was a small company based in Chicago, IL.

There are two of the Harris Brothers kit homes in Ocean View. Very distinctive-looking house. Harris Brothers was a small company based in Chicago, IL.

It was known as Harris Brothers Home #1000, and was a popular design for this kit home company, but there are not many Harris Brother homes in Virginia.

It was known as Harris Brothers Home #1000, and was a popular design for this kit home company, but there are not many Harris Brother homes in Virginia. Notice the curved front porch (now closed in). Even original flower-box brackets are still in place.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

This is a kit home from Gordon Van Tine, a competitor of Sears in the kit home business.

Heres a Gordon Van Tine in the Ocean View area of Norfolk - and in perfect condition!

Here's a Gordon Van Tine "Roberts" and in perfect condition!

The Westly was another very popular house for Sears.

The Westly was another very popular house for Sears.

Like the other Craftsman-style bungalow in Ocean View, this Sears Westly has also been turned into a duplex.

Like the other Craftsman-style bungalow in Ocean View, this Sears Westly has also been turned into a duplex.

From the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

From the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog

Sears Barrington in Ocean View!

Sears Barrington in Ocean View!

This was not a kit home, but a house design from a plan book. Prospective homeowners would browse the pages of a catalog and find a home that they liked, and after sending in their dollars, theyd receive a full set of blueprints and a full inventory of what was needed to build their dream home. Building supplies were purchased locally.

This was not a kit home, but a house design from a "plan book." Prospective homeowners would browse the pages of a catalog and find a home that they liked, and after sending in their dollars, they'd receive a full set of blueprints and a full inventory of what was needed to build their dream home. Building supplies were purchased locally.

The Carrville (Homebuilders Catalog)

The Carrville (Homebuilder's Catalog)

Sears Brookwood, from the 1933 catalog.

Sears Brookwood, from the 1933 catalog.

Brookwood in Ocean View!

The Brookwood was a smaller version of the Barrington. It was four feet shorter and two feet narrower.

And what became of Sam and Ollie Mae?

A few years later, Ollie Mae accepted Sam’s proposal and they were married. When Ollie Mae passed on in 2002, they’d been married for more than six decades, and together for seven decades.  I first met Sam in 1974 when I became a student at a vocational school in Portsmouth. Sam taught Automotive Technology at Norcom.

Sam’s now retired, and lives with his bride in Portsmouth. (They were recently married.)  And not only is Sam one of the most interesting people I have ever met, he’s also my role model. This World War 2 veteran is healthy and strong and spends hours each day working in his yard and digging holes and planting things and mowing the grass and tending to his beautifully manicured one-acre estate.

And it was Sam that told me that he suspected Ocean View had a few kit homes.

And the last remnant of the Evans Garage in Ocean View (owned by Sam Evans father).

Sam grew up working with his father at the family business in Ocean View, "Evan's Garage." This weather vane is last remnant of the Evan's Garage (founded in 1918).

Ocean View

Some of the natural beauty that's in abundance in Ocean View.

Ocean View

The nice sandy beaches of Ocean View.

To learn more about Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

To read about Rose the Ham, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Holy Moly, Another Magnolia?

May 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

A dear soul on Facebook sent me a note this morning asking if I’d taken a look at the house at 1500 James Street in Syracuse, New York. Unable to sleep at 2:00 in the morning, I went looking via Google maps, expecting to be disappointed yet again. At least twice a week, I get a note from someone who is utterly convinced that they’ve seen a Sears Magnolia and every time, they’re wrong.

However this time, they might be right.

Now, I have to use every bit of self-control I have, not to get in a car and drive nine hours to Syracuse and see this house. The picture available via Google maps is unusually poor, and I’m not able to see much detail, and am unwilling to make a pronouncement at this point, but that house at 1500 James sure does look like a Sears Magnolia!

If anyone within the sound of my voice would be interested in getting about 4000 pictures of this house and sending it to me, I would be so very grateful. In fact, I’d send you a copy of any and all of my books you’d like to add to your library. :)  Signed, too. Free books. Just snap a few photos, send them to me and make an authors day!  :)

Updated to add: Having figured out how to use “bird’s eye view” on Bing, I’m becoming ever more confident that this house in Syracuse is indeed a Magnolia.

My kingdom for a high resolution digital picture!!!!

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia as seen in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The Sears Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

Details on Sears Magnolias front porch

Details on the Sears Magnolia's front porch. The two-story columns are an eye-catching feature. Also notice the distinctive roof lines and unique details around the front porch. At its core, the Sears Magnolia is a classic foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

Maggy in Benson

The Maggy in Benson, NC is a spot-on match.

Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

A beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio

Sears Magnolia

Sears Magnolia in Benson, NC.

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.  (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling)

Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. (Photo courtesy of Bob Keeling) Done in brick, this Sears Magnolia also is not a spot-on match to the catalog page.

Magnolia in South Carolina

The Magnolia in Alabama is also not a spot-on match to the original catalog image. Most obvious is that attic dormer, which is much simpler than the Magnolia dormer. Yet this house in Piedmont Alabama is a Sears Magnolia.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 5)

May 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows that were originally built at another location, and then moved here (by barge) sometime after The Great War ended in 1918. For years, that’s pretty much all that was known about them.

Last month, we learned that 3,000 miles away in Dupont, Washington, there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory there.  Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington, I now have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in 1909.

And now there’s a new wrinkle.

Indefatigable researcher Mark Hardin has found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” (our pet name for these little houses) in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington and Butte, Montana.

We know that Dupont often turned to Aladdin kit homes to provide them with houses for their workers. We know that Dupont used Aladdin to provide housing at their sites in Carney’s Point, NJ, Old Hickory, TN, and Hopewell, VA. According to local lore, Dupont also used Aladdin to provide houses for their workers at their guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia.

It’s looking more and more likely that our “Ethels” came that guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia (now the site of Cheatem Annex, a military installation). Dupont built hundreds of houses for the workers, and purportedly, some of those houses were moved after The Great War. This fits nicely with the story of the our Ethels in Norfolk.

Norfolk historian David Spriggs did some digging and found that the Norfolk lots which are now home to our “Ethels” were purchased by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922, and with a little more digging, he found that George P. Hudson was was listed in the 1925 city directory as “President of Hudson Transportation Co. and New Home Corporation.”  The business of Hudson Transportation Company was listed as, “Lighters and Barges.”

As David says, who would be in a better position to move 16 houses from Penniman to Norfolk than a man who owned a company called, “Hudson Transportation Co. and New Home Corporation”?

And who says history isn’t fun?  :)

And yet, many unanswered questions remain.

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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