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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 4)

April 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of their Crescent Hill “Sears Homes” being promoted in a local brochure were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was very upsetting. Those who write about history have a solemn charge to make sure it is kept pure and honest. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes.  (Reader’s Note: This blog is Part 4 of a series.  Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here. Blogs with photos of Aladdin kit homes are labeled with Roman numerals.)

The beauty part of identifying Sears Homes is matching the houses to their original catalog image.

Below is one such example:

And the Sears Lynnhaven. There are two in Hopewells Crescent Hills.

The Sears Lynnhaven from the 1936 catalog.

Sears Lynnhaven #2

Sears Lynnhaven in Hopewell. Nice match!

Now that’s a nice match. The house in Hopewell looks just like the catalog image. That’s what makes this topic so fun and so intriguing and so delightful. And the cold hard fact is, if you can not match up a suspected kit home to an image in a vintage mail-order catalog, you got nothing.  The house must be a spot-on match (minus remodelings, substitute sidings, etc.).

And that’s my complaint with Hopewell’s purported “Sears Home” at 105 Prince George Avenue. The brochure offered at the Hopewell Visitor’s Center identifies this house as (and I’m quoting), “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

I kid you not.

That’s all the information offered on this house.

Speaking as someone who’s written several books on this topic, and as someone who’s traveled all over this country for the last 11 years, seeking and finding kit homes of every name and nature, I can say with authority, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Sears offered 370 designs of kit homes. Their very first catalog had 22 designs within its 44 pages, and not one of those designs was called, “Original Sears Model.”

There is no “original Sears model” (remodeled or not).

Further, I’m of the opinion that the house at 105 Prince George Avenue is not a Sears Home. And if it was a Sears Home, I’d show you a catalog image so you - the reader - could contrast and compare the two pictures.

But on this house - I got nothing. No idea. So here’s the house in Hopewell that the brochure identifies as, “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

Frustrating

That vinyl picket fence might be from Sears. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To see Danville’s amazing collection of Sears Homes, click here.

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Aladdin Babies

March 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

One of my favorite parts of playing with kit homes is reading the testimonials in the back pages, from happy customers. Today, as I was scanning a 1914 catalog, I came across this testimonial.   The writer is Charles Stoffel, and he explains that he’s quite pleased with his new home, the Kentucky #2, which was finished in January 1913.  His baby girl, Maxim Stoffel, was born about a month later. The house was built in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

This picture helps give perspective on these houses.  An Aladdin baby, born in 1913 (when the Aladdin kit home was built), would now be 98 years old.

And I’d bet money the Stoffel family doesn’t know that great-grandma’s baby picture is in an old Aladdin catalog.  :)

If  you know where this house is in Mechanicsville, please leave a comment below! Or if you know the Stoffel family, please forward this link to them.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin Baby

Aladdin

The testimonial from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Kentucky

Here's the catalog picture of the Kentucky Kit home that Charles Stoffel built, and little Maxim was born in. It's in Mechanicsville, Iowa.

Aladdin

Another view of the Aladdin Kentucky, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Kentucky

Actual photograph of the Kentucky from the 1914 catalog.

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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