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This One’s Asking For Advice on Old Cook Stoves…

March 13th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

A delightful anecdote from 1921 tells us that, when the Penniman houses were shipped to Norfolk, some of the workers went into one of the houses - as it made the slow 36-mile trek across the water - and made a full breakfast, using the oil cook stove in the kitchen.

That’s the kind of story that really makes history come alive.

The article, which appeared in the Peninsula Enterprise says,

Several workmen crossed the bay on the first barge that brought the houses. They had an oil stove in one of the houses. They got hungry and cooked some bacon and eggs and heated some coffee. They enjoyed a meal cooked in one of the houses while it was being towed to Norfolk (December 24, 1921).

More than being an interesting tidbit, it also illuminates this detail: Every kitchen in every Penniman house, built by a three-party contract between DuPont, Hancock-Pettyjohn and the US Government, came with an oil-fired cook stove.

Including an appliance in each house would have substantially increased the per-unit cost. Which is probably one reason why they did this. The houses were built on a popular-WW1 program known as “The Cost Plus Plan.”

When America entered WW1, we were in such a mad rush to get these munition plants up and running that there wasn’t time to seek bids and wait for bids and open bids and investigate potential contractors, so DuPont was charged with finding a trust-worthy contractor and the government agreed to pay all expenses of construction plus 8-1/2%. The downside of the Cost-Plus Plan is that the more money the house cost, the more money the contractor pocketed. Put another way, it took away incentives for the contractor to be efficient.

But I think there was more to this than just padding the price of a house.

This was a munitions plant where there were lots of opportunities for lots of things to go boom.

And when this contract for 200 houses was signed on December 31, 1917, the realities of the danger of TNT would be very fresh in everyone’s mind.

Three weeks earlier, December 6, 1917, the SS Mont Blanc, a French freighter, had just left Halifax heading for Bordeaux, France, where it would deliver 5,000,000 pounds of war-time explosives. It was about 8:45 am when the Mont Blanc collided with a Norwegian ship, the Imo. Despite the slow speed (about 2 knots), there was a resulting fire on the Mont Blanc. Sailors tried desperately to extinguish the growing fire, but eventually abandoned ship. About 20 minutes later, the drifting vessel returned to the wharf, and moments later, there was an explosion on the Mont Blanc.

According to the book, Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, the resulting blast shattered windows 60 miles away, and more than 1,000 people lost their sight due to flying glass. A tsunami eliminated a nearby community.

All in all, more than 1,900 people died. During WW2, scientists working on the Manhattan Project studied Halifax because the magnitude of the explosion emulated an atomic bomb in so many ways.

Not that anyone at DuPont would have needed any such reminders. The engineers and architects employed by the company would have been well aware of the grave risks of a single errant spark.

Which also explains why each house had steam radiant heat, supplied by a central heating system. No risk of sparks from an independent residential coal-fired heating system.

Which also explains why each house did not have a coal-fired or wood-burning cook stove: The risk of embers and fire would have been too great.

Which leads me to my question: It appears that - maybe - these late 1910s oil (kerosene) cook stoves didn’t require a chimney or any venting. As my friend Milton said, they appear to be similar to kerosene space heaters (which were hugely popular in the 1980s). There’s a reservoir of kerosene, fed by gravity to a burner with a large wick. The unit produces small amounts of carbon monoxide, but not enough to cause CO poisoning.

If that’s true, why did every house in Penniman have a brick chimney?

Heat was supplied by a central heating plant. And I suspect (although I’m not sure) that the oil-fired cook stoves didn’t require venting.

Was it more evidence of the inefficiencies of the “Cost-Plus Plan”? Every house gets a chimney, whether or not it needs it? Or did the oil cook-stove need venting?

Thanks for any insights.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Perfection cook stoves were a big deal in the 1910s and 20s.

Perfection cook stoves were a big deal in the 1910s and 20s.

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These blue cylinders were called Chimneys but they were

These blue cylinders were called "Chimneys" but they were the burner mechanism for the stove.

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Lighting these puppies didn't look simple.

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That does look pretty hot.

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This looks like a lot of work. Why not electricity? Two reasons, electric stoves required tremendous amperage and re-wiring a house to receive an electric stove wouldnt have been easy. Electric stoves didnt really catch on until the late 1920s.

This looks like a lot of work. Why not electricity? Two reasons, electric stoves required tremendous amperage and re-wiring a house to receive an electric stove wouldn't have been easy. Electric stoves didn't get a foothold in the household appliance market until the 1930s.

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The last line is the best. Wow.

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Bacon. Its whats for breakfast. In a barge house.

Bacon. It's what's for breakfast. In a barge house. Virginia Pilot, December 1921.

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A Penniman house in Norfolk, about 1960.

A Penniman house in Norfolk, about 1960. All of these homes had chimneys, accessible from an interior kitchen wall. The question is - why?

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Read more about Penniman here.

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“I Bet a Man a Hat Today…”

March 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

For four years, I’ve been researching Penniman, and still, the most wonderful surprises keep popping up.

Last week, fellow history buff Mike Powell discovered a wonderful article in the Peninsula Enterprise (Accomac, Virginia) about moving houses from Penniman to Norfolk. It was dated December 24, 1921.

Emboldened by this enchanting discovery, I dragged my buddy Milton Crum down to the Newport News Public Library to see if we could find anything more in the local papers about these houses being moved. At this point, all we’d seen was the blip in the Virginian Pilot (with photo) from December 5th, 1921 (see below).

Lo and behold, Milton discovered an indepth article in the Newport News Times-Herald (November 23, 1921), which included a lot of specific information on the mechanics of moving a house - by barge - in 1921.

The article, titled “Plan to Move 31 Houses to City From Yorktown,” said,

W. T. and Guy Hastings purchased 31 more residences built by the government…The purchase of the 31 houses is the result of the success met in moving five, which were bought from the government some weeks ago.

“I bet a man a hat today,” said Mr. Hastings, “that I could have all 36 houses at Norfolk within five months, and I belive that I am going to win the bet. The work of moving them down to the water has been carried on by five men but today, I sent ten more men up the river and we shall move faster now.”

The article goes on to say that they started with a tractor, and using wooden logs and cast-iron pipe, they moved the houses down to the waterfront. Later, they used a steam derrick and made better progress. From this account, I also learned that the houses were “scattered about at Penniman,” and the average distance from house to riverfront was about four blocks.

And it’s within this article that we learned that the government built 275 houses at Penniman.

The article found by Mike Powell in the Peninsula Enterprise offered some interesting insights, too.

W. T. Hastings of Norfolk has just moved eight houses across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, a distance of about 24 miles. During the war, the government built a war city at Penniman. All of these houses are of the very best material and are so well constructed that they could not be demolished without wrecking them beyond repair.

It goes on to say that Hastings had originally intended to disassemble the houses and rebuild them elsewhere.

[Hastings] found that the houses had been built on the cost-plus plan, and there were so many nails in them it would mean almost total destruction to tear them down.

My favorite piece of this article contains this little tidbit:

Several workmen crossed the bay on the first barge that brought the houses. They had an oil stove in one of the houses. They got hungry and decided to cook some bacon and eggs. They also heated some coffee. They enjoyed a meal cooked in one of the houses while it was being towed to Norfolk.

Today, almost 100 years later, I’ve found more than 60 of these houses in Norfolk, about two dozen in Williamsburg (most of which have been torn down) and that’s it. I know there are more, but finding them is proving quite difficult. The good news is, there’s one for sale right now in Williamsburg, and it’s a mere $900,000.

Inch by inch, I’m working on completing my manuscript on Penniman. It’s slow going, but there is some progress every day.

Join the fun! If you’ve found any amazing articles about Penniman, please drop me a note at Rosemary.ringer@gmail.com!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Penniman was a

Penniman was quite a place. At its peak, there were 15,000 people living and working within its borders. That's the York River in the background. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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House

Built as a shell-loading plant for WW1, Penniman was short lived. Three years after DuPont agents first started buying up farm land on the York River, it was all over and Penniman was sold off. More than 60 of the two-story houses built at Penniman ended up in Norfolk. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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At Penniman, workers filled 155mm and 75mm shells with TNT and Amatol.

At Penniman, workers filled 155mm and 75mm shells with TNT and Amatol. You'll notice that some of these buildings have two-story chutes leading to the ground. Alice Hamilton was a female physician and researcher who studied the problem of TNT poisoning in WW1 in America, and she wrote a book titled, "The Dangerous Trades." In that book she talks about touring a plant like Penniman and was told that she should keep alert to sparks from static electricity, and if she saw one, "Dash for that door and slide down and when you hit the ground, don't look behind you and keep right on running." Milton calls these, "Get the heck out doors." Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Penniman

The houses were built near the York River (at top of page). Our Ethels are by the water tower (far left). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Hse

Here's a close-up of The Haskell, which was built at Dupont Munitions Plants in Penniman, Hopewell (Virginia), Old Hickory, Tennessee, Carney's Point, New Jersey and more. Many Penniman Haskells ended up in Norfolk.

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In fact, Mr. W. T. Hastings moved into one of the houses that he shipped in from Penniman. This photo was taken about 1937.

In fact, Mr. W. T. Hastings moved into one of the houses that he shipped in from Penniman, and gifted several of the houses to family members. This photo was taken about 1937. He's missing his hat. I hope he didn't lose that bet.

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Three Haskells were moved to Ocean View, to 13th View Street in Norfolk.

Three Haskells were moved to Ocean View, to 13th View Street in Norfolk.

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Heres a glimpse of the three Haskells about 1969.

Here's a glimpse of the three Haskells about 1969 (Norfolk Tax Assessor's Office).

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Here are some of Mr. Hastings homes floating down the Chesapeake Bay. This is from the Virginian Pilot (December 5, 1921).

Here are Mr. Hastings' homes floating down the Chesapeake Bay. This is from the "Virginian Pilot" (December 5, 1921).

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According to these newspaper articles, the houses moved by Hastings were up to four blocks in from the York River.

According to these newspaper articles, the houses moved by Hastings were up to four blocks in from the York River. This map shows - in detail - the location of the residences in Penniman. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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One of the choicest tidbits in these articles is the story that the workers cooked a nice breakfast on the oil stove in the Penniman house. Why did the engineers/architects decide on oil cook stoves for their little houses? Without exception, every house that DuPont erected in a WW1 munitions plant had a centralized steam heating plant (for obvious reasons), but why an oil cook stove? Ive read that the oil cook stove was very efficient. Was this a way to make sure there were no embers flying out the chimney? Matches were prohibited on the reservation. If you were caught with matches on your body, you were given one warning. The second time, you were fired. Were oil stoves matchless?

One of the choicest tidbits in these articles is the story that the workers cooked a nice breakfast on the oil stove in the Penniman house. Why did the engineers/architects decide on oil cook stoves for their little houses? Without exception, every house that DuPont erected in a WW1 munitions plant had a centralized steam heating plant (for obvious reasons), but why an oil cook stove? I've read that the oil cook stove was very efficient. Was this a way to make sure there were no embers flying out the chimney? I wish I knew.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Mr. Jones, Where Are Your Lovely Photos?

February 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

In that process of rummaging through my notes on Penniman, I was reminded that I’d been looking for photos taken by Drewry Jones of Williamsburg. Despite lots of poking around, I never have been able to locate those photos (originals or reproductions), or anyone who has even heard of Mr. Jones’ collection of photos.

The photos appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch in an indepth article on Virginia’s Own Ghost City: Penniman (June 1938). The article featured a wide photo of Penniman’s village (with all those little houses).

Despite two trips to Hagley Museum and Library (in Wilmington, Delaware) and several billion trips to area museums and libraries, I’ve never seen anything like those photos. They were truly unique in that they captured a great view of Penniman’s residential village.

Augustus Drewery (sometimes spelled “Drewry”) danced off this mortal coil on April 8, 1977. His obituary was published in the Newport News Daily Press on April 10, 1977, and named two nephews as his lone survivors.

I’ve sent two letters to Mr. Jones’ only surviving nephew (”Dr. John M. Pitman” of Williamsburg) and haven’t heard a peep. That was 18 months ago.

The rest of Mr. Jones’ obit reads,

Augustus Drewery Jones of Williamsburg died Friday in a Williamsburg Community Hospital after a long illness.

A lifelong resident of Williamsburg, Mr. Jones was a graduate of the College of William and Mary. After a long career with the Peninsula Bank and Trust Company, he was appointed state treasurer of Williamsburg-James City County and retired from office in 1959.

He was past chairman of the board of deacons and ruling elder of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, a member of the Association for the Preservation of Antiquities, the Pulaski Club, Sons of American Revolution, Williamsburg Rotary Club, and a former member of the Williamsburg Rotary Club.

Mr. Jones loved Penniman. In fact, in the early 1920s, he had one of the old Penniman houses moved to a lot on South England Street, and he lived there until his death. In fact, that house is currently for sale! Click here to see pictures!

And he owned photo(s) of Penniman - that he shared with the Richmond Times Dispatch - which were taken from an angle that I’ve not seen anywhere else.

Drewry Jones was fairly well-connected, as an alumn of William and Mary College, a banker with the Peninsular Bank and Trust Company and state treasurer of James City County. Someone somewhere must know this fellow.

I’d be so grateful if anyone could help me find out what became of Mr. Jones’ collection of photos.

For the intrepid researchers here, below is a list of where I have already checked for these photos.

1)     Valentine Museum

2)     York County Museum

3)     William and Mary Swem Library

4)     Virginia Historical Society

5)     Preservation Virginia

6)     Colonial Williamsburg ’s “Rockefeller Library”

7)     York County Library

8)     Waterman’s Museum ( Yorktown )

9)     Virginia Department of Historic Resources

10)   Library of Virginia

11)   Newport News War Museum

12)  Richmond Times Dispatch

So where are Mr. Jones’ photos?

There are a handful of Penniman houses in Williamsburg. Click here to learn more.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

See the interior of Mr. Jones’ home by clicking here.

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PHotos

Here's a grainy reproduction of Mr. Jones' photo, as seen in the Richmond newspaper (June 2, 1938).

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house

Here's the original newspaper reference to "a print belongin gDrewry Jones of Williamsburg" (RTD, June 2, 1938).

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house

If you squnit your eyes a lot and look closely at this photo of Penniman (1918), you can see two of the DuPont "Georgias" in the photo. As one historian said, "Penniman was not erased, it was dispersed." Many of these houses were moved to nearby cities. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Georgia

Drewry's house was a DuPont design, The Georgia."

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House

Drewery loved Penniman. He purchased this house from DuPont's 37th munitions plant on the York River, and had it moved to Williamsburg. Drewery lived in this house on South England for many years.

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Drewr

After Mark Hardin first spotted this house, we traveled out to Williamsburg to see it "in the flesh." It's had some pretty substantial additions added onto it in the intervening 90 years.

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Heres a Georgia that started life at Penniman, and landed (with 64 other Penniman houses) in Norfolk, Virginia. The houses were shipped by barge from Penniman to the Riverfront neighborhood in Norfolk (Glenroie Avenue and Major Avenue).

Here's a Georgia that started life at Penniman, and landed (with 64 other Penniman houses) in Norfolk, Virginia. The houses were shipped by barge from Penniman to the Riverfront neighborhood in Norfolk (Glenroie Avenue and Major Avenue). Notice the windows flanking the front door.

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The Georgia was designed by DuPonts architects, and was *probably* built with building materials from North American Construction Company (also known as Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes). The houses were built by Hancock-Pettijohn. Shown below is a chit found at the old Penniman site, maybe used for checking tools out of the tool shed.

The Georgia was designed by DuPont's architects, and was *probably* built with building materials from North American Construction Company (also known as Aladdin Readi-Cut Homes). The houses were built by Hancock-Pettijohn. Shown below is a chit found at the old Penniman site, maybe used for checking tools out of the tool shed.

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The only other tidbit I have is that on March 17, 1918, this item appeared in the Virginia Gazette.

The only other tidbit I have is that on March 17, 1918, this item appeared in the Virginia Gazette. Seems Mr. Jones resigned from C&P (as manager) on March 1, 1918.

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And on January 15, 1926

And as of January 15, 1926, Mrs. Drewry Jones was chair of The Little Theater League.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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Village For Sale. Cheap.

March 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Incredible researcher and smart cookie Mark Hardin has made another remarkable discovery. He found an advertisement (dated October 1922) in the Richmond Times Dispatch, offering the Village of Penniman for sale.

By this time, most of the contents of the WW1 munitions plant had been sold off (per the terms of a contract between DuPont and the U. S. Government [dated December 1917]). All proceeds went to the U. S. Government.

There’s still so much I don’t know about Penniman, but in this advertisement, I found something mentioned that took my breath away. It said, “Full particulars regarding the offerings…and other details of this auction will be found in the catalogs which may be obtained from Philadelphia District Ordnance Salvage Board, Frankford Arsenal.”

Catalogs?

Catalogs?!

Be still my heart.

If anyone has any idea where I might find these catalogs, please let me know.

To learn more about this amazing “Ghost City,” click here.

To read about how Norfolk got tangled up with Penniman, click here.

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Rich

Where are these catalogs now? (Richmond Times Dispatch, 10.28.1922)

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Quite a village

At its peak, there were 15,000 people in Penniman. This is just one small piece of a massive panorama showing the village of Penniman. That's the York River in the background. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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The building of Penniman began in Spring 1916.

The building of Penniman began in Spring 1916. Judging from the old photos, the laborers who built Penniman were overwhelmingly African-Americans. The laborers who toiled in the air-less bunkers, loading powdery, yellow TNT into 155-mm shells were mostly women. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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The first "salvage" ad that I've found appeared March 10, 1921 in the Virginia Gazette.

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Dispersed Penniman

The best salvage ad is this one (Richmond Times Dispatch, October 23, 1921). Lots of detail, including the costs of these various structures. (Thanks to Mike Powell for finding this ad!)

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One of the best Penniman quotes Ive seen is this from a 1983 article in the Newport News Times Herald:  Penniman was not erased; it was dispersed.

An article in the Newport News Times Herald said, "Penniman was not erased; it was dispersed" (September 5, 1983). Shown here is a DuPont design, "The Denver." There were many Denvers at Penniman, and several of them were moved to Williamsburg. Unfortunately, most of them have been torn down.

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This Denver came from Penniman.

This Denver, which now rests on Capital Landing Road, originally came from Penniman.

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picture two

Just last month, I had the good fortune to find this late 1910s catalog of Dupont designs. On the cover, it shows a Denver in a bucolic setting, with a DuPont plant in the background.

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If you have any idea where I might find these catalogs, please let me know.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

To read about how I became involved with Penniman, click here.

Was your great-grandfather stationed at Penniman? Click here to find out.

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Our First Public Talk on Penniman!

February 6th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thursday night, David Spriggs and I gave our first talk on Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost Town.

While preparing our powerpoint presentation, I learned two things I had not known before:

1)  Sometime in 1917 or 1918, a German sub made its way to the York River, in a bid to blow up Penniman.

2)  Women who did the shell loading were known as “The Canary Girls,” because the exposure to the TNT and other chemicals turned their skin, hair and nails a bright, canary yellow. Many died as a result of this poisoning.

Below, you’ll find a VERY condensed version of our powerpoint presentation, which shows a mere 10 of the 100 historical photos we’ve unearthed during our research.


To read more about Penniman, click here.

One

While doing research for this book, I learned that many of these shell loaders died terrible deaths as a result of their exposure to the powerful chemicals and explosives. The information above comes from an extremely rare document, chronicling day-to-day life at Penniman.

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In

In the mid-1910s, a skin cream was developed - just for women shell loaders - to help them cope with the yellowing of their skin, nails and hair. Brunette women saw their hair turn green. Many women lost their hair completely. As one woman said, "No amount of washing would take that yellow away." Sadly, no one knows how many women died from this work, but it's said that their numbers were significant. Image is from Wikipedia.

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The Ch

A British officer credited DuPont with helping them win the war. At a time when chemistry was greatly needed, DuPont did a lot to gear up for the war, and obviously, made a huge difference.

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In addition to the dangers of things

In addition to the dangers of chemical poisoning and explosions at Penniman, Mr. Kelley states that the Germans were hoping to launch an attack on Penniman. Hiland Kelley was a superintendent at the plant.

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Penniman got it from all sides. Even the local hoity toity folks didnt want them there.

Penniman got it from all sides. Even the local hoity toity folks didn't want them there.

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It

From the Morecock Family Papers.

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I became interested in Penniman in 2010, when I tried to figure out the true source of 17 bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk) that had been barged in - from somewhere.

I became interested in Penniman in 2010, when I tried to figure out the true source of 17 bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk) that had been barged in - from somewhere. The image above shows one of our "Ethel Bungalows" in Penniman. The image below is from the 1948 City Assessor. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house

We've counted 18 "Ethels" in this vintage photo of Penniman. There may be more out of frame. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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To continue reading about Penniman, click here.

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Belfast, Bucksport, and Bad Information

January 6th, 2014 Sears Homes 13 comments

Generally speaking, I’m a lukewarm fan of Wikipedia but when it comes to kit houses, I really have grown weary of this online “encyclopedia.” So much of the information is just not accurate, and yet it’s trusted by too many people as a rock-solid resource.

Frustrating!

One ongoing disappointment Wikipedia is the information on the “neighborhood of Sears Homes” in Bucksport, Maine.  According to this page, “The entire town site of Bucksport consists of Sears Homes in the Belfast Model.”

Oh dear.

I actually feel sorry for the poor soul who penned that. And I wish there was a way to correct such egregious information, but I’ve washed my hands of Wikipedia. Everytime I log in to make corrections to the wiki site, it’s edited away within hours by some “expert” who thinks he/she knows better.

So, scroll on down and take a look for yourself at one of these so-called “Belfast Models” in Bucksport.

Oh, and by the way, the build date for the “Belfasts” in that neighborhood is 1930. Ding, ding, ding: The Belfast was not offered for sale until 1934.

That single fact right there is pretty compelling evidence.

Secondly, the houses in Bucksport look nothing like the Belfast model. But hey - why let facts get in the way of a good story?  :)

How is it that this is such a common mistake? Click here to see the answer.

To read more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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The Belfast was not offered until 1934. The houses in Bucksport were built in 1930.

The Belfast was not offered until 1934. The houses in Bucksport were built in 1930.

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Darling little house

Darling little house with a good floor plan, too.

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Upstairs, it had three

Upstairs, it had three bedrooms and one teeny tiny bath.

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I love

Maybe this is where that nutty rumor started? A bit of The Belfast was patterend after The Perkins House, built in Costine, Maine in 1769 (second parargraph in text above).

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When comparing houses, the details are vital. I cant stress this enough. Sears was not an innovated in anything, most of all, housing design. They looked at what was popular and copied those housing styles.

When comparing houses, the details are vital. I can't stress this enough. Sears was not an innovated in anything, most of all, housing design. They looked at what was popular and copied those housing styles.

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Heres a real life Belfast in Elkins, West Virginia.

Here's a real life Belfast in Elkins, West Virginia. It's been through some major renovations including new windows, aluminum siding and those pediments added to the top of the door and windows, but the proportions are spot on. I've not been inside this house, but I'd say there's a 98% chance that this is a Sears Belfast.

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This house in Bucksport is NOT a Sears Belfast.

This house in Bucksport is NOT a Sears Belfast. The Belfast is a mere 24-feet wide. This house is probably 32-feet wide (or more). The proportions are also way off. And look at the space between the 2nd floor windows and the first floor windows. This house probably has nine or ten foot first floor ceilings. The Belfast has eight foot ceilings. The Sears Belfast and the Bucksport Houses are wildly different from one another.

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To learn more about the many Sears Homes in Elkins, West Virginia, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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Penniman Remnants in Williamsburg

November 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

“Penniman was not erased, it was dispersed” (R. Wythe Davis).

While organizing my 2,000+ pages of research notes on Penniman, I found the above quote. It was in amongst some materials shared with me by author and historian Will Molineux. It offers quite an insight on what happened at Penniman after its closing in 1919 (following the Armistice).

To really wrap your mind around history, it has to be set in context. And in the early 1900s, we were a very thrifty people.

Americans were very wise about salvaging and re-using anything that could be salvaged and re-used, and houses were not an exception. Immediately following The Great War, there was a profound shortage of building materials, making Penniman’s abundance of “almost new” lumber ever more appealing.

Newspaper articles reflect that several local developers and real estate men went into Penniman and purchased houses to move to other areas. Residents recalled that it was a common sight to see houses being moved down Williamsburg’s streets in the 1920s.

An article Richmond News Leader states that local businessmen E. T. Davis and city councilman John Warburton moved several houses out of Penniman. William and Mary College also purchased 5+ Penniman structures over a period of five years.

In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that developer W. A. Bozarth moved 17 houses from Penniman to Williamsburg, and placed many of them “on Capitol Landing Road.” Two months later, the Virginian Pilot reported that W. T. Hastings had purchased 40+ houses from Penniman to move into Norfolk, via barge. Sometime in 1923, George Hudson moved more than 20 Penniman bungalows to Norfolk (also by barge). The Richmond News Leader says that several Penniman houses landed in “Newport News and surrounding cities” (Richmond News Leader, June 22, 1938).

Mr. Davis was right: Penniman wasn’t erased, it was dispersed. And he’d be in a position to know. He was a Yorktown native, a Navy retiree, and served as Officer-in-Charge of Cheatham Annex for a time. And he was also the husband of Marguerite Bozarth Davis, who was born and raised in a Penniman house on Nelson Street (Williamsburg).

Sadly, most of these many Penniman houses landed in the path of Rockefeller’s 1930s redevelopment of Williamsburg.

However, Mark Hardin and I have located a handful of the survivors in Williamsburg.

It’s likely that there are more than we’ve found. Bear in mind, some of these structures were built as temporary homes, which means that they had tar-paper roofing, siding and temporary wooden foundations.

The exterior “walls” originally had horizontal planking (probably 1×4s), covered with Rubberoid (tar paper). It wouldn’t take a whole lot of work to transform that structure into a permanent one by adding clapboards and roofing shingles and setting it up on a substantial (masonry) foundation.

And Marguerite’s childhood home got a second story added, a few porches and solid brick walls. Absent Mr. Davis’ information, I wouldn’t have identified the Bozarth home as a Penniman house in a kajillion years.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

houses poorly built

This wonderful photo shows some of the ongoing construction at Penniman (1917 or 1918). Check out the foundations being laid for these buildings, known as "Six room apartments." The foundations are nothing more than wooden pilings with vertical framing members across the top. And if you look closely at the building to the right in this photo, you can see the horizontal planking on the walls. After zooming in on these photos, I'd say it looks like the wall studs are on 16" centers. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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The predominant DuPont design we found in Williamsburg is the Florence.

The predominant DuPont design we found in Williamsburg is the "Florence." A notable feature is the windows flanking the front door. Also note the three matching windows down the side (bedroom, bath, bedroom). Check out the description: "Interior finished in beaver-board." In other words, the interior did not have sheetrock, but a product akin to beaded paneling. It was a composite material, made of compressed wood pulp. Today, you'll occasionally find it installed in the attic of pre-WW2 houses.

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Heres a Florence that Mark discovered, just off Capitol Landing Road.

Here's a Florence that Mark discovered, just off Capitol Landing Road in Williamsburg. Seems likely that this was one of W. A. Bozarth's "17 houses" moved out of Penniman.

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If you zoom in,

If you zoom in, you can see those windows flanking the door. This house is a dandy, because it's in largely original condition. Even that simple shed roof on the front porch is original.

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And I dont know how he did it, but Mark also found this Florence on Capitol Landing Road.

Mark also found this Florence on Capitol Landing Road. The windows flanking the door are hidden by the screened-in porch, but if you look hard, you can see them. The dormer was probably added when the house was moved, and the Denver-esque porch columns (six total) were also an add-on. The windows in the dormer (nine lite) wouldn't have been hard to find, considering that Penniman houses were also being sold as "salvage" (in pieces and parts). If you look at the other Penniman houses, you'll see that they had 9/1 windows. Photo is copyright 2013 Megan Hardin and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Another house is the Denver

Another popular DuPont model was "The Denver." This also had beaver-board interior walls.

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Denver Capitol

This DuPont Denver is located on Capitol Landing Road. Sadly, it's surrounded by commercial development which means many of Mr. Bozarth's Penniman homes are now sitting in a landfill somewhere.

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Denver

Fun comparison of the extant Denver with the original catalog picture.

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Mark found this vintage now torn down

Mark Hardin found this vintage picture of a Denver that was located at 811 Capitol Landing Road. We've no idea when it was torn down, but as Mark pointed out, those look like 1950s chairs on the front porch.

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houses moved

How was W. A. Bozarth related to Marguerite Bozarth Davis? The 1940 Census shows Marguarite, age 9, living with her grandfather, James Bozarth. According to R. Wythe Davis, their home on Nelson Street came from Penniman, although it sure doesn't look like a Penniman house today! This article (above) appeared in the "Virginia Gazette" in October 1921.

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Another design we found in Williamsburg is the

Another design we found still standing in Williamsburg is the Georgia. In Norfolk, we have several of these on Major and Glenroie Avenue (brought here by W. W. Hastings in 1921). There's only one remaining in Williamsburg.

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Drewery Jones

According to the 1940 Census, this DuPont "Georgia" was the home of Augustus Drewery Jones. Mr. Jones passed on in 1977. Mr. Jones is of special interest to me because in a 1938 "Richmond News Leader" article, he's given credit as being the owner of some fine vintage photos of Penniman, Virginia. Oh, how I'd love to see those originals! I've contacted his one surviving heir (a couple times) but haven't heard back. Someone must have those originals!

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Drewery Jones lived here

Drewery Jones, where are your photos? I'd be happy to find Mr. Garrett's photos, too!

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The pictures shown in the 1938 Richmond News Leader article came from Drewery Jones. I have 200+ pictures of Penniman (thanks to Hagley Museum and Library), but I dont have anything from this angle, showing all the pretty little houses.

The pictures shown in the 1938 "Richmond News Leader" came from Drewery Jones. I have 200+ pictures of Penniman (thanks to Hagley Museum and Library), but I don't have anything from this angle, showing all the pretty little houses.

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Mr. Jack Garrett took this photo of the ruins of Penniman.

Mr. Jack Garrett took this photo of the ruins of Penniman (as of 1938).

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Richmond News Leader 1938

In 1938, the "Richmond News Leader" gave some specifics about the dispersing of Penniman.

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This ad first appeared in April 1921 Virginia Gazette.

This ad first appeared in April 1921 Virginia Gazette. In the early 1920s, "Wrecking Company" was another word for "architectural salvage." At this point, the houses were being sold in pieces and parts, as well as whole.

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The house that started it all, The Ethel, has not been found anywhere but Norfolk, Virginia.

The house that started us down this long and winding research path: "The Ethel of Riverview." In DuPont literature, this house was known as "The DuPont," and DuPont, Washington (site of a DuPont plant) is full of DuPont "DuPonts," but you can see why we've stuck with the name, The Ethel. Heretofore, the Ethel has not been found anywhere but Norfolk, Virginia. Our Ethels were built at Penniman in Spring 1918 and moved by barge to Norfolk in 1923. Are there more Ethels out there? If so, I wish they'd contact me.

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Are there more Penniman remnants in Williamsburg that we have yet to discover?

I suspect that there are!

To see pictures of our Ethels in the 1940s, click here.

To read about the Penniman houses in Norfolk, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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The Edison: One of the Prettiest Little Bungalows Ever Built

November 21st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

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

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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In 1914, it was known as the Denver.

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

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There were minor differences

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

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Edison

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

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

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

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But

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

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And heres a pretty little bungalow in Norfolk.

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

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

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

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

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

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Heres a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA.

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

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Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

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And another.

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

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Oh NO!!! Blind!

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

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Oh

The tree in the front yard is dying of embarrassment.

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Lynch

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

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Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons.

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

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This one wishes someone would give it an overdose

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

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A palate cleanse.

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

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Heres a sweet little

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

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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

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

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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“My Brentwood is the Admiration of the Town”

August 18th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

In terms of actual sales numbers of kit homes, Aladdin was actually a bigger company than Sears, but these many years later, they’re not as well known. “Sears Homes” is to kit homes what Kleenex is to disposable tissues. It’s become a generic term, that is over-used and frequently wrong.

More than 80% of the people who think they live in a Sears Home are wrong, and yet the majority of these misinformed souls *do* live in a kit home, but it’s often a kit house from another company, such as Aladdin (or Gordon Van Tine, or Lewis Manufacturing, or Sterling, or Montgomery Wards).

Here in the Southeastern United States, most of our kit homes are from Aladdin, and that’s probably because of the proximity to Wilmington, NC where Aladdin had a massive mill.

One of my favorite Aladdin houses is the Brentwood. It’s a classic Arts & Crafts house with lots of flair. Best of all, it’s easy to identify because of its many unique architectural features.

Enjoy the pictures, and if you know of an Aladdin Brentwood near you, please contact me!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here or here.

Interested in learning more about Aladdin? Click here!

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Whats not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

What's not to love? The Aladdin Brentwood as seen in the 1919 catalog. What a house!

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Spacious

I love it that the small balcony (second floor) is not off the "master bedroom," but the "owner's room." The guy who's making the payments on this joint gets the Romeo and Juliet balcony. Darn tootin'!

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house house

I love the last paragraph: "A Tennessee owner says, 'My Brentwood is the admiration of the town. It was ready for plastering two weeks after the first nail was driven.'" The first line of this ad also reflects this theme.

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One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition.

One of my favorite Brentwoods, right here in my neck of the woods. This house is in Hampton, VA and is in stunningly beautiful condition. My research shows that the home's original owner was an electrician. I wonder if he built the house himself? Often tradesman would do just that.

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Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is crime-ridden and quite unsafe. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

Another Brentwood in nearby Newport News. Sadly, this gorgeous old house is in East End, which is a very crime-ridden and unsafe area. Our local news is full of stories of shootings and stabbings in East End. Before long, this house will probably be another footnote of our local history.

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Back to the happy Brentwoods: Heres a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

Back to the happy Brentwoods: Here's a beauty in Chapel Hill, NC.

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Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.  Roano

Roanoke Rapids, NC has a massive collection of Aladdin Kit Homes, including this Brentwood.

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Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes.

Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids) also is home to many Aladdin kit homes. This Brentwood needs a little love, but it's still in pretty good shape.

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Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL.

Years ago, I discovered this Aladdin Brentwood in Mattoon, IL. It's been rode hard and put away wet, but it's still solid and true. The hardest part about finding these classic old kit homes in the tiny towns of the Midwest is that they're often in very sad condition and/or neglected.

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The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

The Brentwood as seen in the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

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To learn more about Aladdin kit homes, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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The Sears Maywood: Bespeaks Simplicity and Worth

May 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

It must have been hard to write magniloquent, enchanting copy to accompany (and pitch) each of the 370 models that Sears offered in their Modern Homes catalog. And yet, some of these descriptions are pretty darn good - such as this one.

The Maywood two-story home bespeaks simplicity and worth. Designed after the finest in modern architecture, it makes an ideal home. Viewed from any angle its lovely proportion and balance is outstanding. Every line is expressive of quality, durability and good taste.

Now that’s good writing!

The Maywood was first offered in the late 1920s, and was a popular house for Sears. It had a good floorplan, and (unlike most Sears Homes) the rooms were all fairly spacious (by 1920s standards).

The Maywood was patterned after a popular housing style, so not every house that looks like a Maywood is a Maywood. Take a look at the pictures below to learn how to differentiate the real deal from the look-alikes.

The Maywood, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

The Maywood, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Unlike many Sears Homes, the Maywood had a good floor plan with spacious rooms.

Unlike many Sears Homes, the Maywood had a good floor plan with spacious rooms.

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Upstairs, it had three fairly spacious bedrooms.

Upstairs, it had three good-size bedrooms.

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Maywood in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Maywood in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania. Photo is copyright 2012 Dale Patrick Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Maywood in Dayton, Ohio.

Maywood in Dayton, Ohio. Porch on left has been enclosed.

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Not surprisingly, Decatur, IL has several Sears Homes, including this Maywood.

Not surprisingly, Decatur, IL has several Sears Homes, including this Maywood.

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Ohio seems to be the mecca for Sears Homes. This one is in Dayton.

Ohio seems to be the mecca for Sears Homes. This one is in Dayton.

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This house is in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At first glance, I thought it was the Mawywood, and now I dont think so. The Maywood is 32 wide. This house might be a little bigger than that. And yet, Im still not 100% sure if this is a Maywood or not.

This house is in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At first glance, I thought it was the Maywood, and now I don't think so. The Maywood is 32' wide. This house might be a little bigger than that. Plus, this house has more space around the second-floor windows. It just looks like a BIGGER house that our Sears Maywood.

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The Maywood

A very nice match!

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To learn about Indiana’s $1 million Sears House, click here!

To learn more about Goodwall Sheet Plaster and its fireproof qualities, click here.

To make Rose’s day complete, leave a comment below!  :)

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