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Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Need to Find a Graphic Artist to Help Finish the Penniman Manuscript

January 7th, 2017 Sears Homes 13 comments

On April 18, 2016, I left my home at 4:00 am to catch a 5:30 am flight for Boston, Massachusetts, where I’d visit my daughter and her son. After four years of intense research and work, the manuscript on Penniman was finally 98% complete, and now it was time for a graphic artist to assemble the artwork and prepare the book for a printer.

An impressive history-loving group in Colonial Williamsburg had asked me to give my first public talk on Penniman on April 24th.

The morning of the 18th, I was running around the house getting ready for my trip to Boston when my husband asked, “Do you have a coat? It’s going to be cold in Boston.” When I said no, he handed me my favorite beige winter coat and said, “I don’t want you to get cold.” I gave him a big kiss and a hug and said, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

He dropped me off at the airport and I gave him another big, long hug and then grabbed him and said, “In four days, we’ll be happy again.” He smiled and said, “Yes, in four days, we’ll be happy again.”

For several weeks, Attorney Ringer had been preparing for an upcoming trial involving the non-fatal shooting of a woman by a Norfolk cop. As the Chief Deputy City Attorney, it was his case, and he felt responsible for its successful outcome. The trial started on April 19th (Tuesday), and I kept reassuring him, “This will end, and we’ll be happy again and then you’ll retire 30 days later. It’s been a long road but we’re on the home stretch.” I shortened this refrain by saying, “In four days, we’ll be happy again.”

When he seemed especially tuned out, I’d sit down beside him with my laptop and show him pictures of other trips we’d taken. I told him, “We’ll go back there after you retire and I’ll teach you the fine art of traveling cheap and we’ll have a good time.” He said flatly, “I’m looking forward to that.”

As soon as he’d found out that I’d landed in Boston, he left his office at City Hall and committed suicide. Within an hour of landing in Boston, I received a phone call that my husband was dead, by his own hand. The day of my “big talk” in Willliamsburg turned out to be the day of my 63-year-old husband’s funeral.

Since then, I haven’t been able to look at the Penniman manuscript. Even now, it’s hard to look at these photos, but I know - after talking with other “suicide widows” (as we’re known) - that there comes a day when you have to push past the agonizing emotional and physical and spiritual pain and try to do one small thing. And yes, there is agonizing physical pain. I suffer from unrelenting and at times, crippling chest pain. It’s my constant companion.

Writing this blog and asking for help is my “one small thing” today.

This morning, after talking with “Leslie,” (a fellow writer and suicide widow), I realized it was time for me to climb back into Penniman and get this book finished. And that’s where I need some help. I’m in need of a graphic artist that can help me assemble the manuscript (22 chapters and 37 photos) into a print-ready document.

If you know of anyone who’s willing to help with this project, please leave a comment below.

Thanks so much.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The story of Penniman is an amazing one. Penniman was a boom town about six miles from Williamsburg (Virginia), where TNT was loaded into shells for The Great War.

The story of Penniman is an amazing one. Penniman was a boom town about six miles from Williamsburg (Virginia), where TNT was loaded into shells for The Great War. This is a picture of one of the shell-loading lines, courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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One of the little bungalows at Penniman, named The DuPont. This very model is what drew me into this story of Penniman. After Penniman closed, 18 of these houses were taken to Norfolk by barge.

The little bungalows at Penniman were built at several DuPont sites, and were named "The DuPont." These hipped-roof bungalows sat near the York River (not far from where Cornwallis surrendered). This very model is what drew me into this story of Penniman. After Penniman closed, 18 of these houses were taken to Norfolk by barge. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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This photo is from the Norfolk tax assessors office. It is from 1949, and shows The DuPont in largely original condition.

This photo is from the Norfolk tax assessor's office. It is from 1949, and shows "The DuPont" in largely original condition.

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The people of Penniman are part of what make the story so compelling. There was a 312-man army detachment at Penniman known as The Shell Inspectors. It was their job to make sure that, at every point and turn, the shells were correctly loaded and stored.

The people of Penniman are part of what make the story so compelling. There was a 312-man army detachment at Penniman known as The Shell Inspectors. It was their job to make sure that, at every point and turn, the shells were correctly loaded and stored.

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It is the people of Penniman that make the story come alive.

It is the people of Penniman that make the story come alive. More than 50% of the civilian employees at Penniman were women. They're shown here at the train depot within Penniman, where shells were shipped out on their way to the front. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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A woman worker loads explosive charges into a shell.

Dr. John Henderson (far right) sits with other medical personnel at the Penniman Hospital. Photo is courtesy of the Henderson Family. The names of the other workers are lost to history.

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More than 900 wheelbarrows were purchased for the building of Penniman, and a large number of African-Americans were employed in its construction and day-to-day production. Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Those double doors require only a push to open, and on the other side is a long chute, leading to the ground.

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See those long chutes?

See those long chutes? Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Melvin Wayne Ringer, 1953 - 2016

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The Sears Home in Needham, Massachusetts

May 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last week, I visited Needham, Massachusetts and spent time with my daughter, Anna Rose.

After a Saturday morning breakfast, we were driving back to her house when I saw a house that caught my eye on Webster Avenue. As she pulled up to a nearby stop sign, I hopped out of the car (much to my daughter’s surprise), and said, “Circle the block and pick me up in a few minutes!”

Not only had I spotted a Sears House, but it was a Sears Ivanhoe, one of their biggest and best kit homes!  Unfortunately, due to the many trees, I was not able to get a good photo, but there’s definitely a fine-looking Ivanhoe hiding behind all those trees!

Later in the day, I drove around town a bit more, but didn’t see any other kit homes. Then again, I probably only saw 30% of the pre-WW2 neighborhoods in Needham. And Needham is a very difficult community to navigate! The streets are very narrow and the traffic is very heavy.

Did I miss a few? I’m betting that I did.

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days! When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

Do you know of more kit homes in the Boston neighborhoods? Please leave a comment below!

To read about another kit home I found in New England, click here.

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Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, this appears to be an incredibly prosperous community.

Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, it appears to be an incredibly prosperous community. The architecture is thoughtfully preserved and - with few exceptions - in excellent (original) condition. It's also a town full of churches. The Baptist Church is shown above.

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The Sears Home I found in Needham is an Ivanhoe, one of the largest, fanciest, and most expensive models that Sears offered (1920).

The Sears Home I found in Needham is an "Ivanhoe," one of the largest and fanciest models that Sears offered (1920). It was more than 2,000 square feet, not including the sunporches.

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The dotted lines on the floorplan represented beamed ceilings (made of oak).

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Great symmetry! And notice the side porches. Plus, there was quite a bit of space on the 3rd floor.

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This Ivanhoe is in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

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Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois.

Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Carol Parish and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres the Ivahoe in Needham!

And here's the Ivahoe in Needham! Unfortunately, due to the abundance of trees, I had a heck of a time getting a photo of the house, but it's definitely a Sears Ivanhoe!

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Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

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Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings.

Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings. These houses were built with all cypress exteriors. Cypress was billed as "The Wood Eternal." Because it's an oily, dense wood, it's naturally resistant to wood rot and insect infestation.

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A view from the other side.

A view from the other side. Again, the landscaping made it very difficult.

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And unlike 90% of the Ivanhoes I've seen, this one in Needham still retains its original little windows in the living room. The house is currently being remodeled. I hope the windows survive!

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And it sits on a big spacious lot!

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I’d love to hear from folks in Needham. Are there other kit homes in the city? Please contact me by leaving a comment below!

Want to learn more about the superior quality building materials that were used in Sears Homes? Click here.

To learn more about kit homes in Boston, click here.

To learn more about Anna, click here.

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Old Kit Homes in New England, Part II

September 24th, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

Sometime in the late 1910s, Mr. D. S. Chase of Grafton, Massachusetts bought and built a Sears Maytown in Grafton, Massachusetts.

I discovered this when I was reading through the testimonials in a 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The house in the 110-year-old snapshot (shown below) was a real beauty, but given its location, I was very concerned that the house had been put to death by some overzealous developer, municipality, and/or a large institution filled with academia nuts (otherwise known as a bungalow-eating institution of higher learning).

All of these entities are a clear and present danger to modest dwelling places and they are notorious for cutting a wide swath through the heart of older neighborhoods, knocking down any little houses that get in their way (so they can build steel and glass monuments to further historical research on American culture).

The model that Mr. Chase selected and built - the Sears Maytown - was one of Sears nicer homes and fairly distinctive with that cantilevered turret on the front. Thanks to Kelly McCall Creeron, I now have a plethora of beautiful photographs showing the Maytown as it looks today.

It appears that those beautiful shakes (seen in the original photo) have been covered with a substitute siding, but siding or not, the house still is easily recognizable as a Maytown, and perhaps best of all, it was not torn down to make way for some plasticine palace.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

If you’re here to learn about Aunt Addie mysterious murder, click here.

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown in Grafton, Mass, as pictured in the 1921 Sears catalog.

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Thanks to Kelly McCall Creeron, I now have a picture of Mr. Chase's Maytown in Grafton, Massachusetts. It's been through some changes since that photo (above) was taken in the late 1910s or early 20s, but it's still easily recognizable as The Maytown. Photo is courtesy of Kelly McCall Creeron and can not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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It appears that the house been re-sided. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the facia boards are now missing in action, which makes me suspect that this is a substitute siding job. Nonetheless, this Maytown has the two bay windows (front and side) and that remarkable turret. Photo is courtesy of Kelly McCall Creeron and can not be used or reproduced with written permission.

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The original snapshot of Mr. Chase's Maytown shows a little detail on the fascia and soffit.

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A close-up of the contemporary photo shows that the facia is gone, and the soffit appears to have been wrapped in a substitute material (aluminum perhaps).

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown as shown in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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This Maytown is in Edwardsville, Illinois and still retains its original siding. Notice the sculpted block that's used on the front porch columns and even balustrade.

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My favorite Maytown is this beauty in Shenandoah, Virginia.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Old Kit Homes in New England

November 1st, 2010 Sears Homes 2 comments

Recently, I was reading the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog and found this testimonial, written by D. S. Chase of Grafton, Massachusetts. He built his Sears Maytown somewhere in Grafton, Massachusetts.

The Maytown was one of their better homes and fairly distinctive with that cantilevered turret on the front. It’d be interesting to know if this house is still standing in Grafton!

If you know of it, and/or have an address, please leave a comment below.

BTW, notice that Mr. Chase’s home has a shake roof and shingled siding (instead of clapboard)?

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

If you’re here to learn about Aunt Addie mysterious murder, click here.

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown in Grafton, Mass, as pictured in the 1921 Sears catalog.

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial as it appeared in the 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Testimonial of D. S. Chase from 1921 catalog

Sears Maytown

Sears Maytown as shown in the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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