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Posts Tagged ‘bungalow’

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

March 13th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

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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fef

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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ffffe

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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“The Charm of the True Colonial is Perennial”

January 5th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Throughout my time on this earth, I’ve always had a soft spot for a center-hallway Colonial. Perhaps this is because I lived in one from July 1959 (birth of a seven-pound old house zealot) to April 1978 (zealot leaves to get married).

In 2007 when I got married again (and for the last time, I might add), I moved into another center-hallway Colonial, reminiscent of my childhood home. Not only did it remind me of the family home in Waterview (Portsmouth, VA), but it looked like a good place to drop both anchor and money.

Gordon Van Tine offered a Colonial, known as “Modern Home #601″ and later named “The Shoreham.”

Even today, sitting in my perfect Mid-Century Modern brick ranch, I still swoon when I gaze upon the pictures of these early 20th Century Colonials. The copy writers for GVT were right: Its charm is perennial.

To read more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Interested in reading about the plan-book houses of Waterview? Click here.

Hey - are you familiar with Bluefield, WV? If so, I’m missing a couple houses there. Please leave a comment below if you know the area?

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house

GVT Home #601, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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Okay, I know youre just here for the pictures, but take a moment and actually *read* this text. Its a great read!!

I know you're just here for the pictures, but take a moment and actually *read* this text. It's worth it. The Colonial has survived "The horrors of the Mansard era and the Victorian period..."

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houe

In 1929, it became known as The Shoreham (as in, are you shore this is ham?). The dormers went bye-bye, too.

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Floorplan

Busy little floorplan. I love the coat closet's placement.

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Floopr

My oh my, but there's a lot going on in the kitchen.

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GVT #601 (1926 catalog).

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Bluefield WV

My friend Ersela and I discovered this house in Bluefield, WV. It's a real dandy, isn't it?

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515 Nanse

My childhood home at 515 Nansemond Street, as photographed by my father on moving day, April 1957.

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Gosnold Avenue

Our beautiful former home on Gosnold Avenue in Colonial Place. I had made a plan with my friend David Strickland to custom-build cut-out functional shutters for the home's front. I was going to paint them black, but life took a few turns and we ended up selling the home and moving to another part of Norfolk. I've always thought this house was one of the prettiest homes in Colonial Place (Norfolk).

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The house

The GVT #601 (the Colonial shown at the top of the page) sat next door to a GVT #603 (this house). I'm sorry to say I don't know which street it was on, but I'd love to find out - and maybe even get a photo. These houses were close to the river (parallel to the river) and on a main drag. Do you know where they are? :/

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To read more about Gordon Van Tine, click here.

Interested in reading about the plan-book houses of Waterview? Click here.

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A Bonnie Clyde!

December 28th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

More than 10 years ago, Dale Wolicki and I went tooling around Ohio, looking for kit homes. That was a lot of fun.

Dale was an especially patient driver, pulling over repeatedly, whenever I would screech, “STOP THE CAR!”

Back in those days, I was more likely to get out of the vehicle and walk around a bit, taking photos of the subject houses. One fine day, Dale decided I had lingered long enough at a house, and just as I was crawling back into his Mercury Mountaineer, he said…

“You need to get back in this car now, or the last thing you’re going to see are the taillights of a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer headed west.”

Well, that just slayed me.

I started laughing. And not those delicate, feminine giggles, but racking paroxysms of laughter, that left me - not only gasping for air - but unable to finish the climb into his very tall SUV. I stopped, right there in the middle of the street, half in and half out of his vehicle, looking like (and sounding like) an escapee from the local looney bin.

I don’t remember what else he said, but I do remember that every subsequent sentence that Dale spoke to me, caused me to laugh even more hysterically. In time, I regained my composure and climbed into the car and off we went.

That’s when Dale recommended that I keep my hands and feet (and body) in the vehicle at all times, and master a photographic technique he called, “the drive-by shooting.”

Ah, good times.

Many of the photos below came from that memorable adventure with Dale Wolicki.

The Sears Clyde (from the 1920s) was a modest little bungalow offered in two floorplans. It’s such a simple little front-gabled house, it might be tough to identify, except for the fact that it has a unique front porch, partially covered and partially open, with a third column base  that looks a bit out of place.

It also had five-piece eave brackets, and most Clydes had a fireplace.

It must have been a very popular house because I’ve discovered many Clydes in many parts of the country.

Enjoy the many photos below!

Read about the many kit homes of Jacksonville, IL by clicking here.

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1928

The Sears Clyde, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Two floorpalns

The smaller of the two floorplans, 9030A was a mere 20' wide.

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1928

Both houses were 38' feet long, but 9030B had an extra 4' of width.

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Cute

This image (from the 1928 catalog) shows that the bay has a single window, whereas many bungalows would have two or three windows. Notice the French door on the home's front.

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The 1922 catalog

The 1922 catalog shows a few minor differences, such as the half-timber effect on the front gables and also the gable ornament on the front porch and bay window. On this earlier model, the front porch has two levels, open wooden railings and stuccoed columns. Both 1922 and 1928 models had the two floorplans. Best of all is the potted plant on the third column.

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This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite.

This sweet thing in West Lafayette, IN is my hands-down favorite. They must have known we were coming because they set out a potted plant on that third column. It also has the two-level porch deck. I think I am in love.

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They have the

They have the planter but not the fern. Drat. However, what they lack in plants, they make up for in complicated downspout systems. Sadly, this sweet thing (also in West Lafayette), has replacement windows and a very unattractive front door. I suspect it's the later model (based on the lack of Arts & Crafts details).

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This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes).

This Bonnie Clyde is in Norwood, Ohio where Sears had a large lumber mill. Not surprisingly, Norwood is loaded with Sears Homes (including several Clydes). This appears to be 9030A (note the three single windows).

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These images all come from old slides, buried in a box for the last 13 years. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

This Clyde also has replacement windows, but retains a few features, such as the five-piece eave brackets and gable ornaments. These images all come from old 35mm slides, buried in a box for the last decade. This was one of maybe 25 slides (out of 2,000) that had never been labeled, but I immediately recognized it as Flora, IL. The fine folks of Flori hired me to do a survey of kit homes, and it was one of my very first paid gigs. Happy memories.

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And a beautiful Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And a beautiful *almost wholly original* Clyde that Andrew and Wendy Mutch found in Ann Arbor, Michigan! (Photo is copyright 2014 Andrew and Wendy Mutch and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didnt discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation.

I learned to identify kit homes by driving around Alton/Godfrey (Illinois) where I lived for 12 years. However...I didn't discover this Clyde in Alton until several years into my new vocation. And as I've been looking at this photo, I'm starting to think it's a Sears Olivia with a Clyde's front porch.

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Dayton, Ohio is home to

This Clyde in Dayton, Ohio has the two-level porch.

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And heres a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

And here's a gorgeous Clyde that Rebecca Hunter found in Barrington, IL. (Photo is copyright 2014 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without writtern permission.)

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Lastly, there a Sears Clyde

Lastly, there's a Sears Clyde in Kansas built by Mr. O'Neil (1922 catalog).

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Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see the Clyde in Wamego.

Thanks to an updated Google Map, we can now see Mr. O'Neil's Clyde in Wamego! And what a cute little house it is! Mr. O'Neil apparently decided against the fireplace. Special thanks to Google for capturing an angle that matches the original catalog image above!.

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To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

To join our merry band on Facebook, click here.

Want to contact Rose? Please leave a comment below.

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And So This is Christmas…

December 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for providing me with the PERFECT Christmas Day photo!

And if you want to read about Sears Homes all year long, join our group of kit-home enthusiasts on Facebook!

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Rach

Rachel Shoemaker's favorite elf studies not one, but two catalogs whilst gazing upon a diminutive version of the Sears Mitchell - decorated for Christmas! Photo is copyright 2014 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Teddy

Teddy will look back on this Christmas with many fond memories.

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To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Visit Rachel’s blog by clicking here.

Interested in learning about Gordon Van Tine? Click here!

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“Our Architects are Bungalow Experts” (Part II)

December 21st, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

Earlier this month, I did a blog on the sweet little GVT #114 that Dale found in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

After that blog appeared, Dale was kind enough to send along two more photos of GVT Modern Home #114. I’ve never seen one in real life, but apparently this was a fairly popular house!

Thanks to Dale for the wonderful photos!

To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on GVT #114? Click here.

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As seen in the 1913 catalog.

As seen in the 1913 catalog.

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I love this text.

I love this text: "The ultra of beauty in design."

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house

Some of these kit homes are a misery to identify, but #114 has many unique features.

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Heres the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

Here's the #114 that Dale found in Manheim, PA.

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Dale found these in Davenport, Iowa.

Dale found this one in Davenport, Iowa.

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This was

This #114 was also found in Davenport, Iowa (home of Gordon Van Tine).

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To learn more about Wardway Homes, click here.

Want to read the earlier blog on Wardway #114? Click here.

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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Thanks to Bill Inge for providing some super-fast research on a couple names!

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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Oh MY! Look What We Found in Herndon!

December 17th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

You really should join us in the Sears Homes group on Facebook.

The old house aficionados in that group are a wild and wooly bunch who really know how to have a good time! ;)

After a recent blog on the “GVT Tower House” in Herndon and some very interesting banter amongst the night owls, Rachel Shoemaker and I started poking around the small town of Herndon (via Bing Maps) to see what else we could find.

Unfortunately, a surfeit of trees prevented us from seeing much, but I discovered a Sears Winona (seriously altered by a lot of remodeling) and Rachel found the crème de la crème of kit homes, The Gordon Van Tine, “Brentwood.”

Oh, it gets better.

The Gordon Van Tine Brentwood with matching “Ajax” garage.

Ooh la la!

And in Herndon! Who knew?

That’s two rare Gordon Van Tine mail-order kit homes in one small Northern, Virginian town.

Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for finding the GVT Brentwood, and for supplying the GVT catalog images shown below!

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Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

Amongst the trees and bushes of Herndon, we discovered a Sears Winona (1916 catalog).

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Its a crummy

It's a fairly crummy image snagged off Bing Maps, but it's almost certainly a Sears Winona. From the five-piece eave brackets to the original porch railing and porch roof, it's a fine match.

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And heres the find of the MONTH!

And here's the find of the MONTH! The Gordon Van Tine "Brentwood" (Model 711).

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And you thought kit homes were just crummy little boxes?

And you thought "kit homes" were just crummy little boxes?

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house

Admittedly, it is somewhat unusual for mail-order houses to have a "Maid's Room."

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The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

The typical mail-order kit home had 12,000 pieces and was shipped by train to its destination. The pieces and parts were carefully sorted and stacked, and would usually fit in a single boxcar. I suspect the GVT Brentwood took two boxcars!i

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And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711.

And there it is, in the flesh, a perfect Gordon Van Tine #711. Rachel Shoemaker flew her little Bing Airplane over top of the house and confirmed (by viewing the back side) that it is indeed a GVT 711.

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And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

And tucked away behind the house is a Gordon Van Tine garage.

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Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

Ever wonder what those boxcars looked like? A lot like this.

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Who in the world is Rosemary Thornton?

Maybe there’s a Sears Magnolia hiding in there somewhere!

To read about the other Gordon Van Tine home, click here.

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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

December 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

If you enjoyed reading this item, please share it on your Facebook page!

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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f

Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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F

Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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wfe

The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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fefe

Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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fff

I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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fefe

Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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ff

Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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iiiii

If you're old, you'll like this house.

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yyy

"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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ll

This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Pu

Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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