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Covington, Virginia and Douthat State Park

September 27th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week,

Last week, a friend and I traveled to Douthat State Park in Clifton Forge, VA to visit my favorite old haunt, Cabin #1. One of 38 cabins in the park, Cabin #1 is the only cabin with vertical logs. Douthat was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and it underwent a massive restoration in the late 1990s.

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Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Douthat State Park is a beautiful place, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lake Douthat offers fishing, boating and swimming. The lake is stocked with Rainbow Trout and other tasty fishies.

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There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didnt see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these mountain paths.

There are bears throughout the 4,500+ acre park, but I didn't see any. Then again, I was too much of a wuss to hike but so far on these isolated mountain paths.

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dirty

One day during my stay in Douthat, I visited nearby Covington (which is not as pretty as Douthat). Covington certainly looks like it should have an abundance of kit homes. Much to my chagrin, I only found three.

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One of them was The Aladdin Plaza. Aladdin, like Sears, sold kit homes through their mail-order catalogs. These houses were 12,000-piece kits and were shipped by train (1919 catalog shown).

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houose

Despite a fairly intense search (my second in three years), I found only three kit homes. The Aladdin Plaza was one of them. It was about a block away from the city park.

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The other fun find was this Sears Auburn, also known

The other find was this Sears "Auburn," also known as model 264P176 (1914 catalog).

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This is a spacious house and has a lot going on.

The Auburn was a spacious house with more than 2,500 square feet (not counting the porches). It has two parallel staircases (main staircase and servant's staircase), each with a small landing window. The many distinctive features make it easier to identify.

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Upstairs, it has

Upstairs, it has spacious bedrooms and a sleeping porch.

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All in all, its quite a house.

All in all, it's quite a house.

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The house in Covington is quite a match.

The house in Covington is a perfect match.

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Put the two images side-by-side and youve got something.

Put the two images side-by-side and you've got something.

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And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows.

And from this angle, you can see the two small stair-case landing windows. Towards the right rear, there was a double window which has been replaced. You can see the "repaired" brick. Along the second floor right-side wall, there are only two windows (at the front and rear of that long wall), which is as it should be. Also the distinctive bracketing is spot-on.

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Oh my little

This view shows the detail on those brackets, and the porch columns.

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Way up above these worker homes I found the managers houses, high in the hills.

In another section of town, high above the neighborhood that houses the Aladdin Plaza and Sears Auburn, I found the fancy homes on the curvilinear streets (and with the beautiful views). It was up there that I found a single Sears kit home, "The Lynnhaven."

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All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I dont think I missed very much!

All in all, I was very surprised to find only three kit homes in the entire city. This was my second visit, and between the two visits, I don't think I missed very much!

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By the way, while youre in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. Its well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. Ive been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

By the way, while you're in Clifton Forge, you should stop and see the train museum there. It's well worth the visit and the $8 admission supports a very worthy cause. I've been there four times, and I highly recommend it!

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The merry widow

By the way, if anyone knows what happened to "The Merry Widow" (shown above) please let me know? I couldn't find it on this most-recent trip. It's been sitting in this spot since 1952.

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If you know anything about Covington, please leave a comment. I’d love to know where you’re hiding the kit homes! And I’d also love to know more about the status of the Merry Widow (steam engine).

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To read about my prior trip to Covington (in 2012), click here.

I’ve found an abundance of Sears Homes in Clifton Forge (next door to Covington).

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The North Honors Our Confederate Dead: Why Can’t We?

August 3rd, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Hidden away on a quiet little side street in Alton, Illinois is a beautiful granite monument, honoring the Confederate Dead. If you didn’t know its precise location, you’d never find it. I suspect that many of the locals don’t even know about it.

The 57-foot-tall granite monument sits high atop a hill, and dominates the two-acre site on which its located. It was erected in 1909, and at its base are plaques with the names of 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. Lost in time are the names of the dozens of civilians (Confederate sympathizers) who also died as prisoners of war.

Alton, Illinois sits on the Mississippi River, just 20 miles north of St. Louis, and during the Civil War, it was Union territory. Missouri did not secede from the Union, and yet it was categorized as a slave state. It was a conflicted state, with both Union and Confederate troops within its borders.

By all accounts, Alton was filled with Confederate sympathizers (those who fed or housed Confederates), as well as Confederate spies. Both the spies and the sympathizers ended up in the Alton prison. Many died there, due to starvation, deprivation, extreme cold, and disease.

Sometime in 1862, there was an epidemic of Smallpox at the prison and before it was over, 1,354 of the Confederates were dead. These were the “enemy” and yet Union officials made it clear that their remains were to be treated with reverence and respect.

Specific instructions were given for the burial of these soldiers: “Those who die will be decently interred, and a proper mark affixed to their place of burial.”

The Confederate dead were placed in individual coffins, and a numbered stake was used to mark each grave. A detailed ledger recorded their name and burial place.

In 1867, the federal government assumed ownership of the site, and from 1899 - 1907, efforts were made to document the placement of the war dead. Even with those meticulous records, it was decided that it was “utterly impossible to identify the graves of those buried there.”

In an effort to honor the final resting place of these 1,354 men, the monument was erected. It was to serve as a marker for the unmarked graves of the Confederate dead.

Situated on the Mississippi River, Alton is a quaint little town struggling to survive, with a riverboat casino that brings in some cash and enables the town of 30,000 people to keep the lights on and the schools open. Despite that, the grounds of the Confederate Cemetery on Rozier Avenue are beautifully maintained.

When I visited the site in July 2015, every single thing - from the manicured grounds to the CCC-built wrought-iron fence - was in pristine condition.

The historic placards placed around the cemetery and prison tell a story that honors the memory of our Confederate dead. While it’s true that the victors write the history, the story of our Confederate soldiers - the men captured by the Union Army - is told with tenderness, approbation, honesty and the utmost respect. In 1935, a Confederate veteran - a survivor of that prison - returned to the ruins and was treated as an honored guest (see photo below) and a returning son.

The monument and grave site is treated as a scared site, and is given the proper reverence and honor.

That’s how the North treats our Confederate dead. Why can’t the South be permitted to do the same?

Here in Portsmouth, Virginia, our Confederate monument is under attack, by City Council members that have publicly stated that the monument must come down. This, despite the fact that specific state legislation prohibits the removal of monuments honoring our Confederate dead.

Perhaps City Council needs to take a field trip to Alton, Illinois, so they can learn a little something about honoring our war dead.

It’s a sad commentary that we must look to the North to teach us something about Southern civility and decency and honor.

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Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

Everything within this sacred space is kept in pristine condition.

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In Alton, they are allowed to have nice things.

It's a sad commentary that our Southern heritage is honored more in Illinois than in Virginia.

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The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this military cemetery in Upper Alton.

The Confederate cemetery is located off State Street on Rozier Avenue, a short, quiet residential street in Upper Alton. For 12 years, I lived in the Riverbend area and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and yet I knew next-to-nothing about this "military cemetery" in Upper Alton.

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The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned in Alton, by the Union.

The 57-foot tall obelisk honors the 1,354 Confederate soldiers who died while imprisoned by the Union. The bronze plaques give the names of each of the 1,354 soldiers.

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One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

One of the many plaques at the base of the monument.

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Each plague

Each plaque lists the first and last name, and their unit. Most were from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, but many were from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.

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This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

This 57-foot tall obelisk serves as a grave marker for the Confederate dead.

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The North honors our war dead. Why can't we?

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monum

Sitting on an elevated site in a bucolic setting, it's beautiful, majestic and reverent.

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Save the

Much like our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia (and yet ours is more detailed and elegant and historically significant). Portsmouth's monument to our Confederate dead is on the National Registry, and is considered historically significant for many reasons. For one, it's one of only three monuments in the South that feature all four branches of service. Secondly, some of Portsmouth's own sons were used as models for the four zinc statues.

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About two miles south of the monument is the prison where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated.

About two miles south of the monument you'll find the prison ruins where the Confederate soldiers were incarcerated. Located in downtown Alton, this is a popular tourism site for the city.

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In 1935, surviving Confederate soldier returned to the site.

In 1935, Confederate veteran Samuel Harrison (age 93) returned to the site of the prison and chose one of the limestone blocks as a grave marker for himself. He'd spent eight months at this prison in 1864. When released, he walked 45 miles to his home in Rolla, Missouri. When he returned to Alton in 1935, he was lauded as an honored guest. Harrison (of Dent, Missouri) said that this was the first time he'd returned to Alton since the War. Mr. Harrison related that overcrowding was endemic, and bunks were stacked "nine high, with three men to a bunk."

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The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why cant we?

The North is permitted to honor our Confederate dead. Why can't we?

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To read more about our monument in Portsmouth, Virginia, click here.

For the next 60 days, all monies received at this site will go directly to Stonewall Camp #380 for legal fees to save Portsmouth’s Confederate Monument. Click here to donate.

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“The Merry Widow” Is Near Death (In Covington, Virginia)

October 1st, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Recently, my husband and I traveled to Clifton Forge, Virginia (to visit Douthat State Park).

While there in Clifton Forge, we drove over to Covington (to look for kit homes of course). While in Covington, we discovered an old steam locomotive, sitting at the end of Main Street. Now the property of Allegheny Historical Society, Locomotive #701 was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake & Ohio.

It’s lovingly referred to as “The Merry Widow.”

The merry widow

The Merry Widow was built in 1911 by the Richmond Locomotive Company. It's looking a little rough these days, but it must have been a beauty in its prime. Note the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. This locomotive came to rest here in 1952.

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This year, The Virginia Rail Heritage region announced that The Merry Widow won the “honor” of being selected as one of the Top Ten Endangered Artifacts in the state. (The competition was sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums and the Virginia Collections Institute.)

And this beautiful old train is truly an endangered artifact. To see a youtube video of its interior, click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShFUejzd-4Y

The Chesapeake and Ohio steam engine is a 2-8-0 “Consolidation Class” locomotive. From 1911 to the 1920s, #701 huffed and puffed its way up and down the rails between Ohio and the Great Lakes region. In 1930, it was dedicated to pulling Pullman cars full of happy tourists to a famous historic landmark, The Homestead Resort (in nearby Hot Springs).

The moniker “Merry Widow” came from her single-minded devotion to that task of carrying folks north to Hot Springs, Virginia from Covington. From 1930  to 1952, #701 was the lone engine that ran on that line.

In 1952, a shiny new diesel electric stepped in and #701 was donated to Covington. She has patiently waited in that one spot - literally rusting in her tracks - for half a century.

The condition of this once-grand piece of machinery is precarious, at best. Hopefully, she’ll be restored and reclaimed, rather than relegated to the trash heap. Her placement on the Top Ten List bodes well for her future. Perhaps now she’ll get the attention she deserves.

It’s a beautiful train. I hope it’s not too late to save her.

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Merry

A placard commemorates the dedication.

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Another view of #701.

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rusty

Can this engine be saved?

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It's looking pretty iffy.

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What a beautiful thing. Hopefully one day, her tender will be filled with coal and water and that old boiler will be fired up again.

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dirty

The air quality in Covington can NOT be helping this artifact. What is billowing out of all those smokestacks? Is this a paper plant?

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houose

Despite three hours of wandering around in Covington, i found only one kit home: The Aladdin Plaza. Ironically, this was found within a block of #701.

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The Aladdin Plaza (1919 catalog).

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plague

A badge on the side of the engine shows a manufacture date of 1911.

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plaque

There must be a way to save this old engine.

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To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about #701, click here.

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