In the late 1800s, the repair shops for Norfolk and Western’s steam locomotives were based in Crewe, Virginia. In the mid 20th Century, railroads abandoned steam (and their repair shops) and turned to diesel-electric locomotives. One of the legacies left behind from Crewe’s former glory as a railroad town is a delightful train museum and a few kit homes, from Sears (Chicago) and Aladdin (Bay City, MI).
In late Spring 2011, I traveled through Crewe on my way home from Lynchburg, and found these delightful kit homes.
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To read another amazing blog about Crewe, click here.
Aladdin was actually another kit home company that (like Sears) sold their houses through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started selling their kit homes in 1906, two years before Sears (1908). In Virginia, I've found many more Aladdins than Sears homes, probably because Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC.
Aladdin Edison on Route 460 in Crewe.
Aladdin Plaza from the 1919 catalog.
Aladdin Plaza in brick.
The Lynnhaven is one of my favorite Sears Homes, because it’s both stylish and practical, and it was one of Sears best selling models. This house was offered from the late 1920s to the end, when Sears offered their last catalog in 1940.
Railroad towns and kit homes go together naturally, just like carrots and peas. These kit homes would arrive in a boxcar, in 12,000 pieces. Each kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a man of average abilities could have the house assembled and ready for occupancy in a mere 90 days. In fact, most people needed a little more time than that.
Sears offered about 370 designs of their kit homes, and during their 32 years in the kit home business, Sears sold about 70,000 houses.
Aladdin was a larger company, selling more than 75,000 homes, and they were in business from 1906-1981.
Lynnhaven from the 1936 Sears catalog.
Lynnhaven in Crewe.
Sears Wexford from the 1936 catalog. It was also known as the Bridgeport, but this little home's best chums call it "Wexxie."
This little house is not a spot on match to "Wexxie" but it's distinctive enough that I'd be willing to bet 50 cents it is indeed the real deal.
My favorite find in Crewe was the Sears Lucerne. This is the only Lucerne that I have seen in my many travels, and the one in Crewe is just a spot-on match to the original catalog image! And look at the price! This darling little house could be yours for $867.
From the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog
Lucerne in Crewe, Virginia
This view shows that little funny staircase window on the left side. See floorplan for details.
Comparison of the two houses
One of the trains on display at the train museum in Crewe.
Another view of the choo choo at Crewe-Crewe.
More train coolness at Crewe
The little train museum in Crewe is a delight, and well worth your time. It’s staffed by devoted volunteers and it’s a lovely way to spend some time. As a hard-core train buff, I loved the hands-on displays and being able to soak in the happy ambiance of the old Norfolk and Western steam engine (pictured above).
To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.
To buy one of Rose’s splendiferous books, click here.
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