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Posts Tagged ‘dupont munitions’

Pulchritudinous Poquoson and Its Kit Homes

February 5th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Several months ago, I went looking for a GriefShare group to join, and chose one in Poquoson (Virginia). The primary reason was this: I didn’t know anyone in Poquoson, so if I had a panic attack or started crying or acted like a fool, I could surreptitiously slip out the side door and no one would ever know I was there.

As the weeks passed, I started coming early on Wednesday nights for the church supper, and then I joined a group for weekly trivia night at a local bar after the GriefShare meeting.

After spending so much time in Poquoson, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a drive around and see how many kit homes I could find. I drove through probably 75% of the area, and I found a few.

I did not find any Penniman homes, but I suspect there are (or were) a few of those too. (Penniman was a WW1-village just outside of Williamsburg, and is now a ghost city.)

What is a “Sears kit home”? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything from the Sears Roebuck catalog, including a  house. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Click here to learn more.

Enjoy the pictures below, and please share this link with your history loving friends.

And if you’re on Facebook, please share the link there!

You can read more about Penniman here.

Want to read a story that will bring tears to your eyes? Read about my sweet daughter here.

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Poquoson is an Indian word for marsh which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

According to several online sources, Poquoson is an Indian word for "great marsh" which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

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This Sears Hamilton was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. Its been through a lot of changes, but its definitely a Hamilton.

This Sears "Hamilton" was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. It's been through a lot of changes, but it's definitely a Hamilton. Many of the houses in Poquoson have been elevated several feet due to flooding.

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The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its flipped (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and flipping the design was a very common alteration.

The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its "flipped" (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and "flipping" the design was a very common alteration.

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Side by side, you can really

With the two images side-by-side, it's easy to see the similarities. The Poquoson house does not have the fireplace (which was an option).

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The Sears Conway is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

The Sears "Conway" is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

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The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

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Because the Conway was a small home, its very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage.

Because the Conway was a small home, it's very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage. This is a really nice example of this popular bungalow.

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Sadly, the details around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. Ick.

Sadly, the details and bracketing around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. That's also a very common "renovation" (blech).

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1914 Moosejaw

I also discovered a couple "Aladdin kit homes" in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the business (1908 to 1940). Aladdin was in business from 1906-1981.

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Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin Sheffield.

Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin "Sheffield."

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It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

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A close-up view of the scrolled rafter tails.

Those oversized hipped dormers are a dead give-away.

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And

And the scrolled rafter tails are also quite unique.

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The view down the other side also gives many clues.

The view down the other side also gives many clues.

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I also discovered a couple Aladdin kit homes in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known.

And just across the street is the Sheffield Grocery! It's a sign!

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Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin Sunshine.

Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin "Sunshine."

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Is this an Aladdin Sunshine? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. Its close, but not quite right. And yet its only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

Is this an Aladdin "Sunshine"? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. It's close, but not quite right. And yet it's only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

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This house is another head-scratcher. Its very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

This house is another head-scratcher. It's very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

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Is it a Wardway Sheridan? Its darn close!

Is it a Wardway Sheridan? It's darn close!

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Its another house thats really, really close.

It's another house that's really, really close. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's 92% likely that this is a Wardway "Sheridan." I do know that this house is very shy about getting its picture taken. I made three trips to Poquoson at three different times in the day and every time, the pictures came out poorly.

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And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. Ive been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? Its quite distinctive!

And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. I've been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? It's quite distinctive!

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While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, youll know that Penniman was a Ghost City just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations.

While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, you'll know that Penniman was a "Ghost City" just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations. Given its location, it seems likely that a few of these Penniman houses landed in Poquoson.

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In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to nearby cities.

In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to "nearby cities."

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One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where theyre still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where they're still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

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The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

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And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman.

And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman and moved to other areas.

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You can read more about Penniman here.

How did they move the houses? Learn more about that here.

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The People of Penniman - We Have Pictures!

January 25th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Now we just need some names.

Thanks to Steven Beauter, a sharp-eyed and devoted historian and lover of history, we have pictures of the people of Penniman. A few years ago, Steven purchased an early 20th century photo album that he’d found on eBay. More recently, he discovered that I was seeking more information on Penniman. He contacted me through Facebook, and two weeks ago, we met at the Williamsburg Public Library and had a lovely visit.

As yet another testimony to the goodness of people, Steven permitted me to take his much-beloved photo album back to my home in Suffolk, where I carefully scanned more than two dozen images.

Below are a few of those wonderful images.

We have pictures, and I’m going to share all the captions and names within these pages. If there are any genealogists that can help us learn more about these people, please leave a comment! All photos are circa 1918.

Thanks so much to Steven for sharing this treasure. Thanks to him, we now have another insight into this ghost city.

Lastly, I would welcome the opportunity to do lectures. If your historical society/group would like to make arrangements to have a lecture on Penniman, please contact me at pennimanva@gmail.com.

All photos are courtesy of Steven Beauter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Please forgive the obnoxious watermarks. After countless and blatant theft of images, I must resort to this.


Want to learn about one of my personal heroes? Click here.

Did you know that the Great Atlantic Fleet remained anchored near Penniman throughout the Great War?

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First, my favorite. This is a picture of Freckles and the caption reads The trial of all of Penniman.

First, my favorite. This is a picture of "Freckles" and the caption reads "The trial of all of Penniman."

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Name given

The caption reads, "You might think that Charlotte might be afraid of being bombed by that aeroplane but being in a munition plant, one gets used to that sort of thing. Besides, it was only a spot on the negative." In other captions, Edith and Charlotte are identified as close friends.

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Dick and anme

This photo is captioned "Effie and Dick."

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people

The office staff at Penniman.

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Bank

"First National Bank of Penniman."

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Penniman

"Lodge 9 at Penniman."

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This photo is identified as Mr. Benesh's home. He was the superintendent of the plant.

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"Noontime at Penniman." Check out those clothes! Were these women loading shells? Judging by their clothing, I don't think so. The shell loaders wore a company issued uniform.

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Cumberland

No information is given with this photo, but that's a Penniman house ("The Cumberland") behind this young couple. To read more about the houses at Penniman, see the link below.

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Haggerty

This photo offers the most clues. It's titled "Harvest" and reads, "Mrs. Haggart, Jean and Alleyne." You'd think with names like "Alleyne" these people could be found.

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Read one of my first blogs about Penniman here.

Want to learn more about the houses at Penniman? Here’s the link.

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Beaverboard: Long Tough Fibers of White Spruce

June 13th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The houses that DuPont built for their munitions workers at Penniman, Virginia featured “Beaverboard” interiors. Sounds pretty fancy, but in fact, it was an economical alternative to real plaster walls.

Bill Inge lent me his “Sweet’s Architectural Catalog” (1917) which had a two-page spread on Beaverboard. It answered all my questions (and then some).

Apparently, this wallboard product was quite the rage in the first years of the 20th Century, and was hugely popular in low-cost industrial housing.

In 1981, our family moved into a house built in 1949, and it had Beaverboard on the walls of its small attic room (complete with 2-inch strips at the seams). When we tore it out, it created a massive mess.

Apparently, Beaverboard wallboard was a product that endured for many years.

According to Wikipedia, it can also be used as an artist’s canvas. Grant Wood’s famous painting of the morose farming couple - American Gothic - was painted on a piece of Beaverboard.

What made plaster so expensive? Click here.

To learn more about industrial housing at DuPont’s villages, click here.

Interested in Virginia’s own Ghost City? Click here.

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Beaver Board

I wanted to title this blog, "Beaverboard: Who Gives a Dam?" but I couldn't bring myself to do it. ;)

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housing

The houses that DuPont built at their munitions plants had beaverboard walls.

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Beaverboard

Despite the glowing reports in the Beaverboard literature, this was still an "economical" alternative to plaster.

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house

The header says, "Foreign Branches." Quite an outfit!

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house

"Long tough fibers of white spruce...compressed and built up into...panels..."

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house beaverboard

Is the homeowner weilding a walking stick at the old worker?

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house

Now that the worker has started putting up Beaverboard, the walking stick has been removed from sight.

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house

Why bother to put six big beautiful windows in a house and then cover them up? Why not just put Beaverboard right over the windows? If I were queen of the world, I'd make it illegal to have a sunporch shrouded in heavy drapes.

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beaverboard

"It permits of mural decorations in theaters..." I have my doubts about this.

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house

Under "Club" it reads, "The club's activities never will be hindered by repairs..." Wow.

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Denver

Here's a Penniman house that was moved from the munitions factory to Capitol Landing Road (Williamsburg). Was it built with interior walls of Beaverboard? Probably so.

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Was that house at Penniman beaverboard

How I'd love to see the inside of this Penniman/DuPont house when built in 1918.

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To learn more about industrial housing at DuPont’s villages, click here.

Interested in Virginia’s own Ghost City? Click here.

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Missing: “The Projectile”!

October 21st, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

The hunt is on.

We’re working on a new book about a piece of Virginia’s regional history that is utterly and wholly captivating.

Penniman: Virginia’s Own Ghost Town.

In 1916, DuPont opened a new munitions factory on the old Bechtel Farm, on a piece of land east of Williamsburg. Less than three years later, it would be an impressive facility with scores of buildings, dozens of dormitories and hundreds of homes. By 1920, it was gone. The “War to End All Wars” was over, and there was no more need for this munitions factory on the York River.

The property was turned over to the U. S. Government and in later years, it would come to be known as Cheatham Annex.

To read Part I of this story, click here.

To read part II of this story, click here.

To read part III, click here.

To read more about Old Hickory, click here.

But there’s a piece of the puzzle that we really need. According to this article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, a full accounting of the building of the houses at Penniman can be found in a 1916-ish publication called, “The Projectile.”

There are a whole lot of history buffs that read this blog every day and if anyone has any clues where to find “The Projectile,” please let me know.

Additionally, we’re also looking for a weekly employee newsletter written for the workers at the DuPont Munitions Plant in Penniman. It was called, “The Polka Dot” (yes, really).

Last (and this may be the easiest), I’m hoping to find a copy of “Old Hickory,” a reprint of a 1920 booklet with extensive information on the DuPont munitions  plant in Tennessee. It was reproduced in 1987 by the Hadley Bend Historical Association. I have a paper copy, but would love to have the original document.

Thanks in advance to the many smart people who read this blog every day!  :D

This

Lots of good clues in this article from 1938, but the best is the very last paragraph. About 300 houses were built in Penniman, and from what I've gleaned, most were moved (not destroyed) into "nearby towns." We've located about 50 of them in Norfolk and one in Williamsburg. That leaves 250 missing. If we could find "The Projectile," that would be a good start!

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The only photo we have of the houses in Penniman

The only photo we have of the houses in Penniman is the grainy image above, from the 1938 newspaper article shown in the prior picture. According to the photo's caption, this (and other photos shown in the article) came from the collection of Drewery Jones, who apparently worked at Penniman for a time. Thanks to David Spriggs, we've found that Drewery (also spelled "Drewry") lived in one of the Penniman houses that was moved to downtown Williamsburg. Mr. Jones passed on in 1977, but I'm thinking that he did not take these photos with him. The clearer image (shown above here) is "The Haskell" which was one of the houses found in Penniman. The houses shown in the grainy image are both "Haskells" (with one turned 90 degrees). So where are Mr. Jones' photos of Penniman?

To read more about Penniman and see vintage photos, click here.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

January 30th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Since August 2010, I’ve written almost 700 blogs. That’s a lot of blogs. Each blog has three or more photos. That’s thousands of photos.

Some of these blogs took several hours to compose, and then get bumped off the page within a week of their creation.

So I’m posting a few of my favorite blogs below. If you’ve enjoyed this site, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

The Sears Corona has always been one of my favorite houses (1921).

The Sears Corona has always been one of my favorite houses (1921).

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Sears Corona in Gillespie, Illinois.

A perfect Sears Corona in Gillespie, Illinois.

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Last year, I wrote a blog about the San Jose. I’ve never seen one, but this was Rebecca’s find. Awesome house. Click here.

This blog was devoted to Alhambras, and had pictures of my favorite Alhambras of all time.

The Magnolia is my favorite house, and this blog has photos of all six Magnolias that are in existence today.

In this blog (also picture heavy) I provided lots of info on how to identify a Magnolia.

And this features a story from a 92-year-old man that built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

This blog was created from photos sent in by Pat, an Ohio resident. LOTS of Sears Homes in Ohio!

West Virginia is one of my favorite places in all the world, and Lewisburg is loaded with Sears Homes. Click here to see many fun photos.

And if you have about 10 hours to spare, click here to read the story of my Aunt Addie’s apparent murder. Let me warn you, her story is addictive! You can’t read just one link!!

Click here to read about her exhumation, and let me tell, that’s quite a story too!

Really awesome photos of Carlinville, IL (which has 150 Sears Homes) can be seen here.

This is one of the MOST popular blogs at this site. It’s picture-heavy tour of my old house in Colonial Place. We sold it a couple years ago, and yet this blog is a perennial favorite.

Another perennial favorite is the story of how we redid our bathroom in the old house. Came out beautiful, but what a project!

Here’s a detailed blog on one of Sears most popular homes: The Vallonia.

This was another fascinating historical research project: Penniman - Virginia’s Ghost Town. Wow, what a story that turned out to be!

Those are just a few of my favorites.  If you want to read more, look to the right of the page and you’ll see this (shown below). Click on any one of those months to navigate through the older blogs.

Call

Click on this column (to the right) and you'll find the rest of those 680 blogs!

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Thanks for reading the blog, and please leave a comment below!

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Virginia’s Very Own Ghost Town: Penniman (Part III)

March 11th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Sometimes, when you’re running down a mystery, there are wonderful and unexpected surprises.

Such a thing happened Friday morning. An email appeared in my inbox, from a woman who was the granddaughter of Warren B. Hastings. Mr. Hastings owned a stevedore company in Norfolk in the early 1900s, and he was the fellow who moved many houses from DuPont’s plant in Penniman to Norfolk, Virginia.

Saturday morning, I met with “Harriet,” and she shared old photos and old documents. It was a wonderful visit and she also answered many questions about this piece of Norfolk’s architectural history. Harriet told me that Mr. Hastings moved 40 houses from the old munitions plant to Norfolk, and that he kept most of the 40 houses, and once they were finished, he rented them out.

She also told me that there were a few in Ocean View, on Willioughby Spit. That was also new information. The old newspaper article we’d found from 1921 didn’t mention anything about Ocean View.

And she had an old ledger book, showing the rental income collected from this collection of old Penniman houses. The ledger had only names (no streets) but using old city directories, David Spriggs and I went through all the names and found precise addresses. With that list of addresses in hand, we then went looking for the houses on our city streets.

Harriet said that two of the little Penniman houses had burned down, and we later learned that two had been torn down.

For more than a year, David Spriggs, Mark Hardin and I have been searching for information on these houses that were moved out of Penniman, and in our 75-minute visit, Harriet was able to answer many, many questions and help us discover the rest of the story, and with her information, we were also able to discover, the rest of the houses!

To learn more about the amazing history of Penniman, read part I here. And then read Part II hereIf you want to read about the history of this project, click here.

In short, Penniman (near Williamsburg) got its start in 1916, when DuPont decided it’d be a dandy site for their 37th munitions plant. At its peak, there were 10,000 people living in the village, and another 10,000 to 20,000 souls living just outside its borders. As The Great War waged on, the plant was being expanded more and more, and in Fall 1917, there was news that a $10 million plant would soon be constructed at Penniman. The munitions factory was hiring so many people, that the local farmers complained that they were having a hard time finding people to work the farms.

But then something very unexpected happened: On November 11, 1918, The Great War - also known as “The War to End All Wars” came to a swift and sure end.

By 1920, the plant was closed down and the 250+ houses in the village were boarded up and moved to other places.

In 1921, the Virginian Pilot did a short story on the houses being moved by barge from Penniman to Norfolk by Warren Hastings.

In 1938, The Richmond News Leader did a feature story on this Virginia Ghost Town, but that was 74 years ago. From what we can glean, that was the last time anything was written about Penniman.

Now, we still need to figure out how those 14 little bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk) got to their location. Hastings moved 40 houses, but his ledger didn’t mention anything about houses in Riverview.

Maybe soon, we’ll know more about those houses.

To read Part I, click here.

To read Part II, click here.

To read how this whole search got started, click here.

Warren Hastings stands in front of his home at 7317 Major Avenue in Norfolk. He moved 40 of these little houses from Penniman to Norfolks Riverfront neighborhood. He lived in one, and gifted the houses to his children.

Warren Hastings stands in front of his home at 7317 Major Avenue in Norfolk. He moved 40 of these little houses from Penniman to Norfolk's "Riverfront" neighborhood. He lived in one, and gifted a handful of the houses to family members. Photo is about 1945 (approx).

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Warren Hastings (the man who moved these homes to Norfolk) lived in this house on Major Avenue. DuPont named this design, The Georgia.

Warren Hastings (the man who moved these homes to Norfolk) lived in this house on Major Avenue. DuPont named this design, "The Georgia."

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The Georgia, as it appeared in the old DuPont literature.

"The Georgia," as it appeared in the old DuPont literature.

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A short article in the Virginia Pilot talks about the houses coming to Norfolk by barge.

A short article in the Virginia Pilot talks about the houses coming to Norfolk by barge. Harriet pointed out during our talk that Warren's name has a typo. His name was "Warren B. Hastings,'" not Warren T.

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The houses, being floated in by barge, in 1921.

The houses, being floated in by barge, in 1921.

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The article from the Richmond News Leader (1938).

The article from the Richmond News Leader (1938).

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Close-up of the good part.

Close-up of the good part.

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To learn more about lone Penniman house we found in Colonial Williamsburg, click here.

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This is the only photo we have of the houses in Penniman. This appeared in the Richmond News Leader article in 1938, and it was a vintage image theyd obtained from a man named

This is the only photo we have of the houses in Penniman. This appeared in the Richmond News Leader article in 1938, and it was a vintage image they'd obtained from a man named Drewry Jones of Williamsburg. Oh, how we'd love to find the original of these photos!! (There were several of them, according to the paper.)

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In the Penniman photo (above), you can clearly see a few Haskells. This was another DuPont design and was apparently the prevailing style of house built at Penniman.

In the Penniman photo (above), you can clearly see a few "Haskells." This was another DuPont design and was apparently the prevailing style of house built at Penniman.

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DuPont had a much larger munitions factory in Hopewell, Virginia. Heres a picture of two of the many Haskells found in Hopewell. Photo is copyright 2012 Mark Hardin and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

DuPont had a much larger munitions factory in Hopewell, Virginia. Here's a picture of two of the many Haskells found in Hopewell. Photo is copyright 2012 Mark Hardin and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This all started

It all started with these 14 little bungalows in the Riverview section of Norfolk. They're fine-looking little houses and we were wondering - where did they come from? The story is that they were floated in by barge from somewhere "up river," but no one seemed to be sure where they came from. And then Mark Hardin found that our "Ethel Bungalows" (as we called them) had been built in other DuPont towns.

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Dupont Mark

Mark Hardin found our "Ethel Bungalows" in several other DuPont towns, such as DuPont Washington, where they have more than 100 of these houses, lined up - one after the other - like little soldiers. In fact, Mark found that there's a "Penniman Street" there in Dupont, Washington. The house shown above is in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

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Penniman

Here's a piece of a panoramic photo of Penniman sometime around 1917. This photo came from the Library of Congress. No date appears with the photo, but given Penniman's short time in existence, it must have been taken mighty close to 1917.

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According to information gleaned from Mr. Hastings ledger, there were two houses at this location, now occupied by Algonquin House (built 1964). In early 2007, I lived at Algonquin House with my new hubby.

According to information gleaned from Mr. Hastings ledger, two of his Penniman houses were placed here in the 7300-block (even side) of Glenroie Avenue. Apparently these two houses were torn down when the Algonquin House was built in 1964. According to Harriet, the houses were floated in on the water directly behind the Algonquin House. (In early 2007, I lived at Algonquin House with my new hubby.)

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The ledger shows the rental prices in 1953.

The ledger shows the rental prices in 1953.

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Thanks to all this new information shared by Harriet, weve now learned that there were four Penniman Houses placed on Willoughby Spit in the Ocean View area of Norfolk.

Thanks to all this new information shared by Harriet, we've now learned that there were four Penniman Houses placed on Willoughby Spit in the Ocean View area of Norfolk. This photo shows three Haskells in a row on 13th View Street. The old ledger shows FOUR houses in a row on 13th View Street. Was one moved to another spot? Or was it razed?

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And about three blocks away from 13th is another Penniman house: The Georgia. Its on Chela Avenue, also in Willoughby Spit.

And about three blocks away from 13th View Street is another Penniman house: The Georgia. It's on Chela Avenue, also in Willoughby Spit.

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And heres another Georgia that we found last month in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg.

And here's another Georgia that we found last month in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg.

To learn more about Penniman and its history, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Old Hickory, Tennessee and Norfolk, Virginia (Updated!)

January 1st, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

Since I moved to Norfolk in September 2006, the 16 identical bungalows on Ethel Avenue have been whispering my name, and imploring me to come close, and learn more about their unique origins. Problem was, I could never quite make out what they were saying.

For years, I pored through my vintage catalogs from Sears, Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling Homes and even Pacific Ready Cut Homes, hoping to identify them as kit homes from a mail-order company.

I never could find a design that was anything close.

Someone in town said the houses were built at the 300th anniversary fair at Jamestown (1904) and moved from that site to their resting place in Riverview (Norfolk). That didn’t ring true, because these little bungalows were more typical of the 1910s. And somewhere, we heard that there had been a DuPont factory in Penniman, Virginia (about 30 minutes from Norfolk), and that the houses might have come from the factory at Penniman.

And then I started doing research on Hopewell, Virginia and learned that it had also been the site of a DuPont munitions factory. So I drove around Hopewell, trying to find our “Ethels” (as they came to be known).

There have been many interesting discoveries along the way. To read a full history of our project, click here.

If I was doing this project on my own, it probably would have ended when I couldn’t find the houses in my mail order catalogs. But I’m not alone. Norfolk historian David Spriggs and Researcher Extraordinaire Mark Hardin have been doing most of the heavy lifting. And they’ve made some amazing discoveries.

It was Mark who found our “Ethels” in other cities (Butte, Montana and Dupont, Washington), and it was Mark who found a plethora of info on the architecture history of DuPont’s “Munition Towns.”

It was David who found an article about George P. Hudson in a newspaper article dated April 14, 1922. Hudson owned several lots where Ethels landed, and also owned a barge company here in Norfolk.

A few months ago, Mark Hardin sent me a photo of a Dupont design in Old Hickory, Tennessee (near Nashville).  I looked at it, but I wasn’t sure what to think. And then last week, David Spriggs said, “I think I’ve identified a two-story Dupont design here in Riverview.”

I thought, “Okay, I’ll look at it.”

And that’s when things took a turn for the better.

Looking at the architectural details of David’s “two-story Dupont house,” and comparing it to our Ethels, I had to say, he was right. The two houses shared several important architectural features. And then I noticed the two-story house had a long tall attic window. Where had I seen that before? In the picture that Mark sent me, of the houses in Old Hickory.

David and I had also been told that there were some houses on Major Avenue (another part of Norfolk), that had come here by barge. We drove down Major Avenue and that’s when it all started to come together. The houses on Major Avenue had a very distinctive attic window that we’d just seen on the two-story “Dupont Design” in Riverview.

Pictures are a lot better than words, so here are a few pictures (below).

I’d be grateful for any information anyone can share about Old Hickory, TN.

*David Spriggs and Mark Hardin have done most of the research on this subject. On this project, I’ve been the blog writer and photo taker!  :)

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On the left is a vintage picture of a Dupont Design (The Haskell) that was built in Old Hickory, TN. On the right is a house in Norfolk (on Major Avenue). We're now pretty well certain that these houses came from Penniman (site of a Dupont Munitions Factory) and floated by barge to this location. According to an article in the "Richmond News Leader" (June 1938) there are 51 of these homes in Norfolk, in varying designs. Thus far, we've found fewer than 30 of the 51 houses.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant in Tennessee) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

This little Dutch Colonial

This little Dutch Colonial was one of the "Dupont Designs" found in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Note the narrow windows by the front door.

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There are nine of these "Dutchie Dupont' designs on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. These Norfolk houses are a perfect match to the houses in Old Hickory, TN.

Two of the many Dutchies from DuPont found in Norfolk.

One of the many "Dutchies from DuPont" found in Norfolk.

Cumberland

The Cumberland was one of 12 designs created by Dupont and found in both Norfolk and Old Hickory. There are two of these on Major Avenue (Norfolk).

And heres the real life example.

And here's one of two Cumberlands on Major Avenue. It is a perfect match to the Dupont Cumberland found in Old Hickory, TN.

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Riverview. Note the unusual attic window.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Norfolk. Note the tall thin attic window which is a perfect match to the Old Hickory house above. There are other architectural features which lead us to believe that this is also a "Dupont Design." This house was floated by barge to its location here in Norfolk. This is a big house to move!

Close-up of the attic window.

Close-up of the attic window found on all the two-storyy Dupont designs.

It all started with these little bungalows that weve named, The Ethels. There are 16 of these in Riverview (Ethel Avenue) and two in Highland Park (51st Street) in Norfolk.

It all started with these little bungalows that we've named, The Ethels. There are 16 of these in Riverview (Ethel Avenue) and two in Highland Park (51st Street) in Norfolk.

I spent many hours of my life, poring through old mail order catalogs, trying to identify these bungalows as kit homes.

I spent many hours of my life, poring through old mail order catalogs, trying to identify these bungalows as kit homes. And it turns out, they were built by Dupont for their employees at Penniman (Virginia). Dupont had a massive munitions plant there in Penniman, and after it was closed, the houses were shipped out to other cities, including Norfolk. That's where these "Ethels" came from.

And there are dozens of Ethels in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant.

And there are dozens of "Ethels" in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant.

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window on these "Ethels" is a pretty distinctive feature.

If you have any information about the houses in Old Hickory, please leave a comment below.

And there was an employee newsletter called, “The Projectile,” which featured a story on the building of these houses. That would also be an incredible resource. Thanks in advance for any and all help.

If you’d like to read earlier posts, start with Part I.

And then go to Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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