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Posts Tagged ‘dupont munitions’

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

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

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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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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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