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A Not-So-Nobby Neighborhood in Newport News With Numerous Kit Homes!

January 21st, 2012 Sears Homes 10 comments

It’s called, “East End,” and it’s a badly blighted, crime-ridden part of the otherwise lovely, history laden city of Newport News (Virginia). Despite the fact that I’m a native of Tidewater, I never knew this neighborhood existed, until I stumbled upon it while looking for a particular house in Hampton!

After my fortuitous stumble into East End, I discovered a Sears kit home I had never seen before. After 12 years of playing with kit homes, that doesn’t happen too often these days. And yet here it was, in Newport News, which is next door to Norfolk (where I live). To learn more about these early 20th Century kit homes, click here.

The next day I returned to East End to get a better photo of this Sears House, and I found several more kit homes. I returned a couple days later and spent 90 minutes driving to and fro in this neighborhood. It’s my hope and prayer that this research might encourage the important people in Newport News to think about what can be done to preserve and protect this truly remarkable collection of kit homes.

As I told my husband, this is the type of discovery I’d expect to make in a Chicago suburb (where there’s an abundance of kit homes). Here in Virginia, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. And due to the straitened economic circumstances of this neighborhood, some of these houses are in largely original condition. (In addition to the Sears kit homes, I also found several houses from Aladdin, which also sold entire kit houses through mail order. In fact, I found more Aladdin kit homes than Sears!)

The research and writing of this blog consumed many, many hours of my life. Please share this link with others, who may have any interest in our cultural and architectural history.

Enjoy the many photos and please leave a comment below.

To read about the kit homes I found in Hampton, click here.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. Its a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one Ive seen in person.

The first house that caught my eye was this Sears Model #119. It's a grand old house, and the house in Newport News is the first one I've ever seen "in the flesh."

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Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this homes original builder to leave this wonderful home. More than 50% of the time, these homes were built by average men and women who were just trying to capture a piece of the American Dream.

Hard to believe, but someone built this house from a kit. These houses arrived via train, and came with 12,000 pieces and a 75-page instruction book. I can only imagine how hard it was for this home's original builder to leave this home that he'd built - with his own hands - for his family. These homes were built to last for GENERATIONS, and they were made with superior quality building materials. This house is on Marshall Avenue.

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Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Side-by-side comparison of the two images.

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The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

The Hathaway was a cute little house, and affordable, and probably not too tough to build.

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Here it is, in PRISTINE condition. Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

Here it is, in PRISTINE condition, and sitting unobtrusively on Hampton Avenue (in Newport News). Notice that even the original lattice work is still in place, and is a spot-on match to the catalog image. Just incredible! Probably one of my favorite finds!

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A comparison of the two images shows

A comparison of the two images. What a treasure!

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Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me!

Just as I was getting ready to head home, I turned down 26th Street and lo and behold, what did I see, but a PERFECT Aladdin Brentwood smiling back at me! This image (shown here) is from the 1914 Aladdin catalog. This is a classic Arts & Crafts design, and a beautiful house.

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A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. Made me gasp out loud, followed by paroxsyms of great joy.

A perfect Aladdin Brentwood. When I happened upon this house, I made a high-pitched happy noise, followed by paroxysms of great joy. But this poor old Aladdin Brentwood is in rough shape, and needs quite a bit of work. The balcony's railing (upper left of photo) is literally falling off the house. This house is across the street from the Pearl Bailey Public Library.

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Side by side comparison to the two houses.

Side by side comparison to the two houses. Pretty sweet house!

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog. The L-shaped front porch is a distinctive feature on the Aladdin Venus.

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And here it is.

What is it about this color and Aladdin Homes in East End?

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Another very nice match.

Another very nice match. As a side note, photographing this house was very difficult, as it was on the right side of the road on a one-way street (26th Street), and I wasn't prepared to park the car, and hoof it to the house just to get a good shot.

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The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Sears Westly, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a Sears Westly.

And here's a Sears Westly in good condition on 23rd Street.

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Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

Again, a very sweet match to the original catalog picture!

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The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

The Aladdin Marsden was probably one of their top five most popular houses.

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Look at the deatil of the brickword around the chimney!

Look at the detail of the brickwork on the chimney!

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And its for Better class workers!

This Sears Home was for "Better class" workers!

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Ouch.

Ouch. At least the satellite dish is dressed up for the holidays.

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Compare

Poor little "Carlin."

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Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

Lewis Manufacturing was yet another early 20th Century kit home company.

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I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but Im not convinced.

I suspect this *may* be a Lewis Pelham, but I'm not convinced. There are a lot of things that are "just right" and match the Pelham very nicely. Notice the squared bay with a shed roof, and the four round columns on the front porch. It's a good match to the Pelham, but not perfect. Hard to see here, but in "person" you can tell that four windows in that gabled dormer were removed and sided over. And check out the action on the back roof. This classic bungalow is becoming an A-Frame. Icky.

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If you look closely at these windows, you can seem that a few have been blanked out and covered up.

If you look closely at this dormer, you can see that a few windows have been removed and covered up.

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From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

From the 1910 catalog, this is the Sears Model #123.

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This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right.

This house in East End is SO close, but just not quite right. This house has so many odd architectural details (the pedimented porch, the two different-size dormers on the side, the bay under the larger dormer), but it's not 100% perfect.

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At the end of the day, Teddy and I were tired, and ready to come home.

At the end of the day, Teddy The Amazing House Hunting Dog was tired, and ready to move on to the next adventure - LUNCH! We'd both had an exciting day with lots of fun discoveries, but we were glad to come home and chow down on some tasty kibble.

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I’m confident that there are many more kit homes in this small part of Newport News, and I hope to return one day (with a driver), and do a little more searching. It’s hard to focus on houses when there are so many people milling about in the street.  :(  Plus, while I was in this area, I saw TWO drivers blow past stop signs, without even pausing to glance at traffic. Scary. And then sometime last night, some poor soul was shot repeatedly in this very area.

Please leave a comment below, and please share this link with friends, via Facebook, twitter or even plain old email!

To learn more about the kit homes of Hampton Roads, click here.

To read about kit homes in nearby Hampton, click here.

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Our New Home, Part II

August 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Today, we celebrate 10 days at our new house, a 1962-built brick ranch in Norfolk’s Bromley neighborhood.

Every day, I find something new about this house that affirms it is indeed, The Perfect House for us. And it also has The Perfect Backyard.

Yesterday, I saw an Snowy White Egret perched atop a branch in the canal, just waiting for his breakfast to swim by. And yesterday, our new fence went in, so that Teddy the Dog could have her freedom restored. Heretofore, she’s been crying like a baby, due to being tethered on a tie-out in the back yard. It was a pitiable sight, and now we have a fenced yard again.

Despite our ten days here at the new house, it still makes my heart leap when I look out the back windows and see that beautiful canal out there. I’ve spent 52 years dreaming of life on a lake, and here I am, living the dream. It sure is lovely.

Here are some photos of our perfect backyard at The Ringer Ranch.

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We spend a lot of time sitting in that bench!

Today, our new fence was installed, enabling Teddy the Dog to be free again.

Today, our new fence was installed, enabling Teddy the Dog to be free again.

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And it's a beautiful house, too!

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Better view of our canal.

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The other photos (above) show the canal leading up to Lake Whitehurst. This is a view of the canal leading down stream.

Another view of our beautiful lake-front property!  :)

Another view of our beautiful lake-front property! :)

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It really does feel like a little bit of heaven. :)

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The view from the master bedroom.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

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My Pretty, Pretty Pink House - SOLD!!

August 18th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

We closed on the old pink house a few days ago, and the day after that, we closed on our new home! We’re all moved into the new house in Bromley (near the Norfolk airport)!

The house we left - in Colonial Place - is a grand old house filled with the most modern technologies and about $60,000 in recent improvements.

I hope the new owners realize that they got the deal of the decade!  Beauty, charm, sturdiness, grace together with high-falutin’ fancy-dancy electrical/mechanical systems and super high efficiency heating and cooling equipment.

It’s a grand old house, and it was a fun ride, but I’m ready to start this new chapter in my life - living in a little brick ranch!  :)

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

3916 Gosnold - from the front.

Dappled afternoon sunlight complements the front of 3916 Gosnold.

The

The gated entrance to my secret garden!

And on the other side of the gate youll find bowers of flowers (blooming in the sun).

And on the other side of the gate you'll find bowers of flowers (blooming in the sun).

Something this old house hasnt seen in a long time - GRASS in the sideyard!

Something this old house hasn't seen in a long time - GRASS in the sideyard! The pergola is pretty nice, too.

My daughter said we didnt have enough views of the inside, so I took some additional photos!

My daughter said we didn't have enough views of the inside, so I took some additional photos! View from the living into the foyer and dining room.

The setting sun illuminates the formal dining room, which measures more than 13 x 17.

The setting sun illuminates the formal dining room, which measures more than 13 x 17.

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The formal living room is 13 x 23 and is always awash in light.

And the sunporch - one of my favorite rooms in the house!

And the sunporch - one of my favorite rooms in the house! Kinda wish I'd moved that old floor lamp before I took the photo!

View from upstairs - looking into the foyer.

View from upstairs - looking into the foyer.

Another view of the formal staircase

The staircase has solid walnut banister and tapered spindles.

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Upstairs hallway. Door at the end leads to the third floor.

One of the three upstairs bedrooms.

One of the three upstairs bedrooms. The door leads out to a balcony (over the sunporch).

The bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance. Notice the hex tile on the floor.

The bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance. Notice the hex tile on the floor.

This old pink house has been faithfully restored to its original splendor, and has a high-efficiency gas boiler (94%+), high-efficiency central air (14 SEER) and a dazzling rainwater harvesting system. Enjoy the best of old-world craftsmanship together with the latest and greatest of modern technology. In short, you’ll have the unique pleasure of living in a beautiful old house with none of the environmental guilt. :)

House is 2,300 square feet with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, with a large sunporch, full third floor and awesome basement.

Price is $287,900 with $4,000 closing cost assistance.

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

More photos are below.

To read about Aunt Addie’s murder in Lake Mills, click here.

My old house foyer

The house on Gosnold is a classic Colonial Revival, right down to the details. The image on the left is the entry foyer at Gosnold Avenue. The image on the right is the cover of the book, "Colonial Style." Even the light fixture is the same. The rest of the details are also spot-on. Biggest different is, my rug is not as pretty as theirs.

door

And, we have an original ice box door, too. Back in the 1920s, this door provided access to the back of the icebox, so that the iceman could deliver a 25-pound block of ice to the ice box without entering the home. This was also known as "the jealous husband's door."

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The twin grandchildren of the home's builder (William Barnes) sit on the front stoop (mid-1950s). They were born and raised in this house. The home remained in the Barnes' family until 1971, when it was sold to new owners. Laura (on the left) supplied the family photos, which proved invaluable in the home's restoration.

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The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

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Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

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On the back porch is this old "Milk Door," which provided a place for the milkman's deliveries, whether or not anyone was home (and/or awake!). A corresponding door in the pantry enabled the housewife to retrieve deliveries without stepping outside.

kitchen

The house has 32 windows, and 7 of them are in the kitchen. One of my favorite features in the kitchen are these many beautiful windows. The gas stove (left) is less than 30 days old. The dishwasher and fridge (both stainless steel) were new in March 2007.

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This spacious kitchen was remodeled in Spring 2007.

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The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

Really big refrigerator does everything but serve you buttered toast in the morning.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

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Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

And did you notice those shiny doorknobs on the french doors!

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A view from the staircase.

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Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

Another view

Flowers in full bloom.

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And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

attic

Even the attic is spacious and grand! And with a little back-lighting, these windows can scare the beejeebies out of the trick or treaters on Halloween night! If you look up, you'll see collar beams on all of the roof joists. The house is topped with Buckingham Slate (recently restored), which weighs 1,400 pounds per square (100 square feet).

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

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Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

Another view

Another view of the pergola.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

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Our New Home - in Norfolk, Virginia

August 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 11 comments

The beautiful pink house on Gosnold is now a closed chapter in our lives, and we’re delighted to be settling into our new home in another section of Norfolk. The big pink house was fun, but we’re grateful to have handed over the reins to a delightful young couple that have an inherent understanding that they are not just “homeowners” but caretakers.

There are countless blogs at this site detailing the work we’ve done to our 1925 center-hallway, Colonial Revival, so this blog will be all about the new house!

The new house is ideal for us, at this time in our lives. It’s a smaller house and a simpler house, and it’s all on one level. The best part is, the beautiful back yard adjoins a small canal off of Lake Whitehurst. For most of my life, I’ve dreamt of living on the water, and that dream has now come true.

When I was a little girl, my mother would walk through the halls of our home saying, “I’m so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. Just so blessed.” Such things leave a deep impression on a little girl, and I’m sure that my mother’s enjoyment of that home is a big part of the reason that historic architecture became my career.

And now, walking through the splendid rooms of my recently purchased 1962 brick ranch and gazing out the many windows at the beautiful yard with its water views, I hear my mother’s words return to me.

I’m so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. Just so blessed.

Realtor Gary Crawford sits on the front steps of our new home. This photo was taken several days before we moved in, and we were there for the property inspection. Gary Crawford was incredibly professional and thoughtful, too. Notice that hes dressed to match the beautiful Ringer Ranch.

Realtor Gary Crawford sits on the front steps of our new home. This photo was taken several days before we moved in, and we were there for the property inspection. Gary Crawford was incredibly professional and thoughtful, too. It's clear that he loves being a Realtor, and that's reflected in his attitude and actions. Notice that he's dressed to match the beautiful "Ringer Ranch."

Close-up of Gary Crawford of ReMax Alliance (Virginia Beach).  Im a tough customer, but I was very impressed with Gary.

Close-up of Gary Crawford of ReMax Alliance (Virginia Beach). I'm a tough customer, but I was very impressed with Gary.

The Ringer Ranch is an L-shaped brick ranch, with the large den on the back of the house forming the L.

The Ringer Ranch is an L-shaped brick ranch, with the large den on the back of the house forming the "L". For several years, my late father had lived in an L-shaped brick ranch and I always thought it was one of the prettiest houses I'd ever seen. The last day he was in that house, I sat in his living room and said a prayer that somehow, someway, I'd one day live in a home as beautiful as his. This house is an answer to that prayer.

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A large Silver Maple and several pine trees in the back yard create a beautiful, park-like setting.

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The sunporch is 168 square feet of heaven on earth. I was delighted to find that these are Andersen casement windows, and even though they're probably 20+ years old, they still work like new. This ravishing room in the Ringer Ranch will be known as "The Ringer's River Room."

Another view of The River Room in the Ringer Ranch!

Another view of The River Room in the Ringer Ranch!

And just off the sunporch is this delightful deck. Weve already found it be a favorite spot, where we can sit in the morning and evening, and watch the fishies jump in the lake.

And just off the sunporch is this delightful deck. We've already found it be a favorite spot, where we can sit in the morning and evening, and watch the fishies jump in the lake.

Front

So come on in and take the full tour!

And shut the door!

Notice the COAT CLOSET! It's a closet that's just for coats! WOW!

When we started looking at houses several months ago, I told my husband that I knew exactly what I wanted, and I described it this way:  I want a custom-built brick ranch from the late 1950s or early 60s, that has had only one owner, and that one owner will have taken extraordinarily good care of his beloved home, and the house will have two baths and at least three bedrooms and a two-car garage. The house will be a step-back in time, and will have its original kitchens and baths, and while other people may say that the house needs updating, Ill be thrilled to find a house in such perfectly original condition.

When we started talking about moving, I told my husband that I knew *exactly* what I wanted, and I described it this way: "I want a custom-built brick ranch from the late 1950s or early 60s, that has had only one owner, and that one owner will have taken extraordinarily good care of his beloved home, and the house will have two full baths and at least three bedrooms and a two-car garage. Entering the house will be like a step-back in time, and our new house will have its original kitchens and baths, and they'll be in pristine condition. In the kitchen, it'll have the original Formica counter-tops with a chrome edge. The bathrooms will be a snazzy color combination with tile wainscoting and walls. While other people may say that the house 'needs updating,' I'll be thrilled to find a house in such perfectly original condition." And I found *that* house! It is a "one-owner home" and it's in wonderful shape!

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The kitchen is in beautifully original condition. Look at that Formica!

Another view of our wonderful kitchen!

Another view of our wonderful kitchen! The Formica counter tops - now almost 50 years old - are in flawless condition. It's just amazing to see a house that's been cared for this well. For many years, I've told lecture attendees that while we may own our homes, we're really caretakers, and we have a duty to keep our homes in good condition. The previous owner of this house (Mr. and Mrs. Martin) lived this principle, and I am grateful.

And perhaps my favorite room is the spacious den, just off the kitchen.

And perhaps my favorite room is the spacious den, just off the kitchen. The den sits behind the two-car garage, and is isolated from the bedrooms - which is ideal - as this will be our "Snoratorium," where Hubby can retreat when his snoring becomes loud! The masonry fireplace is in beautiful condition.

But perhaps the very best feature of the den is

But perhaps the very best feature of the den is the entire wall of built-in bookcases. As my daughter pointed out, I have built and installed book-cases in every single home I have ever owned - no exceptions. It's nice to walk into a house with ready-made bookcases (which happen to be far nicer than anything I ever built).

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Another view of our den, with the matching Realtor!

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The long hallway back to the bedrooms has a lush, deep-pile blue carpet. At first, I thought the 1980s blue would bother me, but I've grown to love it. Above all, it makes the house incredibly quiet, and that's a big plus. Mr. Hubby has big, heavy feet!

And just down the hallway is the worlds most beautiful bathroom! Its PINK!  And like the kitchen, the formica countertops are in pristine condition. The tile floors and wall are also in beautiful shape. What could be better than a cast-iron, 1960s Kohler bathtub? Nothing! Unless its a PINK cast-iron, 1960s Kohler bathtub!

And just down the hallway is the world's most beautiful bathroom! It's PINK! And like the kitchen, the formica countertops are in pristine condition. The tile floors and wall are also in beautiful shape.

My pink bathtub!

What could be better than a cast-iron, 1960s Kohler bathtub? Nothing! Unless it's a PINK cast-iron, 1960s Kohler bathtub! And the tub - like everything else - is in excellent condition. Mr. Martin was a mechanical engineer and it's obvious that he took great pride in this fine old house.

The master bedroom has its own bathroom, and is also in wonderfully original condition.

The master bedroom has its own bathroom, and is also in wonderfully original condition. The vanity is not original (nor are the faucets), but everything else is much the same as it was in 1962 when the Ringer Ranch was first built.

I firmly believe the key to marital bliss is his and her bathrooms. This bathroom - with its tan and brown colors - is HIS bathroom. It also has an unusually spacious shower.

I firmly believe the key to marital bliss is "His and Her Bathrooms." This bathroom - with its tan and brown colors - is HIS bathroom. It also has an unusually spacious shower.

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I love a tiled shower enclosure. The walls, floor and even ceiling are fully tiled, and there's a handy dandy light in the ceiling! Incredibly, all the tile and grout is in beautiful condition.

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As much as I love the house, I may love the back yard even more. It's on a finger of Lake Whitehurst, and this is navigable water leading to the Lake (Norfolk's reservoir). In my heart of hearts, I really do believe that this house is a gift from God, an answer to many prayers. As I made lists and thought about what I wanted in a house, I never dared to dream that I'd land in a house that was on waterfront property. That was a heavenly bonus. In my career as an architectural historian and lecturer, there were three times that I ended up living in a bedroom because I was out of money and out of options. And while I was sincerely grateful to have a bedroom of my own, I sometimes felt like a fraud - standing in front of a large crowd - talking about houses, while I was too poor to have a home of my own. Now, I *do* have a home of my own and it is the home of my dreams.

Another view of our beautiful lake-front property!  :)

Another view of our beautiful lake-front property! :)

This canal is on a finger of Lake Whitehurst

This canal is on a finger of Lake Whitehurst

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From the backyard, looking toward the house.

Down by the creek

Down by the creek

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Another view of the back yard.

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The view from the master bedroom.

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Our living room, furnished with a few of our favorite things!

My mothers china hutch looks right at home in the corner of our dining room.

My mother's china hutch looks right at home in the corner of our dining room.

Teddy the dog loves the new house and the front door, designed for easy Sheltie viewing.

Teddy the Dog loves the new house and she especially appreciates that the front door is designed for easy Sheltie viewing.

C. S. Lewis said, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

For more than 10 years, I’ve pondered the spiritual meaning of that awe-inspiring quote. Now I’ve started to ponder its literal meaning as well, and that’s a very lovely thing. Maybe by experiencing the literal meaning of that quote, I can better understand its spiritual meaning.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Soli Deo Gloria.

:)

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s books, click here.

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Don’t Let a Good Contractor Get Away

August 5th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

When you own an old house, it’s extra tough to find a reliable, honest, trust-worthy contractor that “gets it” and will love and respect your old house, but I found one.

And now I’m worried about losing him.

Yesterday I got a call from David Strickland, who is *the* contractor that did most of the work on our home in Colonial Place. He truly is one of the most skilled craftsmen I’ve ever encountered. In addition to his 30 years of experience, he’s incredibly gifted and talented and just has a real “vision” for this work.

He’s not just a carpenter who can patch things together, but a true artisan in every sense of the word, and I don’t say that lightly.

As a nice bonus, he’s one of the most honest men I’ve ever known.  If I had a single complaint about David, it would be this: He does not charge enough for his work.

Yesterday, David told me that his phone has stopped ringing and he’s going to have to make some hard choices soon if work doesn’t start up again.

Two years ago, he did a $100,000+ room addition for a friend of mine, and she was thrilled with the quality of the work. And it was a beautiful job. Whether it’s a room addition or a few shelves, he does it all. He’s licensed and insured, and it’d be a sin to lose him to another line of work. He’s too talented and too honest to lose.

If you’d like to see samples of his work, scroll on down. He’s done so much work for us, and I’ve never met another contractor who comes close to this level of quality.

His name is David Strickland and his number is 237-6492. I hope you’ll give him a call.

David installed all the new windows in our house, including these in the kitchen. He did a first-class job.

David installed a dozen new windows in our house, including these windows in the kitchen. He did a first-class job, and meticulously cleaned up everything when he was done.

Theres more than 250 linear feet of crown molding on this little house, built and DESIGNED by David Strickland.

There's more than 250 linear feet of crown molding on this little house, built and DESIGNED by David Strickland.

Another view of the little house. And yes, thats a slate roof. It has a floored attic and five little windows.

And yes, that's a slate roof. It has a floored attic and five little windows.

David redid our bathroom too, and he did a fantastic job.

David redid our bathroom too, and he did a fantastic job. It was a mess of 1980s beige and 12-inch tile and he restored it to its former beauty (1920s era).

The bathroom became my favorite room in the house!

The bathroom became my favorite room in the house!

Another view of our perfect bathroom.

Another view of our perfect bathroom.

And David built this custom fence around our yard.

And David built this custom fence around our yard.

The side-yard fence - also by David.

The side-yard fence - also by David.

Give David a call at 237-6492.

To read about the kit homes of Norfolk, click here.

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Was Aunt Addie Shot in the Head? (Part VI)

August 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

Updated!  Following my visit last week to Lake Mills, we’ve now uncovered evidence that proves - incontrovertibly - that Dr. Oatway did falsify Addie’s death certificate! This is a powerful piece of evidence!

June 19, 1901 was a very, very busy day in Lake Mills.

That was the day that Addie Hoyt Fargo - a 29-year-old socialite in the prime of her life - died very suddenly and unexpectedly from diphtheria.  Married to one of Lake Mills’ wealthiest men, Addie lived with Enoch and his two daughters in one of Lake Mills‘ most grandiose homes, The Fargo Mansion.

According to local lore and two published reports, Addie Hoyt Fargo didn’t really die of diphtheria. That was a contrived story created to cover up the truth:  Addie died from a gunshot wound to the head, delivered by her ever-loving husband, Enoch Fargo.

The 51-year-old Enoch Fargo was in love with Maddie Hoyt (no relation to Addie) and wanted Addie out of the way so he could marry Maddie. The same sources claim that Dr. William H. Oatway openly stated years later, “No one was fooled” by Oatway’s alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death), and that folks knew Enoch had killed his young wife as she lay sleeping in her bed.

The local newspaper account (below) states that Addie first started feeling unwell Tuesday morning, June 18th 1901.  According to the obituary (also below), Enoch’s physician (Dr. Oatway) was summoned and “The fact that she was afflicted with this dread disease was only apparent to her physician only a few hours [before she died].”

That’s a remarkable detail.

For one, Dr. Oatway specialized in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Diphtheria was a disease of the nose and throat. How in the world could an ear, nose and throat doctor miss a disease that first attacks the nose and throat?

Secondly, the progression of this disease - from onset to death - typically took a minimum of 6-8 days and more often, the progression was measured in weeks and arose from complications involving the brain and heart. Diphtheria was not an automatic death sentence. It was the young and elderly that perished. It was expected that otherwise healthy adults would survive this disease.

Addie came from hardy stock. Her sister (Anna Hoyt Whitmore) lived to be 99 years old.

In the early 1900s, the fatality rate for diphtheria was 5-10% for people Addie’s age (more than five years old and less than 40).  The higher death rate (less than 20%) applied to those who were under five years of age and more than 40. [Source: College of Physicians of Philadelphia, History Project.]

And one can’t help but assume that the death rate for a 29-year-old healthy woman probably be the lowest of all. In other words, how many six and seven year old children died from diphtheria? Probably enough to skew those numbers.

A fascinating aside:  The Iditarod in Alaska was first known as “The Great Race of Mercy.”  In 1925, there was an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, and 20 drivers (mushers) and 150 sled dogs made the arduous 670-mile journey from Anchorage to Nome, to deliver the life-saving serum as fast as possible. They traversed the entire distance in less than six days’ time. Our modern-day Iditarod commemorates this “Great Race of Mercy,” that saved the lives of countless native Inuit children in 1925.

Knowing all these facts, it’s a tough sell to say that Addie first started feeling unwell sometime late Tuesday morning and was dead 18 hours later (at 2:00 am on the 19th).

Was this Oatway’s way of giving us a subtle clue in this murder mystery? Was he trying to tell someone, “This is all a contrivance. Healthy 29-year-olds don’t die in 18 hours from diphtheria.”

Let’s set all that aside for a moment. There’s another tough sell in this story.

The timing.

So Addie was unwell late Tuesday morning, and dead by 2:00 am Wednesday morning.

Addie dies at 2:00 A. M.

The doctor is summoned to pronounce her dead.

The body is removed.

A burial permit is issued.

An undertaker is engaged.

A casket is selected and obtained. (Someone from Addie’s station would have had a “custom” coffin, built to fit, as it were. Or maybe her lifeless form was simply shoved into an off-the-shelf pine box.)

Addie’s body is prepared for burial.

Grave diggers are summoned and hired to prepare a grave, and it’s likely - given the timing - that this was done in the dark.

The death certificate is completed by Dr. Oatway as attending physician.

The death certificate is certified as true by the County Health Officer, who just happens to be…

Dr. Oatway.

Addie is “laid to rest” is 10:00 A.M. the next morning.

Not a visitation, but “laid to rest.” The casket is never opened - allegedly because of the grievous fears of contagion.

Soon after 10:00 A.M., we can assume that her body is lowered into the soft earth of a waiting grave.

Eight hours after her death.

Eight hours!

As my friend David Spriggs said, “Talk about efficiency! All that in one day for an unexpected death?? Why, it is almost as if they knew that it was going to happen and had already made preparations.”

And while they were in a hurry to get this done, they were not in a hurry to tell the family. I’ve found notes, apparently penned by my Great Grandmother (Anna Hoyt Whitmore), that suggest that - as of 1904 - she assumed that her sister Addie was still alive and well in Lake Mills.

To learn more about the details of Addie’s mysterious death, click here.

Thanks to David Spriggs (Norfolk) for providing the substance of this blog, and also to Bruce A. Samoore, Volunteer Historical Researcher (Wisconsin) for unearthing much of the hard-to-find genealogical facts, death certificates and obituaries. And special thanks to Heather Lukaszewski (Waukesha, Wisconsin) for spending too-many-hours to count at the library, digging up old newspaper articles on Dr. Oatway!

The more I learn, the more I become convinced, it seems unlikely that Addie died from diphtheria.

I need your help. Please leave a comment below with your ideas, insights or thoughts.

To read the newest information, click here (updated September 12th at 11 pm).

To read Part VII, click here.

To read Part V, click here.

To read Part IV, click here.

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part II, click here.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo in 1896 at the time of their wedding. Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch. He allegedly murdered Addie so that he could marry Maddie Hoyt (no relation).

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Addie's death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway. The lower portion shows that the death certificate was certified on June 19, 1901.

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On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there.  Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, hed up and move to Waukesha.

On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there. Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, he'd up and move to Waukesha.

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the

Addie's obituary as it appeared in the local paper, soon after her death.

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This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

I bet Addie was "very much shocked" too. This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

And heres Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for.

And here's Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for. Contrary to local lore, she was not related to the Hoyts of Lake Mills in anyway. Maddie Louise Harbeck Hoyt Fargo was born seven years before her mother (Marie Harbeck) married Henry Hoyt. In 1880, Maddie (then seven years old) was living with her grandparents in Lake Mills. Her grandmother was Elizabeth Fargo Harbeck.

To read more about Addie and Annie Hoyt, click here.

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Real Men Love Pink Houses

July 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In March 2010, when folks saw the ladders go up on the outside of the house, they asked what color I was painting my house.

I smiled and told them, “The most beautiful pink in the world.”

More than a few raised their eyebrows.

In fact, this formerly beige house looks absolutely delightful dressed up in pink. Perhaps the most interesting comment came from my husband who said, “I’m secure enough in my masculinity to live in a pink house.”

Indeed he is.

Tory Newman was the fellow who painted this entire house by himself, and did a BEAUTIFUL job.

To contact Tory, call  536-5635. He is a true artist and a nice guy.

To read about the Sears Homes in Norfolk, click here.

Last year, we sold our big pink house and moved to a smaller house. To see pics of the Ringer Ranch, click here.

Pretty in pink

1925 Colonial Revival Home in Norfolk ,Virginia.

Winter-time

Winter-time

pink

Pretty in pink.

Wow

Picket fences go really well with pink houses.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

And of course, everyone should have a pergola in the back yard.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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My Pink House

July 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

“Do you live in a Sears House?”

Having given more than 200 lectures in 25 states, that is easily the most frequently asked question.

And the answer?

No, but I live in a pink house that was built in 1925, and it’s a beautiful house, and that’s almost as good as a Sears House.

In Summer 2010, we had the house painted pink.

Yes, Pink.

I love it. Just love it, and that’s a good thing because this was an enormous project. We used more than 35 gallons of paint and primer (field and trim) and we chose Sherwin Williams Duration ($50 a gallon, 25 year warranty). Tory Newman did the job, and applied every drop of paint using a paint brush. No rollers, no sprayers, no watered-down-paint, just a first-class paint job done by a first-class painter who used all first-class materials.

My 1925 Colonial Revival looks stunning in pink, and I’m quite certain that this is the prettiest house in all of Norfolk.

My daughter says it looks like strawberry ice cream. My other daughter says it looks like a sheet cake. I think it looks perfect. :)

To read about the perfect pergola in the back yard, click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Side view

Side view

The process

The process

The back looked worse than the front. Its likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

The back looked worse than the front. It's likely the front had been repainted, but the rear had not.

Close-up of dirty eaves

Close-up of dirty eaves

Little House

Little House

Winter-time

Winter-time

Little house in the winter

Little house in the winter

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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A Portrait of Our House on Gosnold

July 27th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Christmas 2007, my husband surprised me with a painting of our new home at 3916 Gosnold Avenue. It was one of the best gifts I ever received. The painting occupies a place of honor alongside our staircase wall. A couple weeks ago, a dear friend was looking at our home, as she knew someone who might be interested in purchasing it.  She saw the painting hanging on the wall and said, “Oh how beautiful! And now when you move out, you’ll always be able to take a little bit of your home with you.”

In addition to the painting (done by Kay Gillispie of Arbovale, WV), we’ve also been involved in the “Out and about Norfolk Plein Air Paint Out,” for the last three years, where local artists spend a day creating an artistic masterpiece of some Norfolk landmark. The second image came from such an event! It is an oil painting done by Gina Warren Buzby.

The third and fourth images were done by Morgan Sarah Ringer, and given to me as a gift. All four of these artistic works are among my favorite possessions on earth!

To learn more about our house, click here.

To see the pretty paintings, scroll on down!

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

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Kay Gillispie's beautiful artwork hangs on the staircase wall in our home. If you look closely, you'll see the little house in the back yard.

Close-up of the artwork done by Kay Gillispie

Close-up of the artwork done by Kay Gillispie

Oil painting of our backyard, done by Gina Buzby

Oil painting of our backyard, done by Gina Buzby

And another lovely piece done by Morgan Sarah Ringer!

And another lovely piece done by Morgan Sarah Ringer!

Mor

Morgan's rendition of Teddy the Dog staring down the little house!

My favorite angle is the side, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

And my favorite "view" of the house is from this angle, which shows off those quarter-round windows and new canvas awning.

To learn more about 3916 Gosnold Avenue, click here.

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The Ten Most Important Things I Learned About Harvesting Rainwater

July 26th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

This dry dusty city of Norfolk, Virginia, has an ordinance that forbids sinking a well within 50 feet of any property lines. Since our house is centered on our 110′ by 110′ lot, that means the only place we could have a well is in the center of our basement.

My other option was rain water harvesting. Fortunately, the city doesn’t have any ordinances against collecting rain water. (In some states, it is illegal to collect rain water.)

After I set up my first rain barrel, it didn’t take me long to realize that one 60-gallon rain barrel didn’t go very far during one of Tidewater’s hot, dry summers. It was a start, but I need more water.

One rain barrel

One solitary rain barrel

The next summer, I added more rain barrels, placing them under a downspout that produced copious amounts of water. The first year, my little rain barrels sat directly on the dirt, and I didn’t use them very much. They were too low, too muddy and the head pressure was abysmal.

Later that year, I built a nice wooden stand for my rain barrels.

Rain

The triplets.

The stand made it much easier to access my rain barrels, plus, the three feet of height gave them a little bit of head pressure, and improved water flow. And the 3-foot stand made it easy to fasten a hose to the spigot (a simple feat that was nearly impossible when the barrels sat on the ground).

Rain barrels have many benefits for many purposes, but they’re ideal for gardening. Chlorinated water - the stuff that flows from the city’s pipes and into our homes - is stuffed silly with chlorination and fluoride, neither of which are good for living things, especially little plants. While chlorination keeps us humans from getting cholera and other nasty bugs, that chlorination will also kill off the microorganisms in the soil that helps plants thrive. (Fluoride is a toxic by-product of the aluminum smelting process, and if it weren’t dumped into our city water supply, the EPA would require that it be treated as hazardous waste!)

But back to rain barrels. There’s a sound financial reason for using rain barrels, too. Experts say that 40% of our summertime water use comes from the outside spigot.

In the process of using these rain barrels throughout the summer, I learned a lot of practical lessons. Below are the top 10 most important things I learned.

1) Height is important. For every foot of height you add to your stand, you’ll gain .43 psi of head pressure. If you could manage a ten-foot stand (not advisable for safety reasons), that’d give you 4.3 psi. From a practical matter, the three-foot stand (pictured above) put the spigot at the perfect height for me. And if you’re working with a raised bed garden (like mine), you’ll need the extra height so that water can flow easily to your thirsty plants.

Raised beds

My raised bed is 24" tall, so the three-foot stand is perfect.

2) Weight is also important. Water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon. Those rain barrels hold 60 gallons. That’s 498 pounds per barrel, and I’ve got three on one stand, so that’s almost 1,500 pounds of weight (when the barrels are full). That’s a tremendous amount of weight and you should plan accordingly when building your stands. This summer, when my barrels run dry, I’ll have to pull them down and add cross-bracing to the stands. You’ll note in the picture that they’ve started to lean hard to the left. Cross bracing would have prevented that.

twisty

Let's not twist again, like we did last summer...

3) Placement. My three rain barrels are located in my back yard, underneath a busy downspout. Water comes from the main roof (which is slate), flows down to the smaller roof and into my rain barrel. With 10-15 minutes of a good downpour, all three rain barrels are filled up full.

rain

The downspout on this side of the house produces a lot of rainwater.

4) Pre-screen your rainwater. These rain barrels have a four-inch floor drain in their top, with a piece of mosquito screen affixed. Too many times to count, I’ve rejoiced as a summer storm pours rain from above, only to find that the four-inch hole became hopelessly choked with the debris from the gutters, and very little of that delightful rainwater actually entered my rain barrels. My solution to this was simple. I took the aluminum-framed screen from an old storm window and stuck it on top of the rain barrel. That solved my problem. The large surface area of the aluminum screen allowed water to flow even after that first pile of gunk came washing down the spout.

Pre screen

And it's just an aluminum screen from an old storm window. The brick keeps it in place. My husband said this rig makes it look like Jed Clampett lives here, but it works.

5) If you’re building/making your own rain barrel, put the spigot in the right place. When my neighbor saw my rain barrels, he ran out and bought some materials and made his own barrels. Every single one of his five rain barrels has a spigot at the half-way point on the barrel’s side. This means that he’ll only be able to use 50% of the water in the barrel. Not a good design. There are also entire blogs devoted to building your own rain barrel. The barrels shown here are food-grade olive barrels, used to ship olives here from overseas. Learn more here.

Rain

Spigot placement is important.

6) Don’t get bugged. Mosquitoes are naturally drawn to stagnant water and rain barrels provide the ideal breeding ground. Screens will stop some of that, but not all. One year, I had mosquitoes crawling in through my overflow pipe. Adding several drops of baby oil to each rain barrel will create an oily film in the water, and should stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in your rain barrel.

7) One downside to this rainwater fun is that you’ll now have to keep your gutters cleaned out. If all that precious rainwater is cascading over the front edges of your gutters because the downspouts are blocked, your rain barrels won’t do much for you. And if your house is sheltered by large trees (like mine), this can be a perennial problem.

Trees

Trees are pretty to look at, but hard on gutters.

8) When the barrel runs dry, remember to turn the spigot off. Sounds simple enough, but somehow, it’s so easy to forget this little detail. Many times, I’ve gone outside to check my rain barrels after a hard rain, only to find that I left the spigot open and all that rainwater went in through the top and out through the spigot.

oopsie

It's easy to forget to close the spigot when rain barrels run dry.

9) Maintenance. About once a year, I rinse out the rain barrels with city water. The bottom gets a layer of crud in it and the smell is horrific. I’m not sure about the microbiology of all that decaying matter, and maybe it’s just dandy for the garden, but the stench will knock your socks off.

10) Keep water away from the foundation. A surprising amount of water can be discharged through your overflow pipe. Make sure that water is directed away from the house.

Make sure that water flows away from house.

I keep meaning to put that downspout spillway *under* the overflow hose.

11) Your downspout might not quite hit the sweet spot on the rain barrel. A little extra piece of aluminum downspout is probably the simplest solution. I used a piece of Plexiglas, which also does the job nicely.

Buts

You might need to add a little extender to the downspout to reach your rain barrel.

12) If a drought hits, and you don’t want to use chlorinated water on your lovingly maintained and chlorine-free tomato plants, you can fill one rain barrel with city water and let it sit for several days. The chlorination will dissipate in time and you’ll have chlorine-free water. This isn’t the ideal, but in a pinch, it’s one way to keep your garden chlorine free.

13)  Use a good quality hose, so you don’t go stark-raving mad. A cheap hose will kink repeatedly, and because the pressure is so low on water flowing from a rain-barrel, this kinking problem will be 50 times worse than it would be with city water delivered at 60 psi.

14) Enjoy. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with my rain barrels. And look how my garden grows!

garden

Garden views.

garden

Tomatoes, strawberries and carrots share living space.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And flowers, too!

When we were kids, we’d sing this little ditty.

See, see my playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever evermore.

If you’re in Hampton Roads, I highly recommend “Mike’s Rain Barrels.” Mike, the owner of this small business, is knowledgeable, customer-service oriented, friendly and thorough. Best of all, his prices are very affordable. You can contact Mike via email at mminor1959@verizon.net or call (757) 761-1553. The best part - he’ll deliver your rain barrels in his Toyota Priuss.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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