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Posts Tagged ‘history of waterview’

Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Staircase

Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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Stiarcase

"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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staircase 1

"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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staircase 2

Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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staircase 8

According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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staricase

Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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staircase 8

"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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staircase 7

This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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staircase

"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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staircase

"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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staircase 38

"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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"The attractive arches give it real character."

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Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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staircase

"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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staircase

"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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staircase

Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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staircase 187

"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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staircase 8883

"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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staircaseieie

"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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Stiars

To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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Not For The Squeamish…

October 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

More than 30 years ago, I obtained my real estate license and became a bona fide Realtor in Portsmouth, Virginia. The very first house I listed was in Waterview (Portsmouth). Because I was so young (22 years old) and because I was such a neophyte, I spent a lot of time sitting in my client’s living room and holding  her hand - literally and figuratively.

My client was an elderly widow who lived alone in the vintage Spanish Revival home. As is often the case with elderly widows, her old house was in mostly original condition.

And this woman was also a long-time neighbor. Having grown up less than a block away, I had always admired this house. In the midst of a neighborhood full of brick Colonial Revivals, this Spanish-flavored house really stood out.

I remember - as a little girl - approaching the house on Halloween night, and pausing to admire the beautiful wrought-iron sconces that hung high on the home’s brick walls and the three tall arches that protected the spacious front porch. (Pausing for any reason, whilst trick or treating with my brother, was always a poor choice, as he was likely to dash to the front door ahead of me and tell the homeowner, “Please don’t give my little sister any candy. She just got out of the hospital late this afternoon and she promised our mother she wouldn’t accept any sweets.”)

In 1982, I listed the house for sale at $51,500. About 90 days later, it sold for $45,000 cash. An elderly gent purchased the house for use as rental property.

For years, every time I passed the house, I’d wave at it and whisper sweetly, “Hello my Pretty. You’re looking especially lovely today.”

And then one day in the late 1990s, as I drove past this house, I literally gasped.

Someone had decided to commit an act of lewd remuddling against this classic 1920s home.

I stopped the car and stared in horror. Workers were busy as little bees, placing roof trusses on the home’s flat roof. A couple masons were adding a few bricks here and there. And those sconces were unceremoniously ripped off and tossed into a dumpster.

I felt like screaming. I wanted to stop them. I almost cried. But there was nothing I could do.

After a few minutes, I started the car and continued on my way.

Last month, I discovered that my first MLS listing was actually a plan book house, offered in the 1927 Home Builder’s Catalog. “The Celilo” was offered in two floor plans (”A” and “B”). The house in Waterview was the “B” floorplan (with a 1/4 basement).

The pictures bespeak the horror far better than words.

And if any folks from Portsmouth know more about the dates when this lewd act occurred, please leave a comment below.

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The  cereliaus

The Celilo was a plan book house offered in the 1927 Home Builders Catalog.

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Incredibly, the Celilo in Portsmouth had a quarter basement.

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house house hosue

My "Celilo" was done in yellow brick, not stucoo (as shown above), but other than that, the house in the picture above was a spot-on match to the house in Portsmouth (pre-remuddling). Look at those wrought-iron sconces!

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house

Today, the Celilo looks pretty mundane (and that's the kindest thing I can say about it). The proportions of the house are just "off." Stacking a gable roof atop a Spanish Revival was not a good idea. And the damage done to the home's unique architectural style is irreparable.

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house spanish

Even putting those sconces back up didn't help.

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soncen

If you look closely, you can see where the brick workers filled in this notched roof with more bricks. And then they had to paint it gray to hide the mismatched bricks and mortar.

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If you sneak a peek

Today, the only remnant of this home's Spanish-flavored origins is the old wrought-iron porch light. I'm surprised someone didn't toss these in the dumpster, too.

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House street messed

Words elude me.

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To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.

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Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker Lived Here - in a Kit Home!

November 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Those familiar with WYAH-TV and Portsmouth, Virginia will remember that this was where Pat Robertson and CBN got their start. According to his autobiographical book, Shout it From The Housetops, the name for Robertson’s flagship station came from the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. In 1960, when the station was first launched, this was a remarkable event. It was the first Christian television network, and it was located right here in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The station signed on the air October 1961, and in 1966, a young couple named Jim and Tammy Bakker started working for Robertson. Their show, “The Jim and Tammy Show” featured local kiddos in the studio audience. Growing up in Waterview, my best friend was Margee Anderson, and her mom would drive Margee and me down to the studio on Spratley Street and we’d take our place in the audience. As a seven or eight year old child, I remember thinking that Jim and Tammy were good people. I’d like to believe that those cherished memories of childhood are right, and that the Bakkers merely lost their way in later years.

The Bakkers lived in Waterview, about three blocks from my own home. Sometime in the 1970s, they left Portsmouth and moved out of their Dutch Colonial home at the foot of the Churchland bridge.

In later years, I discovered that the Bakker’s home was actually a kit home, ordered from a mail-order catalog sometime in the early 1920s. The house was shipped by train - in about 12,000 pieces - and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how all those pieces went together. The house the Bakkers lived in was sold by Lewis Manufacturing of Bay City, Michigan. Their model was The Marlboro.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Lewis Marlboro

Lewis Marlboro

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Lewis Marlboro in Portsmouth, as it appeared in 2004. The front door was covered with plywood, due to some issue (which eludes my memory right now). Photo was taken by my father, Tom Fuller, about 2003.

From the 1921 catalog

From the 1921 catalog

The house as it appears today

The house as it appears today.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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