Posts Tagged ‘hopewell and crescent hills’

CQ, CQ, CQ…Hopewell?

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Tonight, for the first time in months, I got on the ham radio, calling CQ on the 40-meter band.

My second contact was “Bob.”

In a flash, my buddy Milton (sitting with me) looked up Bob’s call sign on his computer, and started laughing hysterically.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “This guy’s in Hopewell!”

My oh my.

How is it that I can transmit a 100-watt signal through a magnificent antenna strung up high in the trees; a signal with the capacity to bounce off the ionosphere and travel all the way around the world, and I end up to talking to Hopewell?

Fortunately, Bob from Hopewell was a very pleasant fellow and we had a lovely chat.

He asked me if I was familiar with the many older homes in Hopewell. I told him that I was! And I suggested he check out my website.

Oh MY!

To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To visit the website for the Norfolk Ham Club, click here.



One of my very favorite movies is "Testament," which tells the story of a small town outside San Francisco, after San Francisco takes a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. In "Testament," Henry Abhart is the hero, because he's able to talk with the outside world when all other lines of communication have been lost. I highly recommend this movie. It's a tribute to the fact that, Ham Radio will always be reliable when other communications systems have failed.



The best of both worlds: A fine-looking antenna mounted on Sears Avondale in Illinois.



Sears Avondale as seen in the 1919 catalog.


To read my other blogs on Ham Radio, click here and here.

To read about Hopewell, click here.

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Carnation Kit House: You’re Gonna Love It In an Instant

August 22nd, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Hopewell! Alas, poor Hopewell.

They have an interesting collection of Aladdin kit homes, and yet for reasons that elude me, they’ve done nothing to promote these homes.

One example is this Aladdin “Carnation” (shown below). It sits in a working class neighborhood within Hopewell that has suffered two egregious fates: 1) These kit homes - modest, working class homes - have been largely ignored, and 2) Many of these modest homes have already been demolished.

For years, I’ve been trying to identify this particular house, as it’s smack dab in the middle of an Aladdin neighborhood (in Hopewell), but I couldn’t find a perfect match.

And then recently, while I was scanning a 1916 Aladdin catalog, I discovered this particular model.

One day - some day - I’m going to create a post of all the cool and unusual Aladdin homes I’ve found within this working class neighborhood in Hopewell. Today, I’ll just focus on my newest find: The Aladdin Carnation.

To read about the only Aladdin Brighton I’ve ever seen (and it’s within Hopewell), click here.

To learn more about the “back story” of Hopewell’s confusion on kit homes, click here.

Wondering where that title came from? Click here.

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For years, I was trying to match up the Hopewell house Id found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasnt a good match.

For years, I was trying to "match up" the Hopewell house I'd found (photo further below) with this particular model, but it just wasn't a good match (1916 Aladdin Catalog).


And then I discovered this house: The Carnation.

And then I discovered this house: The Carnation. It's very similar to the Forsythe (shown above) but it's a little bigger and has the double windows. The floorplan is radically different.



Cute house, too. I love the windows flanking the door.


Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?


And lookie next door! Theres another Aladdin house, but I cant quite make it out.

And lookie next door! There's another Aladdin house, but I can't quite make it out.


Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!

Oh, I love looking at them side-by-side!


The floor plan

Note the built-in "permanent furniture" in the front bedroom!



Many of these "permanent family abodes" have already been torn down in Hopewell. It's so troubling for so many reasons, but in my opinion, the working class neighborhoods are an important part of our cultural and architectural heritage as well. More and more communities are coming to recognize that simple fact.


Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home.

Hopewell is still struggling with what is, and what is not a Sears Home. One of these houses is not like the other. Three of these homes are Sears Magnolias. One of these houses is in Hopewell. Which one is not a Magnolia? If you guessed the brick colonial (lower right), you guessed right. And yet in Hopewell, for many years, they claimed that this house was a Sears Magnolia, and when I tried to correct this error, I was not well received.


To learn more about Hopewell’s booboos, click here.

Interested in learning how to identify kit homes by the marks found on lumber? Click here.

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“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…”

August 29th, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

My friend Rachel reminded me of this fun little ditty from Sesame Street, and suggested that perhaps a few of the 7.5 million people who *think* they have a Sears kit home should watch this video to learn a little more about the skills of observation.

You might want to click this link (Sesame Street video) while you scroll down to see the photos, because the music is so darn toe-tapping happy.

Take a look at this photo.


You may notice that one of these things is not like the others.


Now let’s try it with houses.



One of these houses is not like the others.


Did you figure out which one is not “like the others”?

Actually, I’m just funnin’ with you. It’s not hard to figure this one out.

The three wooden-frame houses with the big two-story columns and the hipped roof and the gabled dormer and the oversized front porch deck and the six windows across the second-floor front and the big picture windows on the first floor front and the two exterior doors stacked over each other are the Sears Magnolia.

The brick house with the one-story columns and the gabled roof (no dormer) and the small front porch deck and the three windows across the second floor front and the four double-hung windows on the first floor front and the one exterior front door is a nice house (but not a Sears House) in Hopewell, Virginia.

When I first visited Hopewell in 2003, I was told that this was a “Modified Magnolia.” More recently, I was told that someone had “identified” this house as a Sears Lexington.

The kind owners gave me a thorough tour of the home’s interior. Having inspected this house from top to bottom (literally), I’m wholly confident that this is not a Sears House of any kind.

In Crescent Hills (a subdivision of Hopewell), you’ll find eight Sears Homes. Eight. Total.

And please note, this house (the brick house above) is not one of them.

I was crestfallen to hear that Old House Journal recently did a feature story on the Sears Homes in Hopewell. I haven’t had the heart to read it. I can only hope and pray that they focused on those eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, and not the make-believe Magnolia shown above.

To see more examples of the Sears Homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read more about the misidentified homes in Hopewell, click here (Part One), here (Part Two) and here (Part Three). (There are a lot of them!)

To read about the Aladdin Kit Homes in Hopewell, click here.

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Have You Seen This House?

April 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

To read the most recent update, click here!

There are 16 of these little bungalows in Norfolk (see below) moved from another location. According to local lore, these houses were floated up the Lafayette River from an unknown city (where they were originally built). Fourteen of the houses were then placed on lots along Ethel. Lucerne, and Lavalette Avenue (in the Riverview section of Norfolk), and two of the bungalows landed in Highland Park (a few blocks away on 51st Street).

They’re fairly distinctive little houses, and the $64,000 question is, where did they come from?

One story alleges that the houses came from Hopewell. That’d be especially interesting because Hopewell had hundreds of Aladdin kit homes, built for the workers at the Dupont factory (where they manufactured gun cotton). Another story says that these houses came down the York River.  That could also be an interesting story, because DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers at Penniman, Virginia (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). (By the way, this was one of the largest collections of Aladdin Homes in the country, and all these houses are now GONE.)

Despite searching throughout my old Aladdin catalogs, I have not been able to identify these Norfolk bungalows as Aladdin kit homes, but it’s possible that Aladdin created some custom designs for these large orders for Dupont.

If we could find houses in other cities that match these Ethel Bungalows, that might help us figure out where they came from. So have you seen this house in your city? If so, tell me more!

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

Originally written April 12, 2011.


This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview


Close-up of the original porch railing.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of.

March 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

This last weekend, I visited Hopewell for the first time in several years. In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. I was treated like a queen and I really enjoyed my stay in Hopewell. Most of all, I loved doing something good and positive to help promote Virginia - my favorite state and the place where I was born and raised.

On my flight back to Illinois, I stared out the tiny plane window and thought, “This is what people mean when they talk about ‘Southern Hospitality.’”

The ladies who drove me around Hopewell were a living example of grace and gentility.

There was one downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Sadly, as I toured the city, I discovered that most of the “Sears Homes” in their infamous Crescent Hills neighborhood were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was one of the most upsetting events in my professional career. History is important and must be kept pure from defects or errors. That’s something about which I feel passionate.  But in the end, I decided that - as Joel Osteen says - sometimes you have to put life’s difficult events into a file folder labeled, “I don’t understand this, but I have to trust God has a plan here and go forward with my life and leave this in God’s hands.”

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many houses in Crescent Hills were still being wrongly identified as kit homes. A picture is worth a lot of words, I’m going to post the Hopewell house, together with an original image from the Sears catalog and (where possible), an extant example of that kit home in real life.

Let the reader judge for themselves.  :)

This house (106 Crescent) is purported to be a Sears Newbury.

The city's brochure claims that this house (106 Crescent) is a Sears Newbury. It's a massive house and note the inset on the huge shed dormer on the second floor. There's a flat space in front of that shed dormer. Plus, note how the rear roof is higher than the front roof. This house has two small closet windows on the front (second floor). The porch roof is on the same plane as the primary roof, and is flat and comes straight down - with no break. Also notice that this house has a spacious attic, due to the large footprint of the house, and steep pitch of the roof.

This is a catalog picture of the Sears Newbury.

This is a catalog picture of the Sears Newbury. Notice, this house has a bellcast roof. In other words, the porch roof has a "swoop" (like the cast of a bell). It does not come down in a straight plane, but takes a little curve upward. It does not have an attic and the roof is not very steep. It has a gambrel roof (like a barn roof). It's also a much smaller house than the house in Hopewell (pictured above). There's no inset in front of those second floor windows.

Heres a close-up of the Sears Newbury

Here's a close-up of the Sears Newbury

Heres a Sears Newbury in Elmhurst, Illinois. Youll notice that it looks a lot like the house in the catalog picture.

Here's a Sears Newbury in Elmhurst, Illinois. You'll notice that it looks a lot like the house in the catalog picture.

Now take another look at the Hopewell house. Hmmm...

Now take another look at the Hopewell house. Hmmm...

The house in Hopewell (pictured above) is a much larger house. And the rooflines are dramatically different.

Comparison of the Newbury with a known Newbury

Comparison of the Sears Newbury with a known Newbury


Now, take a look at the photo below:





Sears Homes, one must remember, were patterned after the popular housing styles of the day. They were - by their very design - intended to look like the average house. When identifying Sears Homes, details are hugely important. But one of the most important details is the home’s footprint. If the catalog image says the home was 32 by 22, the subject house should be 32 by 22.  The Hopewell house (above) is much larger than the Sears Newbury.

Now let’s look at Hopewell’s purported “Oakdale” at 106 Oakwood Avenue.

I aint sayin nothing.

I ain't sayin' nothing.

Sears Oakdale as seen in the 1928 catalog.

Sears Oakdale as seen in the 1928 catalog.

An Oakdale in Cairo, Illinois

An Oakdale in Cairo, Illinois. You'll notice that this house looks a lot like the house in the catalog image (above). One of the goofy features of the Sears Oakdale is that the side door is RIGHT by the front of the house! See it on the side, with the small awning? That always catches my eye. Those three vents on the front porch are also distinctive. This is a small two-bedroom house, measuring 24 by 38 feet.

Close-up of the Sears Oakdale

Close-up of the Sears Oakdale

Oakdale Floorplan

The Oakdale has a very unusual floorplan, with the living room spanning the home's width, and the two bedrooms spanning the width in the rear. The brick house in Hopewell (seen below) has the more traditional layout of living room, dining room, and kitchen on the left, with bedroom, bath, bedroom on the right.

I aint sayin nothing.

This has has a projecting gabled bay. The Oakdale has a small, tucked-under-the-eaves squared bay. This house has a recessed wall on the front. The Oakdale is flat across the front. This has has a cute little diamond vent up top. The Oakdale has three rectangular vents. This house has a bedroom on the right front. The Oakdale has a full-width living room, with a side door on the right front. In fact, this house has a completely different floorplan than the Sears Oakdale! And notice the roof pitch is very different from the Oakdale. This house has three columns and a larger porch. The Oakdale has two. This is wider than the 22' (size of the Oakdale). Other than this, the two houses are a perfect match! <wink, wink>



Which leads me to the real puzzle.

Hopewell claims to have TWO Oakdales. The second “Oakdale” is next door to the first.


That doesn't look like an Oakdale!

However, it sure looks a lot like a Sears Walton!

However, it sure looks a lot like a Sears Walton!

And it even has the little box window on the front of the house!

And the house in Hopewell even has the little box window on the front of the house! Wow, it's a good match to the floorplan!

Side by side comparison

Side by side comparison

So why are they labeling a Sears Walton a Sears Oakdale? I’ve no idea. But I’ll make a $100 bet with anyone who cares to wager that this house at 102 Oakwood Avenue in Crescent Hills is indeed a Sears Walton. :)  Interestingly, there’s another Sears Walton in a different part of the city! That’s two Waltons in Hopewell!

Enjoying the discussion?  There’s a lot more on Hopewell here.

To learn more about how to to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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