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Posts Tagged ‘hopewell and dupont’

Penniman: My Path to Healing

March 28th, 2017 Sears Homes No comments

Several weeks ago, I had dinner with Robert, a friend and fellow history lover. I told him that I was a lost soul. He asked me about the Penniman book. I told him that I didn’t think I could face the manuscript again and that my writing days were over.

He asked specific questions about the people of Penniman, and I felt like something deep inside my soul came to life again. I felt a spark of joy and zeal and hope.

After our dinner, it became so clear to me: It was time to finish the project.

One year ago - April 24th - I was scheduled to give a talk on Penniman in Williamsburg. It turned out to be the day of my husband’s funeral. At the time, the Penniman manuscript - a book on which I’d labored for 4+ years - was 95% complete.

Now, one year later, thanks to Robert and Pat and Milton and others, that manuscript is finished, and after some finishing touches to the artwork, it will be ready for the printer. Hopefully.

The casual outsider may not understand that this is more than just a book.  It’s a project that helps me stop thinking about the ongoing emotional angst that is my constant companion. It’s a project that helps me forget - for a few seconds at a time - that my husband died by his own hand, 48 hours after telling me that we’d grow old together.

In short, it’s a rope that’s been tossed down into this hellish pit, and it’s a way out.

It’s so much more than a book.

I’m grateful for each and every prayer offered in my name. And I’m grateful for the people that have shown up and said just the right thing at just the right time. They’re angels walking this earth in human form.

Images below are courtesy of the family of Joseph and Ola Whisnant. Thanks to the foresight and generosity of the Whisnant family, we have street views and genre scenes of life in Penniman. Cameras were probably forbidden within the cantonment of Penniman, and visitors would have subjected to a daunting search of their personal belongings, entering and exiting. These images are the only known existing photographs of the residential areas of Penniman.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Members of the Whisnant family pose on the streets of Penniman. The houses shown in the background were moved to Norfolk, Williamsburg and other surrounding communities. From left to right is the Cumberland, Georgia, Florence, Haskell and a piece of another Georgia. These models were built at other DuPont plants during The Great War.

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According to reminiscenses, the streets of Penniman were a mess of mud and muck. This wonderful picture gives a detailed view of The Village (as it was known), where the workers took their rest after a hard day on the shell-loading line. The women workers are known as Canary Girls, because the TNT (loaded into shells) was bright yellow, and stained their skin and hair. It was also a toxin.

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These houses were known as "Six-Room Bungalows" and were covered with Ruberoid siding, which is nothing more than heavy tarpaper. These bunkhouses and dorms (not shown here) housed the "lower class" workers.

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Thanks again to the Whisnant Family for sharing these wonderful pictures.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 4)

April 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) 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. Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of their Crescent Hill “Sears Homes” being promoted in a local brochure 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 very upsetting. Those who write about history have a solemn charge to make sure it is kept pure and honest. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

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 non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes.  (Reader’s Note: This blog is Part 4 of a series.  Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here. Blogs with photos of Aladdin kit homes are labeled with Roman numerals.)

The beauty part of identifying Sears Homes is matching the houses to their original catalog image.

Below is one such example:

And the Sears Lynnhaven. There are two in Hopewells Crescent Hills.

The Sears Lynnhaven from the 1936 catalog.

Sears Lynnhaven #2

Sears Lynnhaven in Hopewell. Nice match!

Now that’s a nice match. The house in Hopewell looks just like the catalog image. That’s what makes this topic so fun and so intriguing and so delightful. And the cold hard fact is, if you can not match up a suspected kit home to an image in a vintage mail-order catalog, you got nothing.  The house must be a spot-on match (minus remodelings, substitute sidings, etc.).

And that’s my complaint with Hopewell’s purported “Sears Home” at 105 Prince George Avenue. The brochure offered at the Hopewell Visitor’s Center identifies this house as (and I’m quoting), “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

I kid you not.

That’s all the information offered on this house.

Speaking as someone who’s written several books on this topic, and as someone who’s traveled all over this country for the last 11 years, seeking and finding kit homes of every name and nature, I can say with authority, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Sears offered 370 designs of kit homes. Their very first catalog had 22 designs within its 44 pages, and not one of those designs was called, “Original Sears Model.”

There is no “original Sears model” (remodeled or not).

Further, I’m of the opinion that the house at 105 Prince George Avenue is not a Sears Home. And if it was a Sears Home, I’d show you a catalog image so you - the reader - could contrast and compare the two pictures.

But on this house - I got nothing. No idea. So here’s the house in Hopewell that the brochure identifies as, “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

Frustrating

That vinyl picket fence might be from Sears. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To see Danville’s amazing collection of Sears Homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills! (Part VII)

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yes Virginia,there’s an awesome collection of kit homes in Hopewell but they’re mostly kit homes from Aladdin!  Hopewell does have a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

But the Aladdin kit homes number in the dozens.  And in addition to the Aladdin kit homes in the downtown area, it seems likely that Hopewell might have kit homes from Sterling Homes (yet another kit home company).

And I would never have guessed this on my own, without the help of fellow kit home aficionados Mark and Lisa Hardin.

In downtown Hopewell, there are dozens of Aladdins, but amongst those Aladdins are also several models of house that I’ve not been able to identify.  In Mark’s email, he theorized that at least one of the “mystery models” might have come from Sterling Homes.  After looking at the pictures, I think he might be right.

If he is, this certainly adds even more intrigue to the mystery of those little houses in Hopewell. Are all of them kit homes? We know that Hopewell has kit homes ordered from Sears and Aladdin. Do they kit homes from Sterling , too?

An exampele of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

An example of a Sears Home (The Puritan) in Hopewell

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Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

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The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

The Aladdin Edison was a modest home, but darn cute. And easy to identify these many years later.

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First, my favorite Edison in Hopewell.

A real-life example of the Aladdin Edison in Hopewell.

The above photos provide two of the many examples of both Sears and Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell.

And then there’s Sterling Homes. Like Aladdin, Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sterling was successfull in selling their kit homes nationwide, they were a much smaller company than Aladdin or Sears. To learn more about Sterling, click here.

Pictured below is the catalog page for the Sterling Homes “Browning-B.” The “B” is usually a reference to a different floorplan for the same house design. (Despite looking through my reference materials, I never did find a “Browning-A.)

Compare the catalog page with the Hopewell houses. The roof on the back of the house doesn’t drop down near as far as the front. And look at the pair of gabled dormers, connected by the small shed dormer. Most interesting is the bay window on the front of the house, next to the front door.

Sterling

From the Sterling Homes catalog.

Sterling

There are several of these models in Hopewell's downtown area, interspersed with Aladdin kit homes. Is this the Sterling "Browning B"? It sure is a perfect match. The only flaw is the size of the eaves on the dormer window. Everything else is perfect, and that's remarkable, because this is a very unique house.

Aladd

Another Sterling Browning-B in Hopewell? Appears to be!

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Sterling

A close-up of the house as it appeared in the catalog.

Another one

Side-by-side comparison of the two houses.

Thanks again to Mark and Lisa for this find! I don’t think I’d ever have thought to check my Sterling field guides to identify these houses in Hopewell, Virginia!

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is here. And number five is here. And after you read the sixth part, you’ll be all caught up.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part VI)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Yes Virginia, Hopewell has a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

And what’s even better than Sears Homes?  Well, nothing now that I think about it. Hmmm.  But wait, there’s more.

Hopewell also has a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes. It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight Sears Homes, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel like a red-haired stepchild!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell. And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza. Also on Ramsey is a perfect Aladdin Edison.

In short, there are several extra-fine houses on Ramsey Avenue, and they’re really nice homes, spacious, attractive, and a little bit fancier than the rest of the houses in that immediate area. Heretofore, I’ve been able to identify each and every one as an Aladdin kit home. Which brings us to the mystery house.

Mystery

Mystery

This house also sits on Ramsey, but I haven’t been able to identify it as an Aladdin home. Perhaps it was built pre-Aladdin (1906 or before). Perhaps it has no connection to the other houses whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the original farm house on that piece of land.

However, it seems likely that this house was built about the same time as the others. And the Dutch Colonial housing style was wildly popular in the early 1900s. And it is literally surrounded by Aladdin kit homes on every side.

I’d love to learn more about this mystery house there on Ramsey Avenue.

Is it Aladdin?  Or not? If it is, it’d have to be a customized design. I’ve searched every catalog and every resource and can find no houses that match this design.

If you have an insights or info, please leave a comment!

This is the sixth of six blogs on Hopewell’s Aladdin kit homes.

You can find Part VII here.

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is hereAnd number five is here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part V)

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia is the proud owner of eight bona fide Sears homes in the Crescent Hills area.  That’s well and good, but they also have entire neighborhoods of Aladdin kit homes in other parts of Hopewell.   It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight houses, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel sorely neglected!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell.  And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza.

The Plaza sits at the end of Ramsey, and I’d just love to know - do these homeowners know that they’re sitting in a piece of Americana, enjoying their restful slumbers in a historically significant kit home, that was shipped in from Bay City, Michigan via boxcar, with 12,000 pieces of house?  And what about the city itself? Are they aware of these precious architectural gems that sit within its borders, uncelebrated, unheralded and unprotected?

It’d be a dandy idea for the city - at the very least -  to put a placard in front of these homes, identifying them as Aladdin kit homes, or perhaps include them on their tourism brochures. Urbana, Virginia has ONE Sears House, and look what they’ve done!

A city full of architecturally significant homes is a terrible thing to waste.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

To read Part VI, click here.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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