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Posts Tagged ‘hopewells crescent hills’

Sears Catalog House, or Something Like it (Part II)

July 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

In my most recent blog, I talked about the fact that Hopewell’s “Collection of Sears Homes” (and I use that term loosely) was in the local news again.

At the end of that blog, I offered to help Hopewell sort through their historical chaff and find the wheat.

The fact is, at this point I’d be willing to donate my services (gratis), to help this small town (just outside of Richmond) get their Sears-home story straight. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this enticing offer may not be accepted.

A few years ago, I wrote a couple of letters and emails (yes, both) to some folks in Hopewell, making this same offer. I never heard a peep. Not a “Thanks, but no,” not a “we’re not interested,” or even a “Go to hell, Rosemary Thornton.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to hear something, rather than nothing.

In case anyone from Hopewell is reading this, I can tell you, I know a little something about Sears Homes. Here’s a short bio I use with the media:

Rose is the author of several books on early 20th Century kit homes. Rose and her work have been featured on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. In print media, her story has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, L. A. Times, Dallas Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and more.

Sounds darn good, doesn’t it?

So what can I do to help Hopewell correct their boo-boos?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, below is the “re-do” of a blog that was a personal favorite of mine. The idea was the brainstorm of Rachel Shoemaker, who loves both music and kit homes, and found a delightful way to blend the two topics.

You can read Rachel’s wonderful blog here.

Here’s the ditty that will  help you learn more about correctly identifying houses.

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Ses

Here's a screen-shot of the Sesame Street ditty that tell us, "One of these things is not like the other." Its intent is to teach youngsters how to spot differences in similar items. Learning how to distinguish subtle differences in physical objects can be tough. Ever more so if you live in the small towns around Richmond (apparently).

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houses

Let's try it with houses now.

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One of the houses above is different from the others.

If you guessed the brick house with the metal casement windows, you’re right!

For some time, Hopewell was promoting a brochure (showcasing a driving tour of alleged kit homes in Crescent Hills neighborhood) that identified this brick house as a Sears Dover.

But oh noes!! That’s not a Sears Dover!

The other three houses (the three that look just alike) are the Sears Dover.

More recently, Hopewell has modified this statement and now claims that this brick house is a Sears Maplewood.

Let’s see how that works.

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Blue

Oh noes - AGAIN! One of these homes just doesn't belong! Which one is it? If you guessed the brick house, you're right! The other three homes are the Sears Maplewood.

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houses

There's also the fact that the Sears Maplewood and Dover were never ever offered with metal casement windows. There's also the fact that this house was probably built after WW2. But hey, why let something like "historical fact" get in the way of a good story!

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maple

Here's a Sears Maplewood (1930 catalog).

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house

If you really think that the brick house above looks like a Sears Dover, I highly recommend the Sesame Street "Not like the other" series. It's helped many a lost soul find their way through the thickets of misidentified kit homes.

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house

Meanwhile, in Hopewell, they have a cache of rare and unusual Aladdin Homes (like the one above) and what is being done to promote those houses? Nothing. Unbelievable.

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To learn more about how to distinguish differences in certain objects, click here.

Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for the use of her photograph above (the blue Maplewood). You can visit Rebecca’s website here.

Visit Rachel’s website here.

Read about the bonanza of kit homes we found in Richmond!

If you’re from Hopewell, and you’d like to take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

If you’re not from Hopewell and you THINK they should take up Rose on her offer, please leave a comment below.

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Sears Catalog House or Something Like It (Hopewell, VA)

July 25th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last week, Hopewell was in the local news again, touting their Sears Homes. I’m not going to post a link to the article that appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, because it was rife with errors.

I’m somewhat incredulous that a paper as prestigious as the Richmond Times Dispatch didn’t do some fact-checking before publishing this story.

The recording and publishing of history is such a sacred trust, and writers have a solemn charge to get the facts right, before sending this information into perpetuity.

And there’s this: I’ve been sought out and interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, BBC Radio, All Things Considered (PBS)  and more. I’ve been featured on PBS History Detectives, CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, and MSNBC.

It’s disheartening to know that a newspaper so close to home ran this article without seeking me out for a quote, or even asking me to help with the fact checking (which I would have gladly done).

Hopewell and I have a history.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a small brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (click here), Hopewell is mighty mixed up about what is, and what is not a kit house.

Of those 44 purported “Sears Homes” in Crescent Hills, only eight are the real deal, and frankly, it may not be eight. Some of those eight could well be plan book homes.

On that “list of 44,” this house (see below) was featured.

To read more about Hopewell, click here.

Many thanks to Rachel Shoemaker who successfully identified this house!

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Nice House

The brochure promoting the Hopewell Sears Homes stated that this was a Sears "Newbury." Ooh, nice try and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts for you.

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Ruh

The Hopewell brochure states that it looks JUST LIKE a Newbury, except for the "sloping roof, full width dormer, extra windows and round columns." Good grief, if that's our criteria I could say that my dog Teddy looks like just like a Sears Magnolia.

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House

Except for the absence of a hip roof, full width windows, round columns and cypress wood, these two dwelling places are stunningly similar. You'll note that the subject on the right also does not have ears or fur, but both of these items could have easily been removed during an earlier remodeling.

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Newbury

Sears Newbury, from the 1936 catalog.

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compare

Wow, look at this! The house on the left is in Illinois and it actually LOOKS like a Newbury!

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compare

Ruh Roh. These don't look anything alike!

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Monticello

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know that this house in Hopewell came from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Montie

In fact, "The Monticello" is on the cover of the catalog! What a beauty!

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Wow

And lookie here. It is a very fine match!

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Big and fancy

Did anyone from Hopewell ever go into this house and compare the interior layout? If so, I hope the homeowner gave their seeing-eye dog a tasty biscuit. The floor plan for the Monticello is radically different from the Sears Newbury (shown directly below). And the Monticello is 50% bigger. These details matter.

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What

The Newbury is a modest, simple house (1936 Sears Modern Homes catalog).

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If you dont love this house, theres something wrong with you!

According to the text in the ad, if you don't love the Monticello, there's something seriously wrong with you!

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It’d really be swell if Hopewell would invite me back to do a thorough and proper survey. I would be more than happy to get the facts right and help them create a new brochure.

In fact, I really wish they’d give it a go. It’s time to make this right.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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Sears House or Plan Book? Let’s Help Hopewell Figure This Out

August 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 7 comments

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a well-publicized brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (here, here and here), I feel strongly that they’re wrong about 36 of those houses.

In my personal (and professional) opinion The Crescent Hills neighborhood in Hopewell has eight Sears Homes.

One of the houses on that “list of 44″ was this house (shown below).

Here

The brochure claimed this was a Sears House: The Newbury. Uh, no, it's not.

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A

According to the brochure, the house shown above was The Newbury (from Sears) with some "differences. Take a look at the list of differences. Those are a LOT of differences!!

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Heres a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

Here's a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

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And heres a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. Youll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

And here's a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. You'll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

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And

And here's a picture of the catalog page compared to the house in Hopewell. You may notice that the house in Hopewell looks nothing like the catalog picture.

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Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! Its from Standard Homes Plans (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! It's from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Close up of the house

Close up of the house. Beautiful house!

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And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

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So that’s one more house properly identified in Hopewell’s Crescent Hills neighborhood, thanks to Rachel Shoemaker.

I wonder if the homeowners of this house know that their house came from a Plan Book?

To learn more about plan book houses, click here.

To read more about Hopewell’s houses, click here.

Or here.

Or here.

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“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…” (Part II)

August 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, Sesame Street children are familiar with a toe-tapping ditty that helps them learn how to observe what makes things similar and dissimilar.

Those same life lessons are of inestimable value in identifying and authenticating Sears Homes.

In Hopewell, Virginia, they have eight beautiful Sears Homes in Crescent Hills. Unfortunately, in Hopewell, Virginia, they’re claiming to have a lot more than eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

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This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

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Now there are folks in Hopewell claiming that all three of those houses (with the dormers, and the two windows flanking the front door and the symmetrical front gable and the three windows in the living room) are Sears Rochelles.

Sadly, they’re wrong.

Will the real Sears Rochelle please stand up?

The

It's been remodeled quite a bit, but this is the real Sears Rochelle (in Lombard, Illinois). You may notice that it's very different from the three Hopewell houses shown above. For one thing, it has no dormer. For another, it's got an asymmetrical front gable (around the door). The houses in Hopewell have symmetrical gables. This is a pretty substantial detail. (Photo is copyright 2012 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Rochelle shown above (in Lombard) is the only Rochelle I’ve ever seen.  This Rochelle was photographed by Dr. Rebecca Hunter (Elgin, IL). You can visit her website here.

So, what is it they have in Hopewell?

I’ve no clue, but I do know, it is NOT a Sears Rochelle!

Sears Roechelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

Sears Rochelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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You may notice, the house above (catalog image) bears no resemblance to the Hopewell houses.

To read more about the many differences between these Hopewell homes and the real deal, click here.

To learn more about Dr. Hunter, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here or here.

Interested in Aladdin kit homes? Hopewell has several. Click here to read about them.

And Then There’s Sterling Homes…

July 13th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Sterling was one of the six national companies selling kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Like Aladdin, Sterling Homes was based in Bay City, Michigan. While Sterling was successful 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 extant homes below. 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.

Another Sterling Browning B in Hampton, Virginia

Another Sterling Browning "B" in Hampton, Virginia? It certainly looks very close, and yet it appears to be a little bigger (deeper) than the other Sterling Homes (above). The rest of the details (see below) are a very, very good match.

The homes left side is a perfect match to the catalog page.

The home's left side is a perfect match to the catalog page.

Sterling

Pretty unique house!

d

Floorplan shows that over sized bay window on the first floor, which is an unusual feature for a house of this size. Both the house in Hopewell and Hampton also have this. The second floor sure has a lot of doors!

Very unusual arrangement around the dormer windows, too.

Very unusual arrangement around the dormer windows, too. Also a perfect match to the original catalog image.

Sterling

Detail around those funky dormers (catalog).

Even the rafter tails are a spot-on match!

Even the rafter tails are a spot-on match to the Sterling catalog.

Thanks to Pat Spriggs for driving me all over Hampton!

And thanks to Mark and Lisa Hardin for finding the Hopewell Brownings!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, 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.

house

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

porch

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. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In downtown Hopewell, not too far from the water, there’s an impressive collection of early 1910s Aladdin Kit Homes. While the city of Hopewell has put its focus on their eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they’ve well-nigh ignored these many blocks of little Aladdin Homes.

The eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills are fine-looking residences. The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest, but they also have a story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s getting lost - quickly. Judging by the landscape in this neighborhood (where the Aladdin Homes are located), countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the rest of these houses might be spared.

Part 1 (click here) focused on the many Aladdin Edisons in this part of town. In Part 2, we’ll focus on the Aladdin Plymouth and the Aladdin Burbank. This area has countless examples of both houses, but due to heavy traffic, late afternoon sun and general malaise, I was only able to photograph a handful. If you know of the location of other houses in Hopewell that look like these, drop me a line.

As mentioned in the prior post, this large collection of houses was ordered by Dupont, as housing for their many workers.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

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A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth

This Aladdin Plymouth does not have a fireplace (as shown above), but fireplaces were optional extras, and cost extra, too!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison! Note, there is only one bedroom closet, and it's 2'6" by 3'. Not very spacious!

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless Burbanks in this part of town.

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless "Burbanks" in this part of town.

The Burbanks floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

The Burbank's floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Its a little rough around the edges, but theres no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank

It's a little rough around the edges, but there's no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank. Note the original windows!

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Some day, I’d love to go through Hopewell slowly and do a proper tally of all their kit homes.   THere are about 50 of these houses in and around the downtown area.  That’s a lot of kit homes!

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part I, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 3)

March 21st, 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 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.

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. To help clarify what I’m talking about, I’m going to post the Hopewell house, together with an original catalog image and (where possible), an extant example of that kit home in real life.

Click on the links to see Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.

Hopewell claims to have several “Rochelles” (see pictures of these houses below).

I have enough information to have an authoritative opinion on this.  ;)

Here’s the Rochelle (1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog). It’s a cute little neo-tudor with many distinctive features.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1929 catalog.

Rochelle

Notice how the front gable on this Rochelle is asymmetrical. In other words, it extends much further down the left side than the right. And notice the little stylistic feature to the right of the front door. It's touches like this little gabled wall, that give the Rochelle its tudor-esque charm. Also notice how the gable on the roof goes all the way up to the roofline. And lastly, this is a house with a small attic, suitable for storage but not living space.

Gable

Here's one of Hopewell's so-called "Rochelles." Oh dear - the roof is much too high! And there's a full bedroom in that upstairs area! And look, the front gable (with the door) is symetrical. Why that's nothing like the catalog picture! And the front gable is much wider, with two little windows. Plus, that gable behind that (to the left, with the two bedroom windows) actually extends quite a bit beyond the primary wall. And on the right side, there's a little nook for the fireplace that extends three or four feet beyond the roof line. And look at the windows! The house above has three on the right and two on the left. The Rochelle has one and one. In short, these houses are quite different. Last but not least, the furnace chimney on this house is in the rear. In the Sears house, it's near the center of the house. That's actually a pretty important detail.

Rochelle

Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.

And heres the non-Sears house in Hopewell.

And here's another Hopewell "NOR" (Not-a-Rochelle).

Rochelle

Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.

Oopsie.

Nice awnings, though.

Well maybe we could focus on what these houses (extant photos) have in common with the Sears Rochelle.

1)  They have walls and windows

2)  They have lots of lumber.

3)  They have pointy rooflines.

4)  They have pretty green stuff in the front yard.

That’s about it.

Sears Homes were offered in 370 designs, and they were purposefully designed to emulate the popular housing styles of the day. To authenticate a Sears Home, you must start with visual clues. These three Hopewell homes are lacking in that regard. Next, you should check the “footprint” of the house. These houses are not the same dimensions as the Rochelle. That single fact right there is a deal breaker.

A comparison of the two homes

A comparison of the two homes

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

To read Part 1, or Part 2 of this story, here and here.

To buy Rose’s book, 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

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Now, take a look at the photo below:

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Oopsie.

Oopsie.

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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>

Oopsie.

Oopsie.

Which leads me to the real puzzle.

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

Nope.

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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