Archive

Posts Tagged ‘hopewell’s sears homes’

Hopeless in Hopewell (Part 72)

September 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

“Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business,” I tell folks at my lectures, “but judging from my emails, you’d think that number was 70 million kit homes.”

Some people really, really, really want their house to be a kit house, but not every 1920s house is a kit house.

And if I were queen of the world (a title I aspire to), I’d make that Hopewell’s town motto.

When I visited Hopewell in 2003, I caused a stir when I proclaimed that 36 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills weren’t really Sears Homes. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.

And the fact is, I might have made a mistake.

Rachel Shoemaker and I have reviewed some of the photos, and we now believe that 38 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes may not be Sears Homes.

Still, that leaves six Sears Homes in Crescent Hills (Hopewell).

After the “stir” in 2003, I didn’t hear back from Hopewell. But then, several years ago, I offered to help Hopewell do a proper survey of their kit homes - for FREE!

The town never responded to my emails or letters.

Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011 (wearing a wig and a fake nose), I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only a few Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing a few of the fake Sears Homes.

For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.

Let’s make this simple.

It’s not.

It has a gambrel roof and a chimney and some windows, but that’s about it.

The photos below make that pretty clear.

Learn about the Aladdin homes in Hopewell here.

Read my favorite blog on Hopewell here.

Hopewell, if you’re listening, you can contact me by leaving a comment below!

*       *       *

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

*

Note

Notice the double windows centered on the 2nd floor, and the double windows on the first floor. Notice also the placement of the home's chimneys. These things do matter.

*

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

*

This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but its not a Van Jean.

This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but it's not a Van Jean. The 2nd floor windows are wrong, and the front porch is also not a match - for many reasons. The Van Jean has those oversized cornice returns. This house has none. I'd expect that the footprint for this house is also wrong. In short, it's *not* a Sears kit house.

*

Close-up, comparing the porch.

The edges of Van Jean's porch roof are aligned with the primary roof. The Hopewell porch roof extends well beyond the roofline. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell porch roof terminates at the cross member.

*

Hopewells brochure explains the differences (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean.

Hopewell's brochure explains the "differences" (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean. Oopsie. They neglected a few details. And a few facts. And one big reality: This ain't no Van Jean.

*

Will there ever be a day when someone in Hopewell exclaims, “Enough of this! Let’s call that gal in Norfolk and get this right - once and for all!!”?

I wonder.

In the meantime, Hopewell certainly does offer a lovely opportunity of how not to promote historic architecture.

To learn more about the real kit homes in Hopewell (and they’re not from Sears), click here.

To read about Sandston, click here.

*

Have You Seen This House? (Part 4)

April 20th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Gosh, what a mystery.

We have 16 darling, distinctive little bungalows here in Norfolk that were originally built for (and at) another location, and then moved here (by barge) sometime after The Great War ended in 1918. That’s pretty much all that’s known about them.

And 3,000 miles away in Dupont, Washington, there are  dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory there.

Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington, I now have some detailed photos of the little bungalows out there in Dupont. And - thanks also to Lee and Joh - I have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in 1909.

After studying and comparing the houses in Dupont with the houses in Norfolk, I’m fairly confident that these two houses - 3,000 miles apart - are the same model. These houses in Norfolk and Dupont have several very unique features, and now the #1 question is, Did these houses come from Aladdin? Or did they come from another kit home company? And if not, where did they come from?

We know that Dupont often turned to Aladdin kit homes to provide them with houses for their workers. We know that Dupont used Aladdin to provide housing at their sites in Carney’s Point, NJ, Old Hickory, TN, and Hopewell, VA. According to local lore, Dupont also used Aladdin to house workers at their guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia.

Did these houses in Norfolk come from Penniman? There’s a local legend that Penniman had 600+ Aladdin kit homes, but I can find no written record of this legend. Today, I received a response to my query at the Clarke Library in Michigan (where many Aladdin sales records are housed), and they have no record of 600 houses going to Penniman.

The mystery continues. And so does the quest to solve it.

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

*

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

*

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

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 railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

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 if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell, Virginia and Carney Point, New Jersey and Old Hickory, TN. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

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.

* * *

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.

*   *   *

Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort. (Part 6)

April 9th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

When I last visited Hopewell in 2003, many good things happened, and I was treated kindly.  Sadly, I discovered that many of Hopewell’s “Sears Homes” were not really Sears Homes at all. There were some folks in Hopewell that were pretty unhappy about that.

Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011, I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only EIGHT Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here, here, and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing these almost-kinda-but-not-really Sears Homes. For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.

Hmmm.  Let’s compare the house on Prince George with a catalog picture of the Sears Van Jean.

The alleged Van Jean in Hopewell

The alleged Van Jean in Hopewell, Virginia

The Sears Van Jean

The Sears Van Jean

It’s true that these are both Dutch Colonial homes, but that’s not enough. Sears patterned their houses after the popular housing styles of the day.  In fact, Sears offered several Dutch Colonial kit homes. So you can not say: “I see a Dutch Colonial. Sears offered a Dutch Colonial; ergo this Dutch Colonial must have come from Sears.”

And that’s apparently what’s happened with this pretty Dutch Colonial in Hopewell. Someone made a boo boo.

When you look a little closer at the details between these two homes, you see several differences in these two details. And it’s the details that make or break comparisons such as this.

First, look at the front porches.

Porch

Hopewell house.

porch also

The Van Jean

comparison

This detail may seem insignificant, but in fact, it's the very kind of detail that is so very important. The peak of the porch roof on the Van Jean goes up to the top of that first-floor roofline. The Hopewell house does not. Accordingly, the bottom of the porch roofline on the Van Jean is aligned with the bottom of the first-floor roofline, where the Hopewell house drops down several inches *below* that roofline. Also, the gabled porch on the Hopewell house is configured differently from the Sears House. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell house terminates at the cross member. That detail carries around the side.

Another important detail are the cornice returns. Again - in my book (and I’ve written lots of ‘em), cornice returns are very important details that can not be overlooked or discounted, because details are the very thing that’ll distinguish a Sears Van Jean from your average (but lovely) Dutch Colonial.

Cornice

Notice the serious cornice returns on this Van Jean. They're an important detail!

Cornice

Strike TWO! The Hopewell house has no cornice returns!

The third big hard strike against this being a Sears Van Jean is the placement of the furnace chimney. Houses may undergo significant remodeling, but chimneys don’t get moved around! The only exception might be a missing chimney. Today, modern, high-efficiency boilers and furnaces use pvc “snorkels” for exhausting combustion gases, and that paves the way to discard and remove old crumbling chimneys. But a chimney in the wrong place - well that in and of itself can be a deal killer.  (The Van Jean shows the furnace chimney on the end of the house. The Hopewell house has its furnace chimney more toward the center.)

The fourth and final strike for the Hopeful Hopewell House is the fenestration. Gosh I love that word. Unless the Hopeful Hopewell House underwent some transmogrification (I love that word too), the fenestration (window arrangement) is wrong.

windows

The front door has no sidelights. And judging by the width of the porch roof, it never did have sidelights. That's not good! On the second floor, we have two windows (bedroom), one window (bath) and two windows (bedroom).

housie

On the Van Jean we have sidelights, and a porch that spans the width of the door plus sidelights. Plus, we have one bedroom window, paired bathroom windows and another single window. ****BUZZ***** Doesn't match the house above!

In conclusion, the Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a real beauty, and fine-looking home but it is not the Sears Van Jean.

To read more about Hopewell’s Aladdin homes, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

*   *   *

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.

*   *   *

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

*

Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

Pretty little Puritan on City Point Drive in Hopewell

*

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.

*

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!

*

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.