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Posts Tagged ‘kit homes in hopewell’

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

August 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 6 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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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…”

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.

Houses

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

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Now let’s try it with houses.

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which

One of these houses is not like the others.

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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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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!

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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 (part 2)

April 15th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Norfolk is home to 16 of these little bungalows (see below), which were moved to their resting place in Riverview and Highland Park from another location.

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

Did they come from Hopewell? That’s one popular story, and it’d be especially interesting because Hopewell had hundreds of Aladdin kit homes, ordered by Dupont for their workers. (The factory in Hopewell manufactured gun cotton.)

Maybe they came from Penniman, Virginia, where DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). DuPont again turned to Aladdin to supply those houses, as well. (And this was one of the largest collections of Aladdin Homes in the country.)

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.

The indefatigable researcher and fellow kit-home aficionado Mark Hardin just discovered an old article that states, “Late in the fall of 1918 the nearby munition plant (The Penniman plant in DuPont) began gradually to decrease its activities, and by March 1, 1919, there was quite an exodus of population from Williamsburg and the county…”  (The Great War ended in November 1918.)

The article goes on to say that the “ready cut houses” in Penniman “were knocked down and moved great distances on trucks and barges to many different localities, a number of them being most attractively re-erected in Williamsburg and the county.”

Here in Norfolk, we’ve long heard that our 16 bungalows arrived by barge. That old legend, coupled with the story above, suggests even more strongly that these houses were part of the 600+ houses that Dupont ordered from Aladdin sometime in the early 1910s.

Now it’s time for me to go to Williamsburg and see if I can find the rest of the collection. If anyone has any idea where I might start find early 1900s bungalows in Williamsburg, I’d be grateful to hear!

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 dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

porch

Close-up of the original porch railing.

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 and Penniman, Virginia. (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.

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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 IV)

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much energy and ink is invested in these eight Sears Homes, while the Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in this small Richmond suburb, I might feel snubbed!

The Aladdin homes are mostly worker cottages and definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these small homes also have an important 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 disappearing. Judging by the empty lots,  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 remaining houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country. At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Down by the waterfront, on Ramsey Street, I found a perfect Wenonah (and that is the correct spelling). This is a fairly unusual house for Aladdin, and I’ve only seen two in my house hunting career.

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell.

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell. The windows have been replaced and the porch roof was extended, but it's still clearly an Aladdin Wenonah.

The next house is an Aladdin Brighton, and it’s the only “Brighton” I’ve ever seen. And while I’m not 100% sure it’s an Aladdin Brighton, the fact is, it’s smack dab in the heart of a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell. There are kit homes on all three sides of this house, and a river sits behind it.  As mentioned above, Ramsey Road seems to be the place where the supervisor’s homes were located.

The Brighton was a spacious and beautiful home, and it’s very believable that this house could have been built for upper management.

Aladdin Brighton

Aladdin Brighton from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Close-up of the house seen in the catalog

Close-up of the Aladdin Brighton, as seen in the catalog

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Detail

Notice this interesting detail on the porch column.

Notice this detail on the front porch. Pretty distinctive feature.

And it's also present on the house in Hopewell. Pretty distinctive feature.

blah

Close-up of the dining room gabled bay, which is a good match to the catalog image above.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

The Brightons floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

The Brighton's floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

Unfortunately, the landscaping around the house prevented me from getting better photos, but based on the high number of Aladdin kit homes in this neighborhood, and the striking similarities between The Brighton and the subject house, I’d say the little white bungalow on Ramsey Street is indeed an Aladdin Brighton!

To read Part V, click here.

Click here to read Part I, Part II and Part III of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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

March 24th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much focus is put on those eight Sears Homes, while the many Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in Hopewell, I might feel snubbed!

The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these “workers’ cottages” also have an important 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.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country.  At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Take a look at some of the Aladdin kit homes still standing in Hopewell (near the downtown area).

Aladdin Homes came with their famous Dollar a Knot guarantee.

Aladdin Homes came with their famous "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

The Aladdin Florence, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Close-up of the Florences floorplan

Close-up of the Florence's floorplan

Close-up of the house itself.

Close-up of the house itself and the happy people on the front porch.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Hopewell has many Aladdin Florences, in varying states of repair and remodeling.

Aladdin Florest

Aladdin Florence looking basically like it did when built in the 1910s.

Florence

This Florence is in mostly original condition! The attic windows are original, too. But hey, where are the happy people on the front porch?

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the attic windows.

Close-up of the house itself.

Another shot of the original catalog page.

Another one!

Another view of the Florence in Hopewell.

Empty

This spacious empty lot sits squarely in the middle of the neighborhood with all these Aladdin kit homes. It seems quite possible that many Aladdin kit homes have been razed.

I am qualified to have an opinion on this, and I’m of the opinion that these little houses are worthy of some sort of historical designation, even if it’s nothing more than a city-supplied placard for the front yard!  These photos that I’ve posted represent a mere smattering of the collection of Aladdin Homes near the downtown area. And as I mentioned in a prior post, they also tell a story about Hopewell’s history.

Want to read more about Hopewell?  Here’s Part I and Part II.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills!

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

More than 80% of the time, people who think they have a Sears kit home are wrong. Often, those folks do have a kit home, but it’s not a kit home from Sears. Here in Virginia (where I live), most “Sears homes” that I investigate turn out to be kit homes from Aladdin.

Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan (a long way from Virginia), but they had a lumber mill in Wilmington, North Carolina (not so far from Virginia).

Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much focus is put on those eight Sears Homes, while the many Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in Hopewell, I might feel snubbed!

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.

Unfortunately, I know very little about Hopewell’s history and I’m hoping my readers will share what they know by leaving a comment.

In the coming days, I’ll post several blogs on Hopewell and their Aladdin kit homes, but I’ll start by featuring the Aladdin Edison.

Enjoy the photos and please leave a comment.

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.

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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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The Aladdin Edison was really a pretty small house. Take a look at the floor plan. How many people today would be content in such a wee tiny house? Typically, the front porch is enclosed on these 90+ year-old houses to create a little more living space. Enclosing the porch created an additional 240 square feet. Pretty significant in a house that measured 30 x 20.

Close-up of the Aladdin Edison

Close-up of the Aladdin Edison

First, my favorite Edison in Hopewell.

First, my favorite Edison in Hopewell. Oh, that's a cute house!

And from the side...

And from the side...

Another well-dressed Edison...

Another well-dressed Edison...

And another...

This one is located on Ramsey Street (near the water) and is in wonderfully original condition! Look at all those original windows! Somebody give this house a pretty placard identifying it as a beautiful example!

This little house is not in original condition

This little house is not in original condition, but it's still cute, and it's feeling happy because it has flowers growing in its front yard.

Pretty

On the Aladdin Edison, the bedroom (front left) and the dining room (front right) are both 10x10. The owner of this house probably wanted to add a little space to those tiny rooms. All in all, the remodeling done to this house isn't too bad. And they saved those awesome old windows in the dormer!

Ouch.

Hmmm. Looks like someone put a great big upholstery tack on that dormer.

Ocu

This house needs a red-tipped cane.

The little Edison waves good-bye, and hopes that someone will take action to include it, in Hopewells preservation efforts. A little house can dream...

The little Edison waves good-bye, and hopes that someone will take action to include it, in Hopewell's preservation efforts. A little house can dream...

To read part II, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell’s kit homes, 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.

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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