We’ve got a mystery here in Colonial Place/Riverview section of Norfolk.
In 2007, I moved to Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood and in that first week, I started walking around, admiring the old houses. The first time I saw these 14 identical bungalows in Riverview (see below), they waved at me, jumped up and down and said, “Don’t we look like kit homes from Aladdin?” And yet, I’ve not been able to match these houses with any of the images in my many vintage catalogs.
Their 14 little faces have haunted me ever since. (Later, I learned that Highland Park [Norfolk] has two of these homes.)
According to local legend, all of these homes were moved here (by barge) from another location.
They’re fairly distinctive little houses, and the $64,000 question is, where did they come from?
More and more, it’s looking like they came from Penniman, Virginia, where DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). DuPont turned to Aladdin to supply houses for their workers in Penniman, and it’s likely that there were hundreds of “Ready-cut” houses, shipped from Aladdin’s mills in nearby Wilmington, NC.
Working with my history-loving friends David Spriggs and Mark Hardin, we’ve had several wonderful discoveries, but heretofore, we’ve found nothing conclusive.
For instance, Mark found an old article that said when “The Great War,“ ended (late 1918), the Aladdin Ready-cut Homes there in Penniman were “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.”
And Mark discovered a massive collection of these same “Norfolk Bungalows” in Dupont, Washington, another site where Dupont provided housing for their workers). (To see these houses, enter this address into Google Maps: 214 Barksdale Street, Dupont, Washington, and then spin around 90 degrees.)
Friday, I went to Williamsburg and drove around the city and out towards the old Penniman site. I’m sorry to report that I found nothing of import or remarkable (other than one Sears kit home “The Oak Park” near the College).
So now we’re wondering if the houses landed someplace other than Williamsburg.
I hope so, because in Williamsburg, I found very little pre-WW2 housing of any kind. I suspect that these early 20th Century bungalows may have been obliterated by the massive and ongoing expansion of Colonial Williamsburg and The College of William and Mary.
The search continues. And I know that one day soon, we’ll have our answer.
If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!
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.
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.
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
This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.
Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview
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 and Carney Point, NJ. (1919 Aladdin catalog)
And the lone kit house I found in Williamsburg is this Sears Oak Park on Newport Avenue (very near the college).
Sears Oak Park from the 1933 catalog
The lone kit home I found in Williamsburg: The Sears Oak Park.
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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