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Posts Tagged ‘munitions plant on the york river’

Penniman: A Fun and Fascinating Talk in Richmond on July 18th!

July 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

The fun starts at 5:30, but if you come early, you can meet the author (that’d be moi).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) is at the Library of Virginia (in Richmond), at 800 East Broad Street.

Free parking can be found underneath the library.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history. At its peak, more than 15,000 people occupied the village of Penniman.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

Please come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and moved to nearby communities. More than 60 ended up in Norfolk, Virginia. We're still missing more than 100 Penniman houses. Is there one in your neighborhood?

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Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

June 14th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, I traveled almost 1,000 miles (round trip) to Newberry, South Carolina to learn more about Sadie Bowers, and visit her gravesite. It was also an opportunity to visit James, a dear friend who lives less than 100 miles away from Newberry.

James and I had a wonderful time, and it was one of the happiest times I have experienced in the last two years. And that is a big deal.

One of the unexpected bonuses of travling to Newberry is that I met Ernest Shealy, an architectural historian and curator of the Newberry County Historical Museum. He was a most gracious host, and drove me throughout Newberry, so that I might find and identify a few kit homes.

I only recognized two kit homes, both from Aladdin.

As to Sadie Bowers, she was one of the women workers at Penniman, Virginia. In fact, she worked in the Booster Plant, considered the most hazardous work at the munitions plant. Oh, how I’d love to learn more about this woman and her work at Penniman.

If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

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

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I didnt find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

I didn't find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

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The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog.

The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog. Note the flared column bases and unique railing. Also note the 12/1 windows on the front porch.

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And heres a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina.

And here's a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina. The partially enclosed front porch does not diminish it's unique beauty. And best of all, it retains its original windows.

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This

This angle shows off a little bit of that original railing. You can also see those original Aladdin windows better. Do these owners know that it's an Aladdin kit home, that arrived at the Newberry Train Depot in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces? Probably not. Should we tell them? ;)

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The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. Its one of my favorites, too.

The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. It's one of my favorites, too. It's a classic bungalow, and has several unique features, including the diamond muntins, flared porch columns, and open eave brackets. It's a beauty.

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This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. And as with the Plaza, this also retains its original windows.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty!

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Its not a kit house, but heres the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

It's not a kit house, but here's the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

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When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie ("Sarah") Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

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He drove

That's the beauty part of having the town's historian drive you around town. Ernest knew everything that there is to know about Newberry and its history. I was really bedazzled by his encyclopedic knowledge. And he was so generous with this time.

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I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum.

I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum. This display discussed traditional funeral practices of the 19th Century. It was well done and very interesting.

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And of course, this caught my eye.

And of course, this caught my eye. The upside of Facebook is that I've connected with many wonderful and generous women who have also lost their husband to suicide. The downside is, when I post things on my personal Facebook page, too many folks have said things like, "You need to be on an anti-depressant" or "You need to forgive him and move on" or "You should be making better progress." One hundred years ago, people were given permission to mourn the sudden and tragic death of their spouse. I'm at the two-year mark, and I can tell you, I will never "be over" this. God willing, in another few months, my life will become increasingly mundane and peaceful, with sprinkles of joy here and there. Or so I hope and pray.

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This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling womens hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling women's hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

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The name plate on the device is certainly interesting.

The name plate on the device is interesting. The graphic says it all.

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James lives in a beautiful place. Its almost too beautiful to be real.

James lives in a beautiful place. It's almost too beautiful to be real.

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If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

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

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Moving House: Williamsburg Style

November 22nd, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

Like thousands of good little schoolchildren before me, our elementary school class trekked off to see Colonial Williamsburg sometime in the 1960s. Little did I know that parts of this “Colonial” site were a mere 30 years old at the time.

Despite being a native of this area, it wasn’t until 2007 that I learned that part of Colonial Williamsburg was re-created in the early 1930s through the beneficence and foresight of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Hubby and I were touring Colonial Williamsburg when I pointed out that there’d been some restoration work done on these buildings in the 1920s or 30s. He looked at my quizzically and said, “You know that many of these buildings are re-creations done in the early 30s, right?”

Oops.

Seven years later, while researching Penniman, DuPont’s 37th munitions plant on the York River, I discovered that the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) had several aerial photos of Williamsburg from the late 1920s and 1930s. David Spriggs and I drove to the library Tuesday morning to get a better look at these photos.

And it was a fascinating field trip.

Marianne, the Vital Resources Editorial Librarian, was every researcher’s dream. She was not only knowledgeable and well-versed, but eager to help us solve a few mysteries.

In looking at these old aerial photos, it was my hope to find a few of the 17 houses that were moved to Williamsburg from Penniman in October 1921 by W. A. Bozarth (according to the Virginia Gazette).  I did find nine Penniman houses in the photo.

Sadly, judging from these vintage photos, many early 20th Century houses and eight of our relocated Penniman houses went bye-bye during the Colonial Williamsburg restoration. (Kind of pitiable really. The little Penniman houses survived the “leave no board behind” government salvage at Penniman, and then died a tragic death just 10 years later.)

Finding those Penniman houses was fun, but there was hidden treasure I discovered in that photo that was even more fun!

Scroll on down.

To learn more about John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), click here

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Shiawassee History

This undated aerial view of Williamsburg was probably from the early 1930s. Those familiar with Williamsburg will recognize "The Triangle" where Richmond and Jamestown Roads merge at Duke Of Gloucester Street. These photos were taken by the Army Corps of Engineers and the detail is stunning. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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House

When I first saw this house, I told my husband, "Why, it looks like that house is sitting in the middle of the street!" And then I realized, that the house IS sitting in the middle of S. England Street! The photographer managed to catch a picture of Williamsburg on a day when a house was being moved. With all the development of Colonial Williamsburg, I'm grateful to know that a few houses were moved rather than destroyed, and this image offers photographic proof! Most likely, the house is being moved backwards, and headed south on S. England Street. The absence of power lines and overhead wires made it a lot easier to move houses. In fact, in the early 1900s, moving houses was a surprisingly common practice. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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And if you look real close, you'll see what appears to be a pair of tracks behind the house. From what I can glean, S. England street was a paved street at the time of this photo. Those rails would have been used to move the house. They were laid behind the house (where it's advancing) and then as the house moved, the sections were taken up from the front and moved to the rear. Remember, the house is being moved backwards. Moving a house back in the day was a very slow process. Often, houses couldn't be moved from old site to new site in a single day, so at the end of the day, the workers went home and left the house sitting in the middle of the street. Given that I see no workers present, I suspect that's what is going on here. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

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Shiawassee

One of the finest examples of early 20th Century moving that I've ever come across is this picture from the Shiawassee History website. See link below. If you look at the image above, you'll see rails laid down in front of the house. At the website (below), there's a thorough explanation of how this move was accomplished, but in short, the horse walked in a circle around that capstan which was anchored to a tree or some solid object. The winding of the rope around the capstan acted like a winch, pulling the house forward on those rails, SLOWLY.

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For a real life example of how this capstan works, click here to see it in use.

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In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that

In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that Mr. Bozarth had moved 17 houses out of Penniman and into Williamsburg. Better yet, they were "desirable houses"! I wonder how many "undesirable houses" he moved?

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Just this morning, I was talking to a curator at a local museum who told me, “I heard that some houses were moved by barge from York County to Norfolk, but I told the person making the inquiry that they didn’t move houses in the early 1900s, and that it was just a myth. Just too difficult for a variety of reasons.”

Alas!

In fact, it was much MORE common in the early 1900s than it is today. The absence of overhead power lines made it even better, plus this country had a different mindset about wasting precious resources.

To read about the houses that came by barge to Norfolk, click here.

Click here to visit the *fabulous* Shiawassee History website, and learn more about the how and why of moving houses in the early 1900s.

The site also offers a splendiferous explanation of how (and why) so many houses were moved, rather than destroyed (as they are today).

For all our 21st Century noise about recycling, we’re way too eager to send old houses to the landfill. The house shown probably represents 250,000+ pounds of irreplaceable building materials.

To learn more about the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library in Williamsburg, click here.

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