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Another Mystery in Richmond!

March 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 16 comments

My blog on the Sears Houses in Richmond has gotten several hundred views in the last few days. I am tickled pink to see it, but I wish I knew what led folks to a 15-month old blog!

But in the meantime, I’ve made another *fascinating* discovery, which might lead me to a neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!

Today, David Spriggs and I were doing research at the Norfolk Public Library, and I found this article (June 16, 1921) in the Richmond Times Dispatch. At first glance, it looks like another 1920s ad, but look closely.

Article

The "beautiful bungalow" shown in the advertisement is a Sears Elsmore.

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Check out the fine print.

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And you can buy “all the material necessary to build this charming bungalow” - from Sears!
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If you look closely at the house in the ad, youll see its a Sears Elsmore.

If you look closely at the house in the ad, you'll see it's a Sears "Elsmore." In fact, it's the picture right out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog!

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This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

This is the picture used in the advertisement shown above.

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Heres an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these beautiful bungalows built in Richmond?

Here's an Elsmore in Elgin, Illinois. Were any of these "beautiful bungalows" built in Richmond?

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Perhaps someone familiar with Richmond can help me find this neighborhood! Was the builder successful in pitching these Sears kit homes to the people who bought his lots?

This could be fun!!  Please leave a comment below if you know where this area is!

To learn more about the Sears Homes I found in Richmond, click here.

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Sometimes, They’re Hiding Right By Your Biscuits…

April 5th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.

Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re  expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)

As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney,  just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”

And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.

And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”

Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”

As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”

Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.

Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.

That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.

The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.

Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.

Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!

So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby?  :)

To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.

To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.

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The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house.

The Martha Washington was a grand and glorious house. According to this page from the 1921 catalog, it had seven modern rooms. I wonder how many "old-fashioned" rooms it had?

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According to this

Here's a Martha Washington that was featured in the back pages of the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog. This house was built in Washington, DC, and shows the house shortly after it was finished.

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This line drawning from the 1921 catalog shows the

This line drawing from the 1921 catalog shows those two bay windows on the side.

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This was described as a snowy white kitchen de Lux.

This was described as a "snowy white kitchen de Lux." For its time, this really was a very modern kitchen. Notice the "good morning stairs" too the right, and the handy little stool under the sink. According to a 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog, the "average woman spends 3/4ths of her day in the kitchen." So maybe that's why she got a hard metal stool to sit on at the sink?

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Oh may

"Judge for yourself how attractive, bright and sanitary we have made this home for the housewife." And a "swinging seat"! I guess that's a desperate attempt to make kitchen work seem more recreational, and less like drudge work.

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CheckAn “exploded view” shows the home’s interior. That baby-grand piano looks mighty small!

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Second

Check out that bathtub on the rear of the house. And that's a sleeping porch in the upper right. Again, that furniture looks mighty small.

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As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

As you can see from the picture (1921), this was a fine home!

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Be still my quiveringg heart!

Be still my quivering heart! And it's right on Virginia Beach Boulevard!

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A view from the side.

A view from the side, showing off those bay windows.

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The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light),

The PVC fish scales over the porch are a pity (and do a fine job of hiding the beautiful fan light), and the badly crimped aluminum trim on that porch roof doesn't look too good, and the wrought-iron is a disappointment, but (and this is a big but), at least it's still standing.

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Before

The porch, in its pre-aluminum siding salesmen and pre-wrought-iron and pre-PVC state.

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compare

A comparison of the Martha Washington in DC with the house in Norfolk!

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And heres a Martha Washington in Cincinnatti, Ohio.

And here's a Martha Washington in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.

To learn more about biscuits, click here.

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Sears Homes in Richmond! What a Bonanza!

January 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 19 comments

An update!  Today I *may* have inadvertently discovered an entire neighborhood of Sears Homes in Richmond!!! Click here to learn more!

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Last week, I traveled to Richmond on an errand for a friend. I had a little extra time on my hands so I decided to drive around in “just one” neighborhood and my oh my, I found several Sears Homes in just a few blocks!

I had only a good hour of search time, so hopefully I can return soon and do more looking.

However, Richmond, Virginia is a very large city and it’d be helpful to know where I might find the neighborhoods that were developed in the first years of the 20th Century.

And if you’re new to this site, you may be asking, what is a Sears kit home? These were 12,000-piece kits that you could order out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each “kit” came with a 75-page instruction book and detailed blueprints, specifically designed for the novice home-builder.

These were complete kits, and came with all the paint, wood putty, coat hooks, towel racks, lumber, roofing shingles, gutter hardware, and nails that you would need. Plumbing, heating and electrical systems were not included in the kit, but could be ordered separately.

During their 32 years in the kit house business (1908-1940), Sears sold 70,000 of these kits in all 48 states. Today, the only way to find them is literally one by one.

And if you’re a regular visitor to this site, you may be wondering, how did Richmond, Virginia end up with so many kit homes? That’s what I’d like to know!!  :)

And how many more are out there, just longing to be discovered!

There’s a new mystery in Richmond! (March 14, 2014)  Click here to learn more!

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And one final note, more than 90% of the folks living IN a Sears House didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them. So there in Richmond, lots of people are in for lots of pleasant surprises!!

Enjoy the photos below, and if you know of a Sears House in Richmond, send me a note!

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and Ive not seen many of these.

Should I start with my favorite? Above is a picture of the Sears Sherburne, from the 1921 Building Materials catalog. It was a spacious, grand house and I've not seen many of these.

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And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the early 1920s.

And here it is, looking much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. What a house! And it came from a kit!

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And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And its also a real beauty!

And despite this being a fairly rare model of Sears Kit House, I found a second one, within a few blocks of the first house! And it's also a real beauty! Notice the dramatic cornice returns extending well over the front porch area.

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The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon.

The big surprise of this excursion was this house, the Sears Avalon. This was another unusually fine and somewhat hard-to-find kit house offered by Sears. Prior to Richmond, I'd only seen maybe five Avalons throughout the country. And yet, in Richmond, I found FIVE within one seven-block area. FIVE Avalons! What in the world??

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Heres another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog.

Here's another view of the Avalon from the 1921 catalog. Notice the three square vents on the gabled porch roof (far left) and the small indent in the chimney. Also notice the small attic window over the porch. See how the porch columns are mostly masonry with a little bit of wooden column? These are all distinctive features.

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And the floor plans could be reversed, to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

And the floor plans could be "reversed," to take advantage of better lighting on the site.

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Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

Wow. Just wow. One of the most perfect Sears Avalons, right here in Richmond. Wow.

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Wow, isn’t that exciting to see such a perfect match to an old Sears catalog page? And whomever owns this house, really loves it. Wow!  :)

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Avalon #1 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street.

Avalon #2 was on Semmes Avenue, near 30th Street. This house also has those three vents on the gabled end of the porch. In that this house has stucco, the porch columns were a little different, but that's a minor alteration and not significant in identifying this as an Avalon.

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Avalon #3. Im very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that theyre to be numbered for identification.

Avalon #3. I'm very happy that Richmond has so many Avalons that they're to be numbered for identification. This was also retains its original railings.

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How cool!

How cool! Pretty amazing, isn't it!

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Avalon #4

Avalon #4. Turns out, most of these Avalons face due West, so I was photographing right into the morning sun. Some of these pictures aren't the best, but one has to do what one has to do! This house was on Riverside Drive. That's my hand at the upper left, trying to behave like a sun shield.

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Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, Im fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon.

Avalon #5. Despite its modifications and alterations, I'm fairly confident that this is a Sears Avalon. The roof has been raised, giving it a higher pitch, and creating a small indented space in front of that attic window, but if you look at the details, you can see this looks like a Sears Avalon. Unfortunately due to sidewalk construction, I was not able to get a better photo.

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So that’s FIVE Avalons in this one small section of Richmond. FIVE. Prior to this, I’d only seen five Avalons in all my travels. Now I’ve seen 10. :)

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But theres still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

But there's still more. This is a Sears Montrose as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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Several unusual featurse around the front door give this house a distinctive appearance.

Several unusual features around the front door give this house its distinctive appearance.

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Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue?

Is this a Sears Montrose on Roanoke Avenue? It's pretty close. Look at the pent roof that continues around that sunporch. And look at the details around the front porch.

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The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

The Sears Maywood was one of their finer homes.

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This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

This appears to be a Sears Maywood, tucked away behind the trees.

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The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

The Sears Westly was a very popular house for Sears.

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And youve got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

And you've got a lovely Westly in Richmond!

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This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916).

This was an interesting find: An older Sears House (pre-1916). This was model #190.

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And such a nice example!

And such a nice example!

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The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

The Sears Strathmore has always been one of my favorites!

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And heres another perfect example of it!

And here's another perfect example of it!

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In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond!

In addition to Sears, there were six other companies selling kit homes on a national level. One of them was Harris Brothers. They were based in Chicago and a much smaller company than Sears, so imagine my surprise at finding a HB house in Richmond! This is Harris Brothers Model J-161 (1920 catalog).

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Nice match, isnt it!

Nice match, isn't it!

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In addition to Harris Brothers, there was a company called Lewis Manufacturing.

One of the more popular houses offered by Harris Brothers was this house, Model N-1000.

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Is this

Is this the N-1000 (shown above)? It's certainly a possibility. Although not visible in this photo, this house has the rounded front porch, as seen on the floorplan in the catalog image above.

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Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears.

Another national kit home company was Gordon Van Tine. They were probably almost as big as Sears. Here's a picture of the Gordon Van Tine Home #507.

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And heres a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

And here's a perfect representation of #507. Gosh, what a fine-looking house. Photo is copyright 2010, Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced.

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How many more kit homes are hiding in Richmond? Probably a bunch. These houses above represent a brief visit to Richmond.

I’d love to return to Richmond and do a more thorough job of finding these houses, but where to look?

To learn more about Rose, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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“The Sears Home We Picked Out” (By Joseph Origer)

May 2nd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

The Sears Home we picked out - the Hammond - had a kitchen that was 8 x 10 feet so I asked the salesman (at the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in Chicago) if we could make the kitchen bigger. He suggested that we make the back of the house two feet wider, so the kitchen, dining room and a back bedroom would all be two feet wider.

This of course changed all the precut lumber and the original plans. They had to make a new set of blueprints and specially cut all the material.

My dad, who had accompanied us to Chicago, asked the salesman how much these changes would cost. We all held our breath while the salesman did the figuring and it seemed like it took him forever. Finally, he told us that the extra square footage would cost an additional $67. We went with the extra two feet.

Reminiscence of Joseph Origer (builder/owner of “The Hammond”).

In 2002, after the publication of my first book, I had the good fortune to talk with many people who’d built their own Sears kit home. One of my favorites was the story of Joseph Origer, who’d built a Sears Hammond on the family farm in 1940.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in a Sears Home, on a farm near North Judson, Indiana. His father had built the two-story kit house (Modern Home #101) a year earlier, in 1913. Twenty-six years later,  in the summer of 1940, Joseph and his new wife traveled to a Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in nearby Chicago to pick out another Sears kit home to build on the same farm.

The young couple chose The Hammond -  a 1000-square foot, five-room Honor-Bilt bungalow with casement windows. On July 4th, 1940, two weeks after placing the order, their home arrived in one boxcar at the train depot. Joseph Origer shared some precious memories and wonderful details about the building of these two Sears homes.

My dad built a Sears kit silo in 1911 and he was so impressed with the quality of the lumber (all cypress) that he decided to buy and build Sears Modern Home #101.


Our farm adjoined the old Pennsylvania Railroad. Dad was working in the field when he saw a train pass by with building materials piled high on open flat cars and thought, ‘I bet that’s my house!’ Dad went into the barn and hitched up the horses and went down to the depot to pick up his house. The story is that while Dad was at the depot unloading the building materials, the depot agent looked at the indoor plumbing fixtures and asked, ‘What are those things?’


I remember my father telling me the kit home was all number one lumber and material. All the building materials cost $879 and the total expense, including all carpenter labor, was less than $1500.I still have the itemized list of materials for that house!


When I decided to marry and stay on the farm, my parents suggested we go to Chicago and pick out another Sears home. Dad said, “you know the material will be good.”


It was 1940 when we bought the house. I think that was the last year they sold these homes. I had a 1939 Modern Homes catalog, so I sent for a 1940 catalog and found there had been a slight price increase. This was the time when Hitler was invading Poland and prices had gone up a little. I was excited about getting a house, but a friend of mine said, “Joe, you should wait a couple years until prices come down.” I’m glad I didn’t wait. It would have been a long wait.


We went to Chicago to look at Sears’ housing displays and get a little more definite information. The Sales Center had samples of inside doors and millwork that we could look at. They had different samples of the inside fixtures and millwork.


The home we picked out - the Hammond - had a kitchen that was 8 x 10 feet so I asked the salesman (at the Sears Modern Homes Sales Center in Chicago) if we could make the kitchen bigger. He suggested that we make the back of the house two feet wider, so the kitchen, dining room and a back bedroom would all be two feet wider.


This of course changed all the precut lumber and the original plans. They had to make a new set of blueprints and specially cut all the material. My dad asked how much these changes would cost. We all held our breath while the salesman did the figuring and it seemed like it took him forever. Finally, he told us that the extra square footage would cost an additional $67. We went with the extra two feet.


The salesman said if we had it all sent in one shipment, it’d be cheaper then having it sent in several shipments, which was another option. The second option was for people who didn’t have a place to store all the building materials. We went with one shipment to save a little money.


The house arrived about two weeks after we ordered it. The station agent called and said we had a carload of building material. We hauled it home on a truck and that took quite a few trips. Fortunately, we only had to travel 2 ½ miles. It all fit in one boxcar, but it was pretty tightly packed.


The plaster (for the walls) and cement (for the foundation) was included in the price that we paid. Sears placed the orders for those materials with a local lumber yard. I remember someone from the yard called me and asked, “when do you want your plaster and cement delivered?” I hadn’t been aware that Sears did it that way.


We built The Hammond  400 feet away from Modern Home #101. We hired a retired carpenter that lived in town to help us build it. He charged us 50 cents an hour. He said the material was excellent quality and that you could pick up any 2 x 4 and use it as a straight edge.


The house arrived on July 4th and we were living in it by winter. When the house was completed, the total cost of my house, including everything -  bathroom fixtures, plumbing, wiring, paint and varnish - was about $2,700. These 60-plus years The Hammond has been a wonderful house. I am glad I built it. This house has been well maintained inside and out, and it is still just as good as new.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in the Sears Modern Home #101. When I spoke with Mr. Origer in 2003, the original house was in very poor condition, due to its having been rental property for a very short period of time.

Joseph Origer was born in 1914 in the Sears Modern Home #101. When I spoke with Mr. Origer in 2003, the original house was in very poor condition, due to its having been rental property for a very short period of time. I'd love to know if this house is still standing.

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The Sears Hammond, as shown in the 1940 catalog.

The Sears Hammond, as shown in the 1940 catalog. The 1940 was the last catalog that was issued by the Sears Modern Homes department. It was a reprint of the 1939 catalog, and the entire Sears Modern Homes department was permanently shut down in 1940.

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The

The Hammond, as seen in the 1938 catalog.

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A Hammond in Sterling, Illinois. Unfortunately, I dont have a picture of Mr. Origers Hammond. In my many travels, Ive only seen this one Hammond.

And it's all brick! This Sears Hammond is in Sterling, Illinois (northern Illinois). Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Mr. Origer's Hammond in Indiana. In my many travels, I've only seen this one Hammond. A very distinctive feature of the Sears Hammond is the flared flooples on both sides of the front gable.

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Flared

It was Dale Wolicki who first taught me about Flared Flooples, and he pointed out that even more rare than "Flared Flooples" are the Flying French Flared Flooples. I'm still waiting for Dale to send me a picture of a house that's sporting the Flying French Flared Flooples. The red arrows above highlight this distinctive feature on the Sears Hammond.

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To learn more about Dale Wolicki, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about the Sears Homes of Illinois, lookie here.

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The Sears Marina: Just Add Water!

April 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

As a native of the Tidewater region (Southeastern Virginia), I’m not sure why Sears (based in the Midwest) decided to name one of their little kit homes “The Marina.”

“Marina” comes from the Latin word marinus, which means “of the sea.” It’s hard for me to get a sense of any nautical theme in this Sears house. The kit did not include a free wooden oar or a cute little life vest.

Ah well.

It’s still a darling little house.

Sears Marina, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

Sears Marina, as shown in the 1920 catalog.

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There was also a

There was also a "Marina" with a shed dormer (1919 catalog).

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It was a pretty small house.

Despite its being such a modest little house, it had a beamed ceiling in the dining room, and crown moldings in the spacious living room.

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Upstairs

That large dormer on the front housed the tiny bathroom. Also upstairs were two very "cozy" bedrooms. A narrow dormer on the back provided the headroom for the staircase.

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The photos shown here give a false impression of spaciousness.

The photos shown here give a false impression of spaciousness.

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I doubt that many Marina owners had a baby grand in the living room.

I doubt that many Marina owners had a baby grand in the living room.

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That chandelier is hanging a bit low! Looks more like a high-intensity heat lamp to keep the food warm. Notice the beamed ceiling. Also noticed the radiator in the background. Sears offered the Hercules Steam Heating Outfit as an extra for any kit home, but it was THE most expensive heating system available. Steam Heat is a very comfortable heat, but it's pricey to install (and today, it's pricey to maintain).

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Did the Marina really have subway-tiled wainscoting - as is shown here? I seriously doubt it. That was a feature typically found in upscale homes. Notice the wood floors, too. Most Sears Homes had tongue-and-groove maple floors in the kitchens. Aside from all that, this kitchen was a scant 9' by 11'. Pretty small.

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Marina

An old photo of a Sears Marina in an unnamed city (1923 catalog).

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My favorite Marina! This pink Marina is in Alton, Illinois.

My favorite Marina! This pink Marina is in Alton, Illinois. It still retains its original siding, which is remarkable. The porch on the rear has been enclosed.

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Four little Marinas in a row in Atlantic City, NJ.

Four little Marinas in a row in Atlantic City, NJ. Three have the gabled dormer and one has the shed dormer. I'd love to get a contemporary photo of these houses! Thanks to Mark Hardin for finding their specific address: Pennrose Avenue!

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This Marina

This Marina is a fine match to the original catalog image. It's in West Chicago.

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Two Marinas sitting side by side in Wardensville, WV.

Two Marinas sitting side by side in Wardensville, WV. Wardensville is a tiny town just outside of Moorefield, WV.

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Thanks to Donna Bakke for supplying me this photo of a Marina in Mt. Healthy, Ohio.

Thanks to Donna Bakke for supplying me this photo of a Marina in Mt. Healthy, Ohio. (Photo is copyright 2012 Donna Bakke and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Ive got family members living in Champaign/Urbana and Ive gone past this little Marina in Urbana too many times to count, and yet I always forget to snap a photo!

I've got family members living in Champaign/Urbana and I've gone past this little Marina in Urbana too many times to count, and yet I always forget to snap a photo! (Photo is copyright 2012 Rebecca Hunter and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

And by the way, did you know that Rebecca has a new book out? Read about it - here!

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Seems to be quite a few Marinas in West Virginia.

Although substantially remodeled (and added onto), there's no mistaking that this is a Sears Marina. This little house is in West Virginia (near Lewisburg).

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To learn more about the kit homes of West Virginia, click here.

To learn how to identity Sears Homes, click here.

To learn about Wardway Homes, click here.

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The Sears Homes of Beautiful Roanoke, Virginia

April 15th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the 1960s, my family would make the long trek from Portsmouth (Virginia) to Douthat State Park for our once-a-year vacation.

Ever since I first laid eyes on Douthat (in Clifton Forge) and the Blue Ridge Mountain area, I have been head-over-heels in love. In 1994, my husband and I decided to move to the Lynchburg/Roanoke area, but you know what they say about the “best-laid plans of men.”

We overshot the mountains and ended up living in St. Louis for 12 years. (Long story.) In 2006, I moved back to Hampton Roads and that’s been my home since then.

One day, I will get to the mountains. One day.

In the meantime, I’ll simply admire the mountains “from afar.”

Below are several kit homes that I’ve found in Roanoke (with a lot of help from my dear friend Dale Wolicki).

What were kit homes? These were 12,000-piece kits, sold out of the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. Sears promised that “a man of average abilities” could have one of these kits built in 90 days.

Click here to learn more about Sears Homes.

Click here to buy Rose’s latest book on Sears Homes.

A picture of my brother Tom Fuller at Douthat in 1960.

A picture of my brother (Tom Fuller) at Douthat (Clifton Forge) in 1960.

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First, one of my favorite houses in Roanoke: The Sears Alhambra!

First, one of my favorite houses in Roanoke: The Sears Alhambra!

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And here it is, in all its shining splendor: The Sears Alhambra

And here it is, in all its shining splendor: The Sears Alhambra. I wonder if the owners know that they have a Sears House? And this one is in wonderful condition!

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Another beautiful Sears House is the Americus.

Another beautiful Sears House is the Americus.

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And its right there in Roanoke! What a sweet-looking Americus!

And it's right there in Roanoke! What a sweet-looking Americus!

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The Sears Fullerton was another big and beautiful house.

The Sears Fullerton was another big and beautiful house.

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This Fullerton (on Rugby Avenue) had a porte cochere added.

This Fullerton (on Rugby Avenue) had a porte cochere added.

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In addition to Sears, Roanoke has kit homes from several other national kit home companies, such as Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers, Sterling and Aladdin. Heres a picture of the Aladdin Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

In addition to Sears, Roanoke has kit homes from several other national kit home companies, such as Montgomery Ward, Harris Brothers, Sterling and Aladdin. Here's a picture of the Aladdin Sheffield as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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This beautiful Sheridan (offered by Aladdin Kit Homes of Bay City, MI) is on Berkley Street in Roanoke.

This beautiful Sheridan (offered by Aladdin Kit Homes of Bay City, MI) is on Berkley Street in Roanoke. Notice the oversized dormers and the bumped-out vestibule.

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The Marsden was another very popular house for Aladdin.

The Marsden was another very popular house for Aladdin.

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nice

Unfortunately, between the landscaping and the truck, it's tough to see, but there's no doubt that that's an Aladdin Marsden hidden away back there.

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And from the front.

And from the front.

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The Inverness was a very rare house, and Ive never seen one anywhere - but in Roanoke.

The Inverness (offered by Aladdin) was a very rare house, and I've never seen one anywhere - but in Roanoke. Notice the many angles on the roofline!

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Is this an Inverness? If so, its been supersized.

Is this an Inverness? If so, it's been supersized. It certainly is a good match.

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The Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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And heres a near-perfect match!

An Aladdin Detroit - in brick!

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The Aladdin Florence was a hugely popular house for Aladdin.

The Aladdin Florence was a hugely popular house for Aladdin.

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This Aladdin Florence on Hunt Avenue

This Aladdin Florence on Hunt Avenue is a good match to the original catalog picture.

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As mentioned above, in addition to kit homes from Aladdin, Roanoke also has kit homes from Montgomery Ward.

As mentioned above, in addition to kit homes from Aladdin, Roanoke also has kit homes from Montgomery Ward.

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Heres a sweet little Mayflower in Roanoke.

A Mayflower in Roanoke. This photo was taken four years ago, so this house may have changed a bit since then. Looks a little rough around the edges here.

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In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Montgomery Ward, Roanoke also has houses sold by Sterling Homes (Bay City, MI). Pictured is the Sterling Rembrandt, from the early 1920s catalog.

In addition to Sears, Aladdin and Montgomery Ward, Roanoke also has houses sold by Sterling Homes (Bay City, MI). Pictured is the Sterling Rembrandt, from the early 1920s catalog.

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A sweet Dutch Colonial: The Sterling Rembrandt!

A sweet Dutch Colonial: The Sterling Rembrandt!

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

Want to learn more about Wardway Homes? Click here!

To read about the Sears Homes in Clifton Forge, click here.

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Where Art Thou, Little Ethel?

September 19th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows (dubbed, “The Ethel”) that were originally built at another location, and then moved here by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.*

Several months ago, we learned that 3,000 miles away (in Dupont, Washington), there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory. Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington,  we now that the little houses were built in Fall 1909.

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.) More recently, an Ethel was spotted by Rachel Shoemaker in Oklahoma.

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington,  and Butte, Montana. And there’s also one (and maybe hundreds more) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Fellow old-house lover Mark Mckillop took a trip to Dupont, Washington and photographed more than 100 of the houses in that tiny village , and then sent me the photos. His photographs prove (as we suspected) that the Ethel Bungalows in Dupont are indeed identical to the Ethel Bungalows here in Norfolk.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing (and fascinating) story.

Despite what we’ve learned, many unanswered questions remain. Are these “Ethels” kit homes from Aladdin? Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

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

* Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs for finding that date, and also finding the name of the man who moved them! To learn more about what David learned, click here.

Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington.

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.

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The Sears Homes of Illinois

June 6th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Last month, I was delighted to learn that the first printing of “The Sears Homes of Illinois” (printed late November 2010), has sold out. That’s very good news. It’s a beautiful book and I’m tickled pink with the way it turned out.

It has 250 color photos of Sears Homes, and of my eight “children” (okay, books), it’s the prettiest of them all.

If you like looking at pictures of early 20th Century American homes (as do I), it’s a wonderful resource.

Oh, and did I mention that it makes the perfect Father’s Day gift?  :)

The rear cover:

And a sample of an inside page.

To read an excerpt, click here.

To buy the book, click here or here.

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A New Day on Gosnold - OPEN HOUSE on Saturday (June 11th)!

June 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

What does $299,900 buy you these days?

One beautiful pink house which has been faithfully restored to its original splendor! As an architectural historian, I’ve gone to great pains to make certain that all the work performed on this old house was done with painstaking care, forethought, and to my personal exacting standards.

It’s also environmentally friendly, with a super high-efficiency gas boiler (94%+), high-efficiency central air (14 SEER) and a dazzling rainwater harvesting system, it’s a delightful blending of the best of old-world craftsmanship with modern technology. In short, you’ll have the unique pleasure of living in a beautiful old house with none of the environmental guilt. :)

If you love old houses, you owe it to yourself to stop buy and see 3916 Gosnold Avenue on Sunday. Mr. Realtor will be here from 12-3 pm on Saturday, June 11th.

17 Really Good Reasons to Buy The Big Pink House

1) Low electric bills - average budget bill of $115/month (and we love our air conditioning!).

2) High-efficiency central air (14 SEER) with all new ductwork, and electrostatic air cleaner (installed October 2007).

3) High efficiency, top-of-the-line gas-fired boiler (94% efficient) installed March 2011.

4) Thorough restoration of original (Buckingham Slate) roof, with new copper flashing and copper cap at roof ridge. Roof repairs will be required again in 2085 (or so). (About 25% of all the construction debris found in landfills is roofing materials. Slate is the “greenest” roof in the world and with occasional maintenance, it can last forever.)

5) Seamless 6-inch (extra large) aluminum gutters and downspouts.

6) No worries about old plumbing! Entire house replumbed with new copper lines in 2007.

7) Electrical service updated (some new wiring and new panel) in Spring 2007.

8) Fresh paint, too! Two coats of Sherwin Williams Duration (25-year warranty) cover the home’s cypress clapboards.

9) Eleven new high-end replacement windows have been installed within the last two years. Windows on home’s front are original (to preserve architectural integrity).

10) “Move-in ready” for your favorite quadruped! Custom-built picket fence surrounds peaceful back yard.

11) Who doesn’t love a little house, especially one with a slate roof? “3916-1/2 Gosnold” is a custom-built “mini-house” with a 9′ ceiling, floored attic, built-in ladder and vintage windows.

12) When it’s time for the morning’s ablutions, step into the bath and back in time. Faithfully restored second-floor bath features porcelain sconces, vintage medicine chest, and a Kohler Memoirs sink, sitting atop a restored hex floor. Also has elegant wainscoting, Danze high-end faucets and solid brass vintage towel rack.

13) Modern kitchen is full of light with seven large windows, stainless steel appliances and a brand new Kenmore gas range (May 2011).

14) Harvest Time is nearly here! Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, zucchini and flowers thrive in three separate raised bed gardens in spacious back yard.

15) Handy rain-water harvesting system already in place for those thirsty plants, with more than 200 gallons of available storage.

16) Bibliophiles delight! Built-in bookcase on sunporch is more than 9′ tall and 6′ wide, with 27 sturdy shelves.

17) The house was custom built in 1925 by William Barnes, owner of one of Norfolk’s largest lumber yards. His grandchildren recall that he hand-selected every piece of framing lumber that went into the house. And it shows.

House is 2,300 square feet with three bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, and a large sunporch.

Asking price is $299,900, which is $45,000+ below city assessment. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment please contact the Realtor.

Ready for the tour? Enjoy the photos!

To read part two (more photos!), click here.

housie

The house at 3916 Gosnold Avenue.

houaiw

Classic lines and high-quality workmanship make this a timeless beauty.

kitchen

The house has 32 windows, and 7 of them are in the kitchen. One of my favorite features in the kitchen are these many beautiful windows. The gas stove (left) is less than 30 days old. The dishwasher and fridge (both stainless steel) were new in March 2007.

ki

This spacious kitchen was remodeled in Spring 2007.

ki

The gas stove was installed less than a month ago. Still shiny new!

kitchen

Really, really big refrigerator does everything but serve you buttered toast in the morning.

living

The living room is awash in light with a western and eastern and southern exposure. The living room is 25 feet long and 13 feet wide.

dining room

The spacious dining room has four windows (six feet tall!) and has beautiful oak floors.

Entry foyer

Visitors to our home frequently comment on the beautiful foyer.

room

Original french doors to the living room and dining room are still in place.

En

A view from the staircase.

house

Another view of the foyer.

rain

The house is also a gardener's delight, with provisions to collect and store more than 200 gallons of rain water.

garden

Your own private farm awaits: Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, carrots and lettuce will be ready for harvest in about 30 days.

garden

And they all live together in peace - in a fully enclosed living space - safe from racoons and squirrels.

wow

And the world's most perfect strawberry, from my garden.

And flowers, too!

And a flower garden, too!

Finis!

Carrerra marble under radiator and toilet complement the hex flooring. Work was done in Spring 2010.

Bathroom pretty

Bathroom was restored to its original 1920s appearance.

House

This 1930s vintage thermostat works beautifully, controlling a 2011 high efficiency gas boiler.

New-old stock from eBay. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

It's the little things that make an old house a special home. Vintage doorbell installed in 2008, and it has a beautiful chime!

view

Front entry foyer is 11 feet wide and 25 feet long.

Its done!

Spacious sunporch has built-in bookcases that are 9-feet tall.

House

Little house (address is 3916-1/2) has a floored attic, vintage windows and slate roof.

housie

Another view of the little house.

uniquely large yard for Colonial Place

Private, off-street parking and a uniquely large yard for Colonial Place make 3916 Gosnold Avenue a quiet oasis amidst a sea of classic old houses.

Street view

View from the street.

Sideyard summertime view

Sideyard summertime view.

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola

And I saved the best for last: The Perfect Pergola. The design came from a 1924 architectural magazine. Note hipped roof with slate shingles.

Another view

Another view of the pergola. Dog does not convey.

To schedule an appointment, leave a comment below or contact the Realtor.

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 6)

May 20th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows that were originally built at another location, and then moved here by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.  (Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs for finding that date, and also finding the name of the man who moved them!  To learn more about what David learned, click here.)

Back in April, we learned that 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 a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in Fall 1909.

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” (our pet name for these little houses) in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.)

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington and Butte, Montana.

Recently, in the name of history, old-house lover Mark Mckillop took a trip to Dupont, Washington and photographed more than 100 of the houses in that tiny village , and then sent me the photos. His photographs prove (as we suspected) that the Ethel Bungalows in Dupont are indeed identical to the Ethel Bungalows here in Norfolk.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing (and fascinating) story.

Despite all we’ve learned, may unanswered questions remain. Are these “Ethels” kit homes from Aladdin? Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

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

Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington.

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.

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