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More on Jim Walter Homes…

December 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  :D

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Thanks to Bill Inge for providing some super-fast research on a couple names!

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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Jim Walter Homes: A Peek Inside the 1971 Catalog

December 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 12 comments

Recently, a fellow history lover (Carmen) sent me a photo of her 1954-built home and said that she’d heard it was a Jim Walters’ Home.

I dragged out my lone Jim Walter Homes catalog (November 1971), and didn’t find a match.

However, I had so much fun looking at the pictures, I decided to scan the catalog and share it here!

In the meantime, I’d love to find a few more Jim Walter catalogs. This Florida-based company sold more than 320,000  houses, which is more than Aladdin, Sears, Gordon Van Tine and Lewis Homes combined.

Jim Walter started his house-building business in 1946 and ceased operations in 2009. I recently purchased “Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story” (written by Alvin Moscow in 1995), and I haven’t read it all, but it’s an interesting book.

According to the book, Jim Walter was 23 when his business began, and in the mid-1980s, it was one of the top-200 largest industrial enterprises in the United States.

In 1961, Jim Walter acquired Celotex, a company that manufactured insulation materials that contained asbestos.

That didn’t end well for anyone.

According to an obit published in the New York Times , Jim Walter Homes employed 530 crews (3-5 men per crew) who would build out your home to any level of completion you wished - from shell to finished home.

At its peak, Jim Walter Homes had 25,000 employees, and annual sales of more than $2 billion.

Despite the connection with Celotex, a spokesperson for Jim Walter Homes affirmed that “asbestos was never used in any  Walter Homes.”

Jim Walter Homes filed for bankruptcy in December 1989, and in 1995, became known as Walter Industries. It closed in 2009.  Jim Walter died in January 2000.

To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

If you enjoyed reading this item, please share it on your Facebook page!

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Photo is from Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so were going to hope that Pineapple Press puts this photo under the broad umbrella

Photo is from "Building a Business; The Jim Walter Story" and is reprinted without a smidge of permission, so we're going to hope that the publisher (Pineapple Press) puts this photo under the broad umbrella of Fair Use, which includes "quotation of excerpts in a review of criticism for purposes of illustration or comment" (from the 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S., Library of Congress). Does this mean I need to write a short review of the book ? Haven't read it cover to cover, but it looks like a swell book. Does that count? :)

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Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

Cover of the 1971 Jim Walter Homes catalog.

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Jim

I'm such a sap for history. I wonder what this building is used for now?

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The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers.

The Jim Walter Story, as told by corporate copy writers. BTW, that 170,000 is of 1971. Does that mean they doubled their sales numbers by 2009? Hmmm...that's a little hard to believe. It's plausible, I suppose.

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Are you enjoying these photos? I am!

Men work. Women pick out swaths of fabric! Oh dear! I'm not sure what Missy is doing on the floor. Check out the text. "Your new home...will not be prefabricated in any way. Each board is cut to fit, one by one, on your building site." That's a puzzler, isn't it? I would have thought this lumber *was* precut!

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Jim

And I thought identifying the Sears bungalows in an early 1900s neighborhood was tough? Oh man! These houses are quite "simple" (to put it gently).

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Simple, but an affordable way to have three-bedrooms and a home of your own.

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F

Straight-forward design and a mere 760 square feet.

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wfe

The "Biscayne" kinda looks like the 1970s version of the cheapest way to cover air.

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House

"Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of your family?" The kid in the corner looks pretty morose, but the old man looks content. This photo is a bit creepy.

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This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog.

This appears to be the biggest house in this catalog, and it's a mere 1,142 square feet.

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Jim

The names are fancier than the houses.

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Hollywood? Is this the kind of house that Jolie Whats-her-name would buy?

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I'd have named the 2nd house: "Rebel without a flaws." Grammatically messy, but cute.

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Jim

Have you noticed that the front door on each of these houses has a small diamond window?

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This house got a full-page spread.

The Oxford (description below) got a full-page spread.

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Should someone tell Mom that she's wasting water, and probably aggravating the living daylights out of Dad? Notice that the house is described as "Colonial Style"? I guess it's the coach light by the front door that does it.

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Is "The Rambler" prone to run away in the wee hours? Or does it talk excessively? Or is it the size of the house? It's hard to say that a 760-square foot house is a "rambler."

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If you're old, you'll like this house.

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"Just plain good living...is what this plan has to offer."

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This one actually has a little bit of flair.

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Pu

Were Comanches known for their big families? The word for Comanche comes from the Ute word, kɨmantsi (enemy). What were they trying to tell us about this house?

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They look quite European.

They appear to be of European descent. Mother's right hand is disfigured. Apparently, she hides the left hand in the pocket of her atomic housecoat when photos are taken, as it's the more seriously disfigured appendage. Dad graciously tries to look in the other direction.

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house

It does have a little more "flair" than the other JW homes. Still only one bathroom, though.

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Carmine recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I cant say that I do.

Carmen recently purchased a house that was identified as a Jim Walter house and asked me if I recognized it. Unfortunately, with only one catalog, I can't say that I do.

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To read more about Jim Walter at the  NY Times obit, click here.

Do you have a Jim Walter catalog you’d love to give me for a Christmas present? Please leave a comment below!  :D

Read about The Little Tower House by clicking here.

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