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Posts Tagged ‘ODU’

The End of an Era…

January 24th, 2019 Sears Homes 11 comments

Sears appears to be going out of business, and in a few months, my little book business will follow suit.

In 1999, I started working on a book about Sears kit homes. In early 2002, it was self-published, and I used 50% of my net worth to produce 1,000 copies. In 2004, I did a comprehensive revision.

That fun little niche book changed my life in so many ways, and all of them good. Suddenly, I was “The Author” and was treated with much respect and admiration by many lovely people.

By 2004, I’d appeared on PBS History Detectives, A&E’s Biography, CBS Sunday Morning News, and my little book even made it to Jeopardy in the Summer of 2004. In print, the story of my unusual career had been featured in countless newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News (and about 100 others).

Before my lectures, I’d often get invited to join a group of history lovers at a local restaurant, and even though I never could eat a bite before my talk, I enjoyed getting to know folks. At one such dinner, a woman said to me, “We’re in the midst of a celebrity!” Excitedly, I glanced around the table and whispered, “Really? Where are they?”

She laughed and said, “No, I’m talking about YOU!”

In California, a faithful reader took me aside and said, “I’m so excited to meet you. In my world, you’re a rock star!”

At a hotel in Iowa, the clerk that was checking me in extended her hand across the tall granite counter that separated us and said, “Mrs. Thornton, I’d like to shake your hand. I read about you in yesterday’s paper, and I’ve always wanted to shake the hand of a real author.” (I remember thinking, “I hope you meet a real author one day!”)

There are no words to say how much those kind words touched my heart and lifted my spirits. And now it’s time to take a step of progress to The Next Super-Dooper Thing™.

In the last 20 years, I’ve written nine books, hundreds of newspaper articles and thousands of product blurbs. (Writing product blurbs on architectural products was the most difficult writing job I ever had, but it paid the bills.)

In the last 20 years, everything has changed, and now it’s time for a new chapter. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I know it’s time for a seismic shift. I’ll still write blogs on old houses, and I’ll still turn my head when I drive past a pretty Sears House, and I’ll still sign a few books for interested enthusiasts, but the halcyon days of Sears, and Sears kit homes are in my rear-view mirror.

In a few short weeks, I will hit the road in my little red Prius C. If you’d like to meet me, and you’re somewhere between Suffolk, Virginia and St. Louis, Missouri, please leave a comment below.

You can hear Rose on a one-hour podcast (99% Invisible) here.

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Last week, I donated three boxes of Sears House ephemera and materials to the ODU Library (Norfolk, Virginia). This is the view from my windshield, as the archivist wheeled the cart from my car and into the library.

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In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

In a few short weeks, Seabiscuit and I will be hitting the road.

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When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

When my current stock of books is gone, there will be no more reprints.

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There they go!

More than 3,000 35mm slides and a whole lot of history - going into ODU.

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Please leave a comment below!

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The Edison: One of the Prettiest Little Bungalows Ever Built

November 21st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

The Aladdin Edison must have been a very popular house for Aladdin. It was small (600 square feet), affordable ($750 in 1914) and from an architectural standpoint, a real cutie pie. According  to the 1914 catalog, it was “One of the prettiest little bungalows ever built.”

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Edison, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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In 1914, it was known as the Denver.

In 1914, it was known as the "Denver."

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There were minor differences

There were minor differences between the floorplan for the Denver (1914) and the Edison (1919).

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Edison

In the 1919 floor plan, the dining room has been moved to the front of the house and a bedroom has been enlarged. The bathroom got a lot smaller though. Good grief - six by eight? You'd have to step into the hallway to change your mind. Oh wait, there is no hallway. And a bedroom lost a closet.

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It wasnt until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too.

It wasn't until I started putting this blog together that I realized there were some other differences, too. The dormer on the Denver (right) is not as high on the roofline as the dormer on the Edison (left). That's a significant difference. The Denver (right) has four small windows across the front. The Edison has two big and two small.

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But

But I'd have to say I like the Edison better. And look at that hammock on the front porch!

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And heres a pretty little bungalow in Norfolk.

And here's a pretty little Edison in Norfolk. Looking good, too! However, it should be very afraid. It's perilously close to Old Dominion University, and colleges are notorious bungalow eaters. Will it live to see its 100th birthday?

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It sits next door to this Edison (on 49th Street).

It sits right next door to this Edison (on 49th Street). Will ODU be able to resist gobbling up TWINKIE Edisons? Doubtful. Two little Edisons together - forever. I hope.

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In 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch (Norfolk).

In April 1923, this ad appeared in the Ledger Dispatch newspaper (Norfolk). My new full-time job is reading through hundreds and hundreds of pages of old newspapers, looking for information on Penniman. In the process, I do find some really unexpected and cool stuff, such as this ad. Even in 1923, it was described as "beautiful." Is it the blue house or the green house there on 49th Street? I wonder. But if you take a close look at this house, you'll notice that it has all the same furniture as the Edison in the 1919 catalog. Oopsie. Looks like J. Wesley Gardner infringed someone's copyright! The ad also says it has a poultry house in the back yard.

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Heres a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA.

Here's a cute little Edison in Hopewell, VA. Ah but wait, look at that dormer! It's a Denver!

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Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

Another Denver in Hopewell, VA.

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And another.

This Hopewell Denver has a "sensitive" addition. Looks darn good!

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Oh NO!!! Blind!

Oh NO!!! It's had its eyes gouged out!!! This poor dear is in Hopewell, too.

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Oh

The tree in the front yard is dying of embarrassment.

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Lynch

The Edison seems to be prone to abuse. This unfortunate thing is in Lynchburg. Wrought iron? Really? And I'm not sure why there are two reflectors at the base of the step. Is it so people won't drive into the living room at night?

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Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons.

Roanoke Rapids, NC also has an abundance of Edisons. This one is a little rough around the edges.

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This one wishes someone would give it an overdose

This one is "all fixed up" (shudder). It's also in Roanoke Rapids.

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A palate cleanse.

This one needs some love, but the Japanese Lanterns are a nice touch (Roanoke Rapids).

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Heres a sweet little

And I saved one of my favorites for last. It's a a sweet little Denver in Crewe, VA. Seems likely that the addition (left front) was done when the house was originally built. This house is on Route 460 on the left side heading east. I always wave "hello" when I drive past it. Something about this little bungalow in Crewe always makes me smile.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

How many kit homes does Hopewell have? Click here to learn more!

To learn more about Roanoke Rapids and their amazing collection of houses, click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Have You Seen This House? (Part 4)

April 20th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Gosh, what a mystery.

We have 16 darling, distinctive little bungalows here in Norfolk that were originally built for (and at) another location, and then moved here (by barge) sometime after The Great War ended in 1918. That’s pretty much all that’s known about them.

And 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 some detailed photos of the little bungalows out there in Dupont. And - thanks also to Lee and Joh - I have a vintage newspaper article that says the little houses were built in 1909.

After studying and comparing the houses in Dupont with the houses in Norfolk, I’m fairly confident that these two houses - 3,000 miles apart - are the same model. These houses in Norfolk and Dupont have several very unique features, and now the #1 question is, Did these houses come from Aladdin? Or did they come from another kit home company? And if not, where did they come from?

We know that Dupont often turned to Aladdin kit homes to provide them with houses for their workers. We know that Dupont used Aladdin to provide housing at their sites in Carney’s Point, NJ, Old Hickory, TN, and Hopewell, VA. According to local lore, Dupont also used Aladdin to house workers at their guncotton factory in Penniman, Virginia.

Did these houses in Norfolk come from Penniman? There’s a local legend that Penniman had 600+ Aladdin kit homes, but I can find no written record of this legend. Today, I received a response to my query at the Clarke Library in Michigan (where many Aladdin sales records are housed), and they have no record of 600 houses going to Penniman.

The mystery continues. And so does the quest to solve it.

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

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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.

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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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