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Richmond: Replete with Recherché Kit Homes

February 14th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

My late husband loved Richmond. In the beginning of his legal career, he had lived in Richmond and worked as a clerk for a judge with the Supreme Court of Virginia. I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember the judge’s name.

Wayne always seemed pleased that I could identify these homes at 60 paces. I would whip out the original catalog image so that he could see and compare the archival image with the extant property. He seemed to truly enjoy this.

“Well lookie there,” he’d say, almost whimsically. “I don’t know how you do this, Rosemary. It’s quite remarkable.”

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In October, I gave a well-attended talk in Onancock, Virginia (Eastern Shore). That was a good talk. Standing in front of that crowd, I felt alive again. My brain started coming back online. Old neural pathways fired up again. My heart felt a surge of joy it hadn’t experienced in some time. It was a lovely memory of who I was, and who I could be again.

Returning to my hotel that night, I laid in the brass bed with its luxuriant duvet and thought to myself, “I’m going to be okay.”

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My dear friend Dale tells me that maybe it’s time to expand my horizons. He’s usually right about these things. The revised (and improved) Penniman book will be out soon. And after I do a little promoting and lecturing on that topic, maybe I can find a job at a local hardware store. I like hardware stores.

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If you read the captions below, you’ll find that surveying the kit homes of Richmond was a collaborative effort (as it always is). In many cases, I consulted with co-author Dale Wolicki on the Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin Houses, who affirmed that some of my “suspects” were (or were not) kit homes.

Sometimes, I sent Rachel Shoemaker a few emails to ask if she recognized a design. Richmond artist Melissa Burgess went out into a busy road with her camera to get the perfect shot of a Sears Avalon for me.

Other Richmond folks shared pictures with me (and are credited below). Molly Todd gave up an entire day to drive me throughout the older Richmond neighborhoods. This wasn’t just my work. This involved many people over a period of years.

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To read one of the original blogs on Richmond, click here.

Read about Penniman and and Richmond here.

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This is one fine house: The Sheraton.

This is one fine house: The Sears Sherburne.

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I remember the day I found this house. It was such a thrill. My daughter was flying into the Richmond airport and I arrived extra early so that I could tool around and find the kit homes. This was Summer 2012, and my life was so different then.

I remember the day I found this house. It was such a thrill! A Sherburne right here in Richmond! My middle daughter was flying into the Richmond airport and I arrived extra early so that I could tool around and find the kit homes before her flight arrived. This was Summer 2012.

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In 2014, I was invited to Richmond to give a talk on Sears Homes, and several delightful women accompanied me on that tour of Richmond. The woman hosting the tour lived in this house. It tickled a memory, but it took me some time to find this house.

In 2014, I was invited to Richmond to give a talk on Sears Homes, and several delightful women accompanied me on that "tour of Richmond." The woman hosting the tour lived in this house. It tickled a memory, but it took me some time to identify this house.

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I spent countless hours in my home office, studying old catalogs to match Mollys house, but I found the house.

I spent countless hours in my home office, studying old catalogs to match Molly's house, but I found the house. It's a delightful Gordon Van Tine #628. Gordon Van Tine, based in Davenport, Iowa, started selling kit homes in 1910.

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GVT

To my surprise, there are many Gordon Van Tine homes in Richmond.

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Heres a lovely example of a Gordon Van Tine

Here's a lovely example of a Gordon Van Tine#507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. There I go again with that silly copyright stuff. I'm such a silly girl.

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This was one of my favorite finds, and quite memorable! As I recall, Molly was driving us around in her Lexus SUV and I saw this sweet house peeking out behind some heavy vegetation.

This was one of my favorite finds, and quite memorable! As I recall, Molly was driving us around in her Lexus SUV and I saw this sweet house peeking out behind some heavy vegetation. Image above is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker.

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And thanks to a slew of helpful researchers, we were able to establish that this GVT is the very same house featured in the testimonial

And thanks to a slew of helpful researchers, we were able to establish that this GVT is the very same house featured in the testimonial (lower left from the catalog image above). I well remember what a happy event that was - to find this very rare Gordon Van Tine home right there in Richmond.

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And Molly found this house on her own. When she first contacted me about it, I could hardly believe that this house - offered by Lewis Manufacturing in Bay City - was in Richmond, Virginia.

And Molly found this house on her own. When she first contacted me about it, I could hardly believe that this house - offered by Lewis Manufacturing in Bay City - was in Richmond, Virginia.

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According to my buddy Dale, this is a very rare house, and thats not surprising. Its quite massive for a kit home!

According to my buddy Dale, this is a very rare house, and that's not surprising. It's quite massive for a kit home! Photo is copyright 2014 Molly Todd and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Richonm

I've spent countless hours of my life playing with various artwork programs and creating "side-by-side views." This highlights the details around the front entry.

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assess

Aladdin kit homes are more prevalent here in southeastern Virginia. Aladdin had a mill in North Carolina (about three hours from Richmond). The "Madison" (shown above) was one of their best selling homes.

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And heres my little pretty in Richmond, Virginia.

And here's my little pretty in Richmond, Virginia.

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Heres another fun one.

Harris Brothers was originally known as Chicago Wrecking Company, and later became "Harris Brothers Company."

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Im not sure which trip it was when I first spotted this house, but it was a very popular model for Harris Brothers.

I'm not sure which trip it was when I first spotted this house, but it was a very popular model for Harris Brothers. It's a beautiful match to the original catalog page - stucco finish and all!

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We found a Harris Brothers 1513 in another part of town.

We found a Harris Brothers 1513 in another part of town.

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F

Every detail on this Harris Brothers 1513 is spot on.

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Finding this kit home offered by Aladdin was another happy moment in Richmond.

Finding this kit home offered by Aladdin was another happy moment in Richmond. I wasn't sure that we'd found this rare "Ardmore" so I corresponded with my co-author Dale, and he affirmed that it was the real deal.

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When I spotted this house, I had Molly go forward, and backward, and forward and backward, as I struggled to eyeball the many details. She was a wonderful chaffeur and as I recall, we circled the block many times until I was satisfied with my many pictures.

When I spotted this house, I had Molly go forward, and backward, and forward and backward, as I struggled to eyeball the many details. She was a wonderful chauffeur and as I recall, we circled the block many times until I was satisfied with my many pictures.

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The Sears Avalon was found in several spots throughout Richmond.

The very popular Sears "Osborn" was found in Richmond.

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The Sears Avalon

This Sears Osborn looks much like it did when built in the 1910s.

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Several Sears Avalons were found throughout Richmond.

Several Sears "Avalons" were found throughout Richmond. Check out the detail on the chimney. Those three vents on the cross gable are also distinctive.

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And

My oh my, what a match. And thanks to Melissa for taking that ladder out to that road for the perfect shot! Picture is copyright 2014 Melissa Burgess and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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Another Avalon in Richmond, Virginia.

Another Avalon in Richmond, Virginia, also a delightful match to the catalog image.

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This is my favorite Avalon in Richmond. It retains its original details, right down to the railing!

This is my favorite Avalon in Richmond. It retains its original details, right down to the railing!

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The Sears Westly was one of their most popular models.

The Sears Westly was one of their most popular models. If a neighborhood has only five Sears Homes, chances are one of them is a Westly.

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I identify so well with this Westly. Its had a hard life but its still standing.

I identify so well with this Westly. It's had a hard life and bears a few scars, but it's still standing.

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This is another fun house.

This is another very rare pre-WW1 Sears Home. I've seen only one other "190" and that was in Illinois.

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Here

The polygon bay - first floor and second floor - is its defining feature. Also notice the cornice returns on steroids. This house (as is shown in the catalog) has a stucco finish.

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The Sears Stratford is one of my favorite designs. This neo-tudor is so pretty and has such pretty lines.

The Sears Strathmore is one of my favorite designs. This neo-tudor is so pretty and has such pretty lines and is well proportioned.

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My husband and I were driving through Richmond together when I spotted this house. He was duly impressed that I spot these homes at 60 paces. I would always whip out the original catalog image so that he could compare the two images. Well lookie there, hed say to me. I dont know how you do this, Rosemary. Its quite remarkable. That was a good day.

My husband and I were driving through Richmond together when I spotted this Strathmore. It's in beautiful condition and it has a Buckingham Slate roof. Buckingham Slate is the finest slate roof, and weighs about 1,400 per square.

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W

Sometime in early 2014, Wayne and I traveled to Richmond, where he appeared before the Supreme Court of Virginia to try a case involving a police recruit that died during training exercises. We arrived the day before and strolled around Richmond. We both went out shopping the week before to buy new clothes for this occasion. Never for a moment did I take him for granted. Never for a moment.

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My first trip through Richmond was July 4th 2010, and it was my 51st birthday. I saw this flag draped across a residential street and snapped a photo. I knew that I would like Richmond. That was my thought in 2010.

My first trip through Richmond was July 4th 2010, and it was my 51st birthday.

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To read one of the original blogs on Richmond, click here.

Read about Pennimand and Richmond here.

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The People of Penniman: Personal Papers?

February 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 1 comment

There’s no doubt in my mind that a “Pennimanite” left behind a personal reminiscence or journal or unpublished manuscript or something, telling about his war-time experiences at Penniman, Virginia.

The problem is finding these people, and then finding their descendants, and then finding a written record.

Thus far, I’ve had three good breaks, where wonderful vintage photographs of Penniman have come into my possession. Two of those good breaks came from people with relatives connected to Penniman. The third event was a fellow who purchased a vintage photo album from eBay, and later found me (and this website).

Below, I’ve listed the names I’ve found thus far in the hopes that we might find these folks, and perhaps find a personal reminiscence of a Pennimanite.

Within the tags (at the bottom of this blog) are more names.

To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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Allshouse, Atkinson, Austin, Barnett, Bell, Benesh, Browne, Byrne, Casey, Cavanaugh, Cheep, Curry, Davidson, Davis, Doubille, Dunsworth, Fitzgerald, Gaugler, Gluss, Gohegan, Goodrich, Hazlehurst, Hess, Hoke, Huger, Huntley, Jenson, Krebbs, Loughborough, Luderlow, Ludqig, Marable, McCourt, McLelland, McMannus, Miller, Moser, Newcomb, O’briean, Odem, Osiff, Parkus, Pennee, Peters, Plumer, Rhodes, Shevlin, Stowe, Stumzi, Sykes, Tragsdorf, Trask, Van Dyke, Wadsworth, Walbauer, Walton (Benjamin Franklin Walton, from Hanover County), Wellford.

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FF

Thanks to the "Penniman Projectile" (December 1918), we now have several names of the people at Penniman, including the members of the Penniman Baseball team!

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Face

After spending more than six years studying Penniman, it's a delight to have faces for the "names" and it will be even more delightful to find some of the families of these men.

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According to the Penniman Projectile,

According to the Penniman Projectile, these were "prominent men" at Penniman.

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fff

Mr. Benesh was the superintendent of the plant. After the war, DuPont sent him to China.

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Will we ever know the names of these many children?

Will we ever know the names of these many children at Penniman? And an aside, the sign overhead says "Girls' Industrial War Service Club." None of these children would be alive today, unless they lived well beyond 100 years old.

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Ora Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and ministered to Pennimans sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

Ora C. Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and he and his wife ministered to Penniman's sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

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W

Did Major Gaugler leave behind a memoir of his time at Penniman?

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To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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Perhaps, Just Maybe, I’ve Turned a Corner Here…

June 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Wednesday morning, I met with my favorite minister who has been a great source of comfort, guidance and kindness throughout these last 14 months. At the end of our meeting, he prayed with me for at least 15 minutes. It was a lovely thing, and I felt a heavy burden of darkness fall away from me. It was quite an experience.

That same evening, Teddy and I took a walk and stopped at a friend’s house and sat on the back deck, less than 30 feet from her seawall, which overlooks the Elizabeth River. My friend sat with us, and chatted away about everything and anything, and as I listened, I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is heaven on earth - watching the sun set over the vast expanse of the river while listening to the melodious voice of a caring friend.”

Later in the evening, a brand new friend from the brand new church called and we talked for almost an hour.

“I know these are hard times for you,” she said softly, “but you’re going to get through this. This isn’t how the story ends. This is a valley. Good things are going to start happening for you.”

Last week, I talked with a friend who’s done much to help me research this Penniman book. He called to ask a quick question, and we ended up talking for 45 minutes.

“Rosemary, I don’t know how you’ve been able to finish this book,” he said with compassion. “I know it’s been hard, but you did it, and you have every right to feel proud of this achievement.”

I closed my eyes and soaked in his kind words like a sponge.

And then he said, “And I wanted to tell you, I found some more information on Penniman.” He’d found The Penniman Projectile, a company newsletter for which I’ve searched since 2011. He sent it to me, and it’s quite a treasure. That night, after poring over its pages, I fell asleep with a smile on my face: That hasn’t happened in some time.

My daughter called Tuesday night and we talked for more than an hour.

“Mom, maybe you don’t fully understand this, but completing that book was a huge accomplishment, and doing it this year, with all the hell you’ve been through? Wow. I’m so proud of you.”

And then in the wee hours of Thursday morning, I happened to connect with a Facebook friend (”Jane”) who shared some personal and profound insights about the unique struggles that I’ve faced these last several months.

Those insights are too personal to share here, but suffice it to say, she was married to the “same man, different body.” She nailed it. Top to bottom and left to right - she got it right. Her husband didn’t kill himself, but the other similarities were astounding, right down to the nitty gritty.

“Do not be his victim,” Jane told me. “He will not defeat you. No one who writes with as much humor and interest and passion as you do can be defeated easily. It will take some time to heal, and to untangle your mind. You need to learn to be gentle with yourself, but you will survive this.”

I’ve read that a baby chick pecks at its shell as many as 10,000 times before it finally breaks through. Perhaps these last 14 months, I’ve been struggling to peck my way out of this horrible shell of despair, darkness and despondency, and today, I caught my first glimpse of the new world, the world on the other side of this nightmare.

Subsequent to these events and lovely comments, I feel - deep down to my toes - that there are many reasons for hope.

And on a final note, many people have said, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” That’s exactly the right thing to say. And if you’d like to have a glimmer of what “suicide widows” endure, please read this article. It explains my life in shockingly accurate detail.

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fff

This email arrived earlier this week from a friend. I framed it and put it in a place where I can read it daily. It has meant the world to me.

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Every week, I put up fresh inspirational messages by my desk. These came from my eldest daughter. She said she starts her day by reading messages like this.

Every week, I put up fresh uplifting messages by my desk. These messages were inspired by my daughter. She told me, "Mom, we have to focus on the good things, no matter how tiny or inconsequential they may appear at first."

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One of the loveliess surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter. The cover is so fascinating, for so many different reasons.

One of the loveliest surprises was the discovery of this 100-year-old company newsletter.

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Inside, I found a litany of familiar names, and now I had faces to go with those names!

Inside, I found a litany of familiar names! The "people of Penniman" - in the flesh.

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And more names and more faces!

And more names and more faces! The names listed in the "tags" are the family names I've found thus far at Penniman. Was your grandmother or grandfather at Penniman? Maybe now we can sort it out!

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My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was, Wayne will love this. But in fact, hell never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way.

My very first thought - upon receiving this 80-page newsletter was - "Wayne will love this." But in fact, he'll never know about it, because he chose to skip out in the worst possible way. This man has caused me so much suffering. If I could travel back in time to May 2006, to our first meeting at the coffee shop in downtown Portsmouth, I'd tap that 46-year-old woman on the shoulder and tell her, "run like hell and don't look back." Perhaps I'm in my "anger phase" or perhaps, I am finally coming to my senses.

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If you’re here to read about the Sears kit homes, click here.

Click here to read about Penniman.

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