Posts Tagged ‘penniman virginia’s own ghost city’

Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

July 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

In my prior blog, I mentioned that HGTV’s House Hunters featured a “kit house” that was in Nashville. A Facebook friend and fellow Sears House lover shared some additional information on the program, enabling me to figure out what exactly HGVT was talking about.

Let me start off with this:  It was not a kit house. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the motto of too many of these remodeling shows is, “Why let details get in the way of a good story?”

In fact, the house shown on House Hunters is located in Old Hickory, near Nashville, TN, which happens to be the site of a World War One munitions plant built by DuPont. You can learn more about Old Hickory here.

When America became involved in The Great War in April 1917, there was an urgent need for more munitions for the “boys overseas.” DuPont responded to this by building or modifying several plants around the country to make munitions. Old Hickory was built from scratch and was a phenomenal logistical effort, in every way imaginable. To learn more about this, you can read my book, which has much informtion on the build-up at Old Hickory.

Penniman, Virginia was also the site of a DuPont-built World War One munitions plant, and the houses at Penniman were the same models as the houses built within the Old Hickory community. These houses were the work product of DuPont. The lumber came from a variety of sources, but the designs were created by DuPont Engineering, and these models can now be found in many World War One company towns, such as DuPont, Washington; Ramsey, Montana; Hopewell, Virginia; Carney’s Point, New Jersey; Old Hickory, Tennessee; Sandston, Virginia; and Penniman.

Penniman was a city of 15,000 people that was born in 1916 and was gone by 1921, and the 200+ houses within Penniman were moved to other sites, including Norfolk and Williamsburg. In fact, I’ve written a book about this amazing place, located less than seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg.

The city that DuPont built at Old Hickory fared better. It still exists, and many of the 600+ houses that were built by DuPont are still in their same spot. These houses from DuPont were not kits, but they were based on plans that DuPont used at several other World War One munition plants around the country.

The house featured on House Hunters was known as The Florence, and was a darling cottage with many windows and something few of these plant houses had: A real masonry fireplace (see pictures below).

To summarize, the house featured on HGTV as “a kit house” was not a kit house. It was one of many houses designed by DuPont Engineering and built at several munition plants around the country.

If HGTV wants to be considered a credible source of information, they need to spend five or six minutes on Google chasing down some of these stories.

If not, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read the prior blog about this program, click here.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey, Robin Hurowitz, and Rachel Shoemaker for contributing to this blog!


Old Nashville

Thanks to Robin Hurowitz for supplying a few screen shots of the show on HGTV. I'm not going to show the other shots from this episode because it's too depressing for words.



My #1 partner in crime, Rachel Shoemaker, found the original listing of this house on Zillow, which provides some wonderful details not otherwise available. The name of this model was The Florence.



There are several "Florences" within Old Hickory. Prior to the convergence of the construction crew, the house was in delightfully original condition. I'm not sure what all happened inside the house. Don't want to know.



The colors, the many tall windows, the size (just under 800 square feet) all make this the perfect house for a young couple. When built, there was a small transom spanning that front door, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Florence.


Cute front

And there's that masonry fireplace, sitting at an angle in the living room.



These framing and flooring of these homes is probably Southern Yellow Pine, probably harvested from Mississippi (but that's a guess, based on what I know about the houses in Penniman). I do know that these are pine floors.



Here's the floorplan for The Florence. The house in Old Hickory is "flipped" so that it's a mirror image of this house (shown above). When built, this house had several walls, which are now gone.


The rear of the home shows that it was also a perfect match to this model.

The rear of the home is also largely original, and shows that it was also a perfect match to this Florence catalog image.


Kitchen went bye

The kitchen was one of my favorite features of this house (as built). That right there is my dream kitchen. Absolutely, my dream. Oh, to find a house with that kitchen. It also went bye-bye in the remodel.



The Florence, as shown in an old catalog showcasing the DuPont models.



And here's a Florence with its original front door in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was originally located at Penniman, and moved after the war (along with 200+ houses). Williamsburg has a handful of Penniman houses.



It's a beautiful house and in very good condition. I haven't had the heart to watch the entire episode, but I'm pretty confident that the home's exterior was undamaged by the "remodeling."



NOT a kit Old Hick

The Florence is not a kit home, but it did come from DuPont.


And amazingly it circles back to the story of Penniman

And amazingly, this whole thing circles back to the story of Penniman, a village outside of Williamsburg with more than 15,000 inhabitants at its peak (in late 1918). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.


Whisnant in front of Florence

The Whisnant family stands in front of a Florence on the streets of Penniman (1918). Image is courtesy of the Whisnant family, and is reproduced with their permission.


HGVT really needs to do a little research before spreading this information. However, if they don’t, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.


If Your Book is Missing or Lost…

June 29th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

In the last 48 hours, I’ve received three emails from people asking about books that were ordered more than 30 days ago. When I started digging into it, I found that - in short - I screwed up.

For 15+ years, I’ve been shipping out books, but my world has shifted. My once-meticulous record keeping has become a little sloppy. More than 50% of my personal possessions are in storage units, piled high atop each other. I’m living in a small rental home, and nothing is where it should be.

And there’s this:  I still do a whole lot of sobbing. That really consumes a lot of time, and leaves me exhausted.

My humblest apologies if your book order was one of the 12+ that “fell between the cracks.”

Today, I spent more than two hours going through the orders, and trying to affirm which orders were lost and which orders were fulfilled.  I think I’ve found all the missing orders and they went out in the morning mail.

If you haven’t received a book, please contact me as soon as possible and I’ll try to make this right.

And thanks for your patience.

You can reach me at or better yet, please leave a comment below. I’m living on love these days.

To order a book, click here.



This morning at 7:00 am, I started reviewing records and making sure the right books went to the right people. I hope I got it right. If not, please let me know.


I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, theyd apparently decided to play trains.

I had them all in one pile by the front door, but when I returned to the room, they'd apparently decided to play "trains." It does look like fun!


Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did!

Apparently, about the time I was supposed to be shipping books, I was hanging out on Route 460 in Zuni, Virginia, watching trains go by. This Amtrak was moving at 70+ mph and I was amazed that this cell-phone photo came out as good as it did! This route has at least a dozen freight trains per day.



A random picture of two very cute donkeys.


And theres this.

And there's this. The same brain and personality type that can bury themselves in a research project for six years (Penniman), has trouble letting go of the "whys" here. Fourteen months later, and I still don't know what happened and what went wrong. The only thing I do know is this: In a thousand million different scenarios, this was always going to end with Wayne committing suicide. Just realizing that one horrible truth has brought me some peace. On his last night on earth, he asked me to make him his favorite dinner, and I did. (And I still can't see a recipe for "Chicken Hassleback" without sobbing.) Two nights before his death, I asked him to play "slap and tickle" and he bluntly refused. Three nights before his death, I asked him, "Wayne Ringer, what do YOU think that I think of you?" He smiled an odd smile and said, "You think I'm utterly wonderful." The good thing about being a writer - you spend a lot of time using your words to tell your husband how much you adore him. I don't doubt that I did a lot of things wrong, but I also know that I did many things right. (Photo is copyright 2007, David Chance, and can not be duplicated or reprinted without permission.)


To learn about Sears Homes, click here.