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Posts Tagged ‘penniman’

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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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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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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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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Is That You, Dr. Cottrell?

February 11th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last month, Steven Beauter was kind enough to share an incredible vintage photo album with me, which featured more than a dozen pictures from 1918-era Penniman, Virginia, a “ghost city” six miles from Williamsburg.

There are several unidentified folks within the pages of Steven’s photo album, but I’m asking your help in figuring out one image in particular.

Two years ago, the family of Dr. John Henderson (a physician at Penniman Hospital) sent me a photograph of the staff of Penniman Hospital. It was a wonderful discovery. Dr. Henderson’s family also shared the December 1918 edition of “The Penniman Projectile” which provided an insight into day-to-day life at The Camp (as it was known).

With this new knowledge, maybe we can stitch together more of the fabric of this story.

Please take a moment and look at the image below and give an opinion!

Thanks so much.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

A note about watermarks: It saddens me to alter these images by adding a watermark, but unfortunately, it’s a necessity of these times in which we live.

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Within the pages of the Penniman Projectile, I found this picture, identifying Dr. Sam Cottrell as Pennimans Chief Physician.

Within the pages of the Penniman Projectile, I found this picture, identifying Dr. Sam Cottrell as Penniman's Chief Physician.

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fff

This image above came from the family of Dr. Henderson, and I can now identify the second fellow from the left as Dr. Samuel Cottrell (Penniman's chief physician). And I'm still hoping to figure out that woman on the far right. She was a female physician, employed by DuPont to provide care to the overwhelmingly female work force.

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Cumberland
This image is from Steven Beauter’s photo album. My friend, Anne Robinson Hallerman, has posited that the man shown above is also Dr. Samuel Cottrell. I’m terrible with these type of judgments, but my first guess is, Anne is right about this.

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SS

Here's a picture of all three images together. Is that fellow on the far right also Dr. Cottrell?

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Cottrell

Countless thanks to the family of Dr. John Henderson for sharing this 80-page magazine with me. It's the source of so much information about life at The Camp.

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Pulchritudinous Poquoson and Its Kit Homes

February 5th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Several months ago, I went looking for a GriefShare group to join, and chose one in Poquoson (Virginia). The primary reason was this: I didn’t know anyone in Poquoson, so if I had a panic attack or started crying or acted like a fool, I could surreptitiously slip out the side door and no one would ever know I was there.

As the weeks passed, I started coming early on Wednesday nights for the church supper, and then I joined a group for weekly trivia night at a local bar after the GriefShare meeting.

After spending so much time in Poquoson, I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a drive around and see how many kit homes I could find. I drove through probably 75% of the area, and I found a few.

I did not find any Penniman homes, but I suspect there are (or were) a few of those too. (Penniman was a WW1-village just outside of Williamsburg, and is now a ghost city.)

What is a “Sears kit home”? In the early 1900s, you could order almost anything from the Sears Roebuck catalog, including a  house. These 12,000-piece kits were shipped by boxcar, and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together. Click here to learn more.

Many thanks to Poquoson friends Marcus Gedro for encouraging me to sing my first karaoke song, and to Dave Jones for driving me through Poquoson in his shiny new “Leadfoot Gray” Ford F150!

Enjoy the pictures below, and please share this link with your history loving friends.

And if you’re on Facebook, please share the link there!

You can read more about Penniman here.

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Poquoson is an Indian word for marsh which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

According to several online sources, Poquoson is an Indian word for "great marsh" which is appropriate, given the vast amounts of marsh found in this area.

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This Sears Hamilton was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. Its been through a lot of changes, but its definitely a Hamilton.

This Sears "Hamilton" was one of the first Sears Homes I found in Poquoson. It's been through a lot of changes, but it's definitely a Hamilton. Many of the houses in Poquoson have been elevated several feet due to flooding.

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The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

The Sears Hamilton was a very popular house for Sears (1928 catalog).

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The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its flipped (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and flipping the design was a very common alteration.

The Poquoson house has had its small porch enclosed, and its "flipped" (or reversed). More than 30% of Sears Homes were customized when built, and "flipping" the design was a very common alteration.

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Side by side, you can really

With the two images side-by-side, it's easy to see the similarities. The Poquoson house does not have the fireplace (which was an option).

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The Sears Conway is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

The Sears "Conway" is another model I found in Poquoson (1928 catalog).

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The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

The Conway has two floorplans, which are quite different.

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Because the Conway was a small home, its very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage.

Because the Conway was a small home, it's very common to see that those spacious porches were enclosed for more square footage. This is a really nice example of this popular bungalow.

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Sadly, the details around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. Ick.

Sadly, the details and bracketing around the front porch (on the subject house) were lost when that vinyl siding went up. That's also a very common "renovation" (blech).

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1914 Moosejaw

I also discovered a couple "Aladdin kit homes" in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the business (1908 to 1940). Aladdin was in business from 1906-1981.

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Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin Sheffield.

Almost next door to that Sears Conway, I found an Aladdin "Sheffield."

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It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

It had been dramatically altered in the last 100 years, but its origins are unmistakable.

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A close-up view of the scrolled rafter tails.

Those oversized hipped dormers are a dead give-away.

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And

And the scrolled rafter tails are also quite unique.

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The view down the other side also gives many clues.

The view down the other side also gives many clues.

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I also discovered a couple Aladdin kit homes in Poquoson. Aladdin, based in Bay City, Michigan, was actually a larger company than Sears (in terms of kit house sales) but was lesser known.

And just across the street is the Sheffield Grocery! It's a sign!

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Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin Sunshine.

Further down Poquoson Road, I also found something that looks a lot like an Aladdin "Sunshine."

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Is this an Aladdin Sunshine? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. Its close, but not quite right. And yet its only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

Is this an Aladdin "Sunshine"? Maybe my dear friend Dale Wolicki will weigh in with an opinion. It's close, but not quite right. And yet it's only 1/4 mile away from that Sheffield.

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This house is another head-scratcher. Its very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

This house is another head-scratcher. It's very close to the Wardway Sheridan (sold by Montgomery Ward). And yet, it lacks the boldness of the Wardway model.

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Is it a Wardway Sheridan? Its darn close!

Is it a Wardway Sheridan? It's darn close!

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Its another house thats really, really close.

It's another house that's really, really close. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's 92% likely that this is a Wardway "Sheridan." I do know that this house is very shy about getting its picture taken. I made three trips to Poquoson at three different times in the day and every time, the pictures came out poorly.

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And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. Ive been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? Its quite distinctive!

And this one is missing in action! Years ago, I made a quick trip through Poquoson and saw an Aladdin Pasadena. I've been unable to find in more recent visits. Have you seen this house? It's quite distinctive!

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While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, youll know that Penniman was a Ghost City just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations.

While I was in Poquoson, I was also looking for Penniman houses. If you are a faithful reader of this website, you'll know that Penniman was a "Ghost City" just outside of Williamsburg. At its peak, more than 15,000 people called Penniman their home, and yet after The Great War, the town was abandoned and all of the houses were wrecked (disassembled) or moved intact to other locations. Given its location, it seems likely that a few of these Penniman houses landed in Poquoson.

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In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to nearby cities.

In 1938, the Richmond News Leader did a comprehensive article on The Ghost City of Penniman, and in that article, we learn that several Penniman houses were moved to "nearby cities."

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One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where theyre still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

One of the most popular houses at Penniman was the Georgia. These houses were designed by DuPont (which created the town during WW1), and after the war, many of these houses were moved to Norfolk, where they're still standing. Have you seen this house in Poquoson or nearby cities?

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The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

The Haskell was another Penniman house that may be lurking somewhere in Poquoson.

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And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman.

And the Arlington was another house built at Penniman and moved to other areas.

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You can read more about Penniman here.

How did they move the houses? Learn more about that here.

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Penniman: We Have Alleyne’s Last Name!

January 27th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

After that last blog, Milton, Mark and David (three faithful researchers that have been with me since the start of this project) went to work to find Alleyne’s last name.

This morning, I found an email from Mark Hardin, explaining that he’d found Alleyne.  Her full name was Alleyne Litell Conn, born in 1886 in Virginia (see full information below). Was she a “canary” at Penniman? (Canary was the name given to women who worked on the shell-loading line, pouring molten TNT into 75mm and 155mm shells. The highly toxic TNT would turn their skin a bright yellow.)

These women sacrificed so much, and yet due to strict censorship laws, published accounts of their life at Penniman were vague and almost polyannish.  There will be a day - hopefully - when I discover that one of these “Canaries” at Penniman left behind a written journal of her life at work, that tells what it was like to work at a WW1-era munitions plant.

And Mark explained here, he’s still trying to track down “Freckles.”

Below, you’ll see a few more of Steven Beauter’s wonderful photos. Steven - a sagacious and thorough historian - purchased these postcards and photos several years ago and shared them with me recently.

All vintage images below are courtesy of Steven Beauter. The newspaper clipping (about Alleyne) was found by Mark Hardin at newspapers.com. The death certificate for Alleyne was obtained by Milton Crum at ancestry.com.

Thanks to Steven Beauter for allowing me to use these images below.

To read the prior blog, click here.

Want to learn more about this fascinating “Ghost City”? Click here.

Learn more about the “Canaries”!

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Perhaps one day, well know more about the women who worked at Penniman.

Perhaps one day, we'll know more about the women who worked at Penniman. The workforce was overwhelmingly female. Twenty-four hours a day, women loaded TNT into 75mm and 155mm shells at Penniman. TNT poisoning was a persistent problem, with multitudinous side effects. Some women were rendered sterile by exposure to this toxin.

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FFF

The caption within the 100+ year old photo album tells us that this is "Edith" (last name unknown) at Penniman. I am more than a little curious about her watch. I've never seen a wrist watch on a woman in this time period. It almost looks like she's used a leather strap to put a man's watch on her wrist.

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f

The occasion is "Jean's birthday party" on August 2nd, 1918. These women are sitting by the York River at Penniman, Virginia.

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Hanging out at the beach (York River) was a frequent theme in all of these 100-year-old photos.

Hanging out at the beach (York River) was a frequent theme in all of these 100-year-old photos. The water was apparently very shallow for some distance. Those suits are delightful!

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From a postcard (also purchased by Steven Beauter), this is a view of H Street in Penniman. This model of house (covered in Ruberoid siding) is known as the six-room bungalow. Yes, thats its given name.

From a postcard (also purchased by Steven Beauter), this is a view of "H Street" in Penniman. This model of house (covered in Ruberoid siding) is known as the "six-room bungalow." Yes, that's its given name!

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And

All we know is that this is Penniman. There were no captions within the photo album for this fellow.

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If  you look behind this gent, you can see a couple posters.

If you look behind this gent, you can see a couple posters.

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The poster on the left

The poster on the left states "Kan the Kaiser."

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And

This seems to be an especially appropriate poster for Penniman.

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Thanks to Mark Hardin, we have a full name for Alleyne.

Thanks to Mark Hardin, we have a full name for Alleyne (Times Dispatch, March 1919).

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Haggerty

This photo, titled "Harvest," shows "Mrs. Haggarty, Jean and Alleyne." We now know that Jean's birthday was August 2nd (see photo at top of blog) and that Alleyne's last name was Conn.

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DD

Alleyne Conn died in 1953.

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When researchers study our times (21st Century), there will be no more postcards.

What a treasure to find a post card mailed from Penniman! The war had just ended five days prior. When researchers study our times (21st Century), there will be no more postcards.

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And the text is legible.

And the text is legible.

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First, my favorite. This is a picture of Freckles and the caption reads The trial of all of Penniman.

Freckle's genealogical records remain elusive.

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To read the prior blog, click here.

Want to learn more about this fascinating “Ghost City”? Click here.

Why were they called “Canaries”?

The People of Penniman - We Have Pictures!

January 25th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

Now we just need some names.

Thanks to Steven Beauter, a sharp-eyed and devoted historian and lover of history, we have pictures of the people of Penniman. A few years ago, Steven purchased an early 20th century photo album that he’d found on eBay. More recently, he discovered that I was seeking more information on Penniman. He contacted me through Facebook, and two weeks ago, we met at the Williamsburg Public Library and had a lovely visit.

As yet another testimony to the goodness of people, Steven permitted me to take his much-beloved photo album back to my home in Suffolk, where I carefully scanned more than two dozen images.

Below are a few of those wonderful images.

We have pictures, and I’m going to share all the captions and names within these pages. If there are any genealogists that can help us learn more about these people, please leave a comment! All photos are circa 1918.

Thanks so much to Steven for sharing this treasure. Thanks to him, we now have another insight into this ghost city.

Lastly, I would welcome the opportunity to do lectures. If your historical society/group would like to make arrangements to have a lecture on Penniman, please contact me at pennimanva@gmail.com.

All photos are courtesy of Steven Beauter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

Please forgive the obnoxious watermarks. After countless and blatant theft of images, I must resort to this.

Did you know that the Great Atlantic Fleet remained anchored near Penniman throughout the Great War?

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First, my favorite. This is a picture of Freckles and the caption reads The trial of all of Penniman.

First, my favorite. This is a picture of "Freckles" and the caption reads "The trial of all of Penniman."

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Name given

The caption reads, "You might think that Charlotte might be afraid of being bombed by that aeroplane but being in a munition plant, one gets used to that sort of thing. Besides, it was only a spot on the negative." In other captions, Edith and Charlotte are identified as close friends.

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Dick and anme

This photo is captioned "Effie and Dick."

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people

The office staff at Penniman.

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Bank

"First National Bank of Penniman."

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Penniman

"Lodge 9 at Penniman."

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ffffff

This photo is identified as Mr. Benesh's home. He was the superintendent of the plant.

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ffddd

"Noontime at Penniman." Check out those clothes! Were these women loading shells? Judging by their clothing, I don't think so. The shell loaders wore a company issued uniform.

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Cumberland

No information is given with this photo, but that's a Penniman house ("The Cumberland") behind this young couple. To read more about the houses at Penniman, see the link below.

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Haggerty

This photo offers the most clues. It's titled "Harvest" and reads, "Mrs. Haggart, Jean and Alleyne." You'd think with names like "Alleyne" these people could be found.

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Read one of my first blogs about Penniman here.

Want to learn more about the houses at Penniman? Here’s the link.

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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!

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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.

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House

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.

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ff

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.

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ff

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.

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Cute front

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

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HOUSE

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.

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Fireplace

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.

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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.

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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.

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catalog

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

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Florence

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.

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F

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."

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NOT a kit Old Hick

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Housing Rosemary, Part II

July 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

In re-starting a new life at the age of 58, one of my greatest challenges is (now) decision-making. Even small decisions are very difficult, and I’m finding that larger decisions are almost paralyzing.

My nearest and dearest friends tell me that I’ve made much progress in the last few months, and I’m so grateful for every encouraging word, but when it comes to hard choices, I don’t do very well.

Last night, I looked at a house that was so appealing for so many reasons. It’s brand-new on the market and will probably sell quickly, so I need to decide soon. And yet, after seeing the house, the old familiar chest pains returned, as did the sleepless night and morning panic attack.

The house has so many good features, such as a NON-OPEN floor plan. It has rooms and walls - a big plus. It has a functional kitchen with white appliances - another big plus. I loathe stainless steel. The roof is less than five years old, so it should last the rest of my life. That’s good.

Inside, the 29-year-old home has popcorn ceilings in every room (ick), an unusually small master bedroom (drat), no sunporch (yikes) and very few windows (see pictures). I’m a solar-powered soul, and I live on light.

The mechanical systems (plumbing, electrical) are first class, but the HVAC is 15+ years old and inefficient.

The best part - the lot. It’s just the right size, delightfully landscaped and the rear is fully fenced. And - it has a massive 1,008-square-foot garage in the back corner. With an epoxy floor. And oversized doors. And a second-floor. That garage makes me swoon, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s my inner-hoarder coming out. Maybe it’s 10 months of being stuffed inside a small rental, with all my worldly possessions in storage.

And perhaps the other “best part” is the neighborhood. It’s a lovely neighborhood and all the lots are at least 125-feet wide. It’s not in the wilderness, and yet everyone has their space.

The last bad thing - it was built in 1988, during  a housing boom in this area. It was not custom built, and I see some evidences of it being economically constructed.

But do I need a house that will last 100 years? No. I need a house that will last 20 years. After that, I’m leaving for assisted living or heaven (undecided as of yet).

So that’s the story. I welcome opinions, as I try to navigate this difficult decision.

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The best part is the lot. Its .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming. And its all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in.

The best feature of this house is the lot. It's .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming, and well landscaped. And it's all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in, and start the next chapter of our life.

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House

There's a 1-1/2 car attached garage, but there's a 1000+ square-foot garage in the back yard. The house has excellent curb appeal, and the lawn has been beautifully maintained.

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As you can see from the rear, it just doesnt have many windows.

As you can see from the rear, it just doesn't have many windows. There are only two windows on the side of the house, and only one on the second-floor rear. And yet, it does have a new roof...and that's how these internal conversations go - back and forth.

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You can read one of my most popular blogs here.

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Flipping Insane…

July 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 2 comments

Back in the day, “Flipper” was a television show, featuring a bottle-nose dolphin. Flipper was, in fact, a lot like Lassie with fins. I remember crowding around the television with the fam to watch Flipper on Saturday nights. (As I tell my daughter, ours was the last family on the block to get a color television.)

But now, this once lovely name - “Flipper” - has such ugly connotations. In 21st century America, “flippers” are investors (blech) who take fine old houses and rip out walls and replace original windows and create cathedral ceilings in homes that were never intended to have cathedral ceilings. Ick.

Today I was on Zillow looking at the new listings and I discovered a new listing in Portsmouth. Sadly, it’s another 1960s house that’s been gutted in the name of homogenizing every American house until it looks like something on HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized).

Zipping through the photos, I noticed a very odd “chandelier” which made me laugh out loud. Words defy me, so I’ll show the actual image.

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Wow

Yup, that light fixture looks a lot like a squirrel-cage blower, doesn't it? I wonder if this blower was harvested from the furnace? That blower, er, uh, "chandelier" sure looks dusty.

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And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

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To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in the history of a Virginia Ghost Town? 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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