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Posts Tagged ‘Rose Thornton’

Webster Groves, Missouri: Part III

August 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

Webster Groves has a multitude of interesting old kit homes, and one of my favorite finds is this 1910s Dutch Colonial, offered by Lewis Homes.

Lewis was one of six national companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs in the early 20th Century. Sears was probably the best known of the kit home companies and Aladdin was probably the largest, but Lewis Manufacturing (based in Bay City, Michigan) was a serious contender.

It’s been many years since I drove the streets of Webster Groves, looking for kit homes, and I’m not surprised that I missed a few back in the day, such as this Lewis Homes Dutch Colonial (”The Winthrop”).

Last week, I was back in the St. Louis area, visiting family members and decided to revisit Webster Groves. I didn’t have time to do a thorough survey, but in the four hours I spent there, I found an abundance of kit homes.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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Webster Groves

What's not to love? It possesses "unusual charm and dignity"! (1924 catalog)

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The Wintrho

That inset front porch is a defining feature of the Lewis Winthrop.

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I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

I sure do love a nice Dutch Colonial, and this one has a front porch!

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Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

Oh my, what a fine-looking home!

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And it looks good from every angle!

And it looks good from every angle!

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Home

In this image, you can see those distinctive attic windows.

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house

Who wouldn't love coming home to this every evening? As philosopher Samuel Johnson wrote, "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends."

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But heres where it gets frustrating.

But here's where it gets frustrating.

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

Here's a Lewis Winthrop I found in Toana, Virginia. Like the house shown above, it has no fireplace on the side, but rather three windows. Is this a pattern book version of the Lewis Winthrop? For now, I'm going to make an educated guess that these two homes are the Lewis Winthrop, because I haven't seen a pattern book match. But who knows! Time will tell!

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To read more about the Lewis Winthrop in Toana, Virginia, click here.

To read my prior blogs about Webster Groves, click here and here.

Interested in learning more about marked lumber on kit homes? Click here.

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Webster Groves, Missouri: Part II

July 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

A few days ago, I sent Rachel pictures of an intriguing bungalow I’d found in Webster Groves. I thought I’d seen it somewhere before, but she quickly identified it as “Design #122″ from Henry L. Wilson’s planbook (published 1907).

Henry L. Wilson was a Chicago architect who self-identified as “The Bungalow Man.” More than a century later, a search of his name brings up a surfeit of reprinted planbook catalogs on Amazon.

Planbooks were a forerunner of kit homes, but were far more popular. Kit homes included blueprints and building materials. Planbooks were blueprints sans building materials, and they became ubiquitous during the Bungalow Craze in early 20th Century America.

During my tour of Webster Groves, I found several kit homes (which I’ll feature in future blogs) and plan book homes, too, but this particular bungalow is a rare beauty and a fun find.

Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for providing vintage images.

Thanks to Webster Groves for having so many undiscovered treasures! More to come in the following days!

To learn more about why Americans abandoned their fancy Victorians for the simple bungalow, click here.

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Henry Wilson was a popular Midwestern architect that created and published several plan books in the first years of the 20th Century.

Henry Wilson was a popular Midwestern architect that created and published several plan books in the first years of the 20th Century. This design appeared in 1907.

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Henry L. Wilson identified himself as The Bungalow Man (1910 catalog).

Henry L. Wilson identified himself as "The Bungalow Man," and his love of the bungalow shines through in his designs. Shown above is "Design #122" (1907 catalog).

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House

Pretty progressive for its time, with a first-floor half bath. Notice the cold-air closet in the kitchen? I had never heard of this before. Apparently, the goal of the space is to "preserve the chill of the night air," and it provided a place to store vegetables.

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house house house

The three upstairs bedrooms are unsually spacious, and each has a window seat within the bump-out. The second-floor balcony is also a nice feature.

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House house

And here is Mr. Henry's 1907 design in the flesh. What a treasure to find a 100-year-old house in the heart of the bitter-cold Midwest with its original wooden windows. Major kudos to the owners for keeping this house in such gorgeous condition (and original too). I wonder if it still has the cold-air closet?

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A closer look at this beautiful old bungalow.

A closer look at this beautiful old bungalow.

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Nice comparison

Nice comparison of the original sketch and subject house.

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To read more about Webster Groves, click here.

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Webster Groves, Missouri: A Happy Memory

July 28th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In Spring 2002, my new book on Sears Homes had just been published, and the Webster Grove Public Library (Missouri) was one of the first places that offered me a speaking gig.

A few days before the big event, someone called me and asked, “Have you been out to the Webster Groves Library today?”

I told them I had not, and asked why. The response was, “I’ll pick you up in a minute. Ride out there with me. You need to see this.”

When we pulled up in front of the building, there was a massive banner spanning the tall columns outside and it said, “The Houses That Sears Built - Rosemary Thornton - This Friday at 7:00 p.m.”

I’d never seen a sight like it. My name - on a great big banner - way up high where the whole world could see it.

That night, I sold 40 books, which was about 32 books more than I’d ever sold before. People stood in line to buy a book. People stood in line, waiting patiently for me to autograph their book. People said many nice things to me. It was one of those defining moments in my life, where I first had hope that maybe - just maybe - I could turn this passion for old kit homes into a real job.

Earlier this month, I returned to Webster Groves to poke around and see if I could find some kit homes I might have missed the first time (in 2002).

Not surprisingly, I found several, but my #1 favorite was this Aladdin Sonoma, just about one mile from the Webster Groves Library.

I’ve been hoping to find a real-life example of this sweet little house for a long, long time so it was quite a treat to find it in Webster Groves.

To read a more recent blog on Webster Groves, click here.

Want to learn more about Aladdin kit homes? Click here.

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Because of its diminuitive size, this was known as an Aladdinette house.

Because of its diminutive size, this was known as an "Aladdinette" house (1919).

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An interesting feature of this house was that it had roll-away beds.

An interesting feature of this house was that it used a roll-away bed to save space.

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Oh, what a cute little house!

Oh, what a cute little house! This "Sonoma" is the mirror image of the house shown above, and the pergola and exterior door has been converted into an enclosed porch. It's hard to see from this angle, but the roofline for the original house is a perfect match to the catalog page.

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That extra-deep eave is missing from the chimney

That extra-deep eave is missing from the chimney but I'd surmise that it went missing after the first roof replacement job in the 1940s.

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Houw

That extra bit of depth on the eave by the chimney is distinctive, but would have been a hard item to countenance when it came to maintenance (1919). I've flipped the image (above) to match the house in Webster Groves. Notice the clipped gable.

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The view down the long side is also a good match.

The view down the long side is also a good match.

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And last but not least, this darling home still has its original windows.

And last but not least, this darling home still has its original 9/1 windows.

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What a fine house! And to think that I found it in Webster Groves!

What a fine house! And to think that I found it in Webster Groves!

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To learn more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

Want to learn more about Aladdin kit homes? Click here.

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Veritable Veneration for the Aladdin Venus

April 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, Elisabeth Witt of Wisconsin contacted me and said she thought there were a few kit homes in Shorewood, Wisconsin. I went to Realtor.com and entered Shorewood to do a quickie search, and one of the first hits was an Aladdin Venus! Click here to see the listing.

The Aladdin Venus was a popular house, but what makes this house in Shorewood so interesting is that it’s the only Venus I’ve seen that retains its original wooden awning.

And before we get to the pictures, I wonder if the Realtor knows it’s an Aladdin kit home? If so, there’s not a peep about it in the listing!

Thanks so much to Elisabeth for sending the photos!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus Ive seen with that wooden awning intact!

Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus I've seen with that wooden awning intact! And the rest of the house is in lovely condition, minus the windows on the side. Best of all, this house is for sale and if you click on the link above, you'll find an abundance of interior photos. Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for getting this photo!

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Detail of that wooden awning.

Detail of that wooden awning.

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The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house.

The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house, with a lot of fun details, like those paneled columns, the L-shaped front porch, and the star-pattern of windows on the home's left side (shown here). It also has oversized eaves and the roof slopes over those upstairs windows. When you look at the interior photos, that slope is dramatic on the 2nd floor. (1919 catalog)

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The Venus was offered in two floor plans.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. Venus #1 was smaller (18 by 24).

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One house

Venus #2 was 20' by 26' and a couple other minor differences.

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House

"It continually attracts attention from people walking by..."

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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What a pretty little Aladdin Venus!

What a pretty little Aladdin Venus! But the removal of four windows is a curiousity!

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Heres a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

Here's a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

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Another weary Venus, and this ones in Norfolk (38th Street).

Another weary Venus, and this one's in Norfolk (38th Street).

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Heres an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this ones exhausted. Its on 35th Street, in Park Place. At one time, Park Place was solid working class and many classic bungalows. Now its a blighted, high-crime area thats trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this one's exhausted. It's on 35th Street, in Park Place (Norfolk, VA). At one time, Park Place was solid working class neighborhood with many classic bungalows. Now it's a blighted, high-crime area that's trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

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Lets end on a happy note. :)  Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

Let's end on a happy note. :) Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

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To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Good-bye Flocked Wallpaper, Part II

April 19th, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

Today, we moved the furniture back into the dining room! This project is officially finished!

And boy am I glad to have an entire dining room’s worth of furniture OUT of the living room.

Below are the final photos.

To read about the whole project, click here.

Interested in learning more about Sears Homes? Click here.

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house

The hardwood floors came out beautifully and really made all the difference. It really adds warmth and a nice color. Mr. Hubby is trying to talk me into removing the wall-to-wall carpet from the living room and hallways, but I'm not keen on that.

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Sfter

I also re-upholstered the dining room chairs in white, to complement the white walls. The material is called "Pleather" which just cracks me up. Does that mean it comes from plcows?

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ffefffe

A fun comparison of the before and after shots.

Good-bye Flocked Wallpaper

April 16th, 2015 Sears Homes 7 comments

Updated! See the latest photos in Part II!

When we first looked

When we first looked at our current home in Norfolk, we really liked the flocked wallpaper. It was very 1970s and we liked the 1970s, but as we started painting the other rooms, we realized the dining room was pretty "tired."The wallpaper had turned brown in some places. .

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Flock

One of the first things we did when moving in (four years ago) was to take down the sheers.

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chandelier

Last year, I was able to replace the chandelier, and that improved the room a lot.

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sconces

The matching sconces added some flair, too!

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house house

Best of all, this photo shows the detail on that 1970s wallpaper.

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pretty

When I started pulling down the old blue wallpaper, it went very quickly.

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came off in sheets

In fact, it came off in whole sheets. Easiest wallpaper removal I've ever done. And boy oh boy, was it dirty. I was surprised by how much fine dust was trapped in all that flocking.

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wallpaper glue

The walls in our 1962 ranch had never been painted (which was a surprise).

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house

But the bigger surprise was that the walls were covered in wallpaper glue. That had to be removed before we could start painting. And that turned into a horrible mess. I used a combination of hot water and vinegar, but that didn't do much to break down the glue. At one point, I was ready to drop my sponge into the bucket and give up on the whole project. Ultimately, I washed the walls, I scrubbed the walls, and I used a plastic putty knife to scrape all that mess off. Probably 30% of the time invested in this project went to cleaning that gooey mess off the walls.

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white

Once the wallpaper glue was gone, the project went much more quickly. And when the walls were primed, the room looked a whole lot better and brighter.

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I love this shot because it shows our two ladders in the two rooms.

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We painted from the ceiling down. I kept hoping we'd spill a gallon of paint on the tired blue carpet but no such luck. The cleaner the room looked, the worse the carpet looked.

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the next one

Wayne insisted on painting his part (ceiling and under chair rail) with a brush. It seems he's highly allergic to using paint rollers. That's the kind of thing a man should tell his wife BEFORE marriage.

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house house house

After sending this photo to a friend, I noticed how filthy the carpet was by the kitchen door (closed).

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dirty dirty

It was icky enough that I decided I could no longer stand it.

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house dirty

So I sliced it the 36-year-old carpet into bits and tore it up. And this is what I found under the carpet. The pad under the carpet had melded with the varnish in the floor, and left behind this awful mess.

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poor mr ringer

Wayne Ringer went to work, pulling out 3,482 staples in the floor, and then spent another couple hours scraping the black goo off our red oak hardwood floors. It was pretty nasty stuff.

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badly damaged

At the entrance to the kitchen, it looked really bad.

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house house

Two fellows from Kittrell Hardwood Floors (Portsmouth) showed up and once the big sander came in the house, things changed dramatically - in a hurry!

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house floor

Donnie from Kittrell Hardwood Floors told us that the average oak floor can be re-finished a dozen times.

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starting

After the first sanding, he patched a few holes.

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Done

The entrance by the kitchen door cleaned up beautifully with only a few black dots left behind (where several hundred staples once resided).

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comoparison

A fun comparison between the spot at the kitchen door (before and after).

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house house

We had Kittrell come back three days later and put down a second coat of polyurethane.

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house stunning

When my eldest daughter heard that we'd done away with the blue flocked wallpaper, she was almost upset. But once she saw this photo, she said, "Okay, I have to say that looks pretty good." :)

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And the sconces look mighty nice with the blue paint!

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house house oouse

Still have a few spots to touch up here and there, but it's mostly done!

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Looks pretty snappy!

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dining room

Now we just need to put the furniture back.

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house house house

All in all, a rousing success!

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Kittrell

And Kittrell Floor Service (in Portsmouth) did a fine job!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Sears Homes are on Facebook! Click here to join!

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Sometimes Buying a House is a Real Roller Coaster Ride…

April 14th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the last 37 years, I’ve bought and sold a lot of houses and every single time, it’s an extremely stressful experience. However this real estate agent in Ermelo (in the Netherlands) found a fun and unique way to market this brick house.

He built a small roller coaster track throughout the five-bedroom house. An in-house speaker system gives a room-by-room narration of the home’s many features.

It’ll be interesting to see if the homes’ buyer wants the roller coaster to remain!

I would!

To see the full youtube video of the tour, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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I don't even like roller coasters, but this looks like fun!

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House

The coaster enters through the garage and then into the basement.

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To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611: Unusually Well Planned

April 2nd, 2015 Sears Homes 2 comments

These last few months, I’ve been doing a proper survey of kit homes in Hampton, Virginia. I went out yesterday to check one last section one last time (which I’ve now visited twice), when this handsome bungalow jumped out of the bushes and called my name.

This Gordon Van Tine Model #611 is on a main drag (300-block of North Mallory) which leaves me scratching my head. How did I miss it?

That will remain one of the great mysteries of the universe, together with, where did I put my husband’s truck keys.

To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

Gordon Van Tine #611, as seen in the 1926 catalog.

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One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

One of its distinctive features is the oversized porch and deck.

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What a house!

Notice how the porch roof sits within the primary roof. Interesting feature.

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Oh yeah, baby! :D

Sadly, some vinyl siding salesman has pillaged the house, but other than that, it's a nice match. The railings have been replaced, but that's a relatively minor affair.

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Good match on this side, too!

Good match on this side, too!

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So

And did I mention it's on the main drag? :)

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To read more about the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

There’s even more about Hampton here.

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Burnt Ordinary Kit Homes: Lewis Winthrop

March 23rd, 2015 Sears Homes 3 comments

Believe it or not, that title is not “word salad” or aphasia: It will make sense in a minute.

On Sunday (March 22), my husband and I visited Williamsburg and (per my request) we drove to Toano (a few miles west of Williamsburg) so that I could look for houses from Penniman. I didn’t see any Penniman houses, but this little pretty caught my eye. I wasn’t sure where I’d seen it, but my first impression was “Lewis Manufacturing.”

This morning, I looked it up and sure enough, it’s a Lewis Winthrop.  (Lewis was a kit-home company based in Bay City, Michigan which [like Sears and Aladdin] sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog.)

As to the title, Toano (in James City County, another interesting term) was founded in the late 1800s, and this little fork in the road was originally known as “Burnt Ordinary.” (Yeah, it puzzled me, too.) Like so many of our modern terms “ordinary” meant something a little different 200 years ago.

An ordinary was a place where food and drink was served. In the 1700s, there was an “ordinary” at that site known as John Lewis’ Ordinary, and it was subsequently named Fox’s Ordinary, which burned down in 1780. In 1781, George Washington’s cartographer marked the area as “Burnt Brick Ordinary.”

In later years, it was designated “Toano” which is an Indian word for “high ground.”

Whilst driving through the tiny town of Toano, I spotted this house and took a picture with my TV-phone (as my husband calls it).

Best of all, it was my first sighting of a Lewis Winthrop, and it’s in beautiful shape!

To read about another Lewis Home, click here.

What’s a Penniman? Click here!

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As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons.

As soon as I spotted this house, it tickled the neurons. I knew I'd seen it somewhere.

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This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it!

This morning, I pulled out my catalogs and found it! (1924 Lewis Homes).

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That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

That indented porch was a feature that caught my eye.

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On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when its time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappears. This has has vinyl siding, so its easy to cover up such changes.

On the upstairs, the bathroom window is gone, which is not uncommon. These houses were built with tubs, and when it was time to put in a shower, the bathroom window often disappeared. This home had vinyl siding installed, so its easy to cover up such changes. Notice also the tiny closet window is gone. Removing this window creates a little bit more space in an already tiny closet. The "sewing room" (on the right rear) has no window on the side, which is also a good match to the house in Toano.

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Close-up on the sewing room side.

Close-up on the "sewing room" side.

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Toana

Unfortunately, that room addition on the side looks a lot like a mobile home.

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That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

That darn tree made photographing the old house extra tough.

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Pretty house!

Pretty house! And I'm pleased that I "guessed" the right angle for my shot!

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Let’s Go to Buckroe! (Hampton, Virginia)

March 16th, 2015 Sears Homes 6 comments

Last week, my friend Cynthia (a fellow old-house lover!) drove me around Hampton, Virginia searching for kit homes from the early 20th Century. We had a wonderful morning and a lot of fun, but after 3-1/2 hours, I was worn out!

We visited several early 1900s neighborhoods, but found nothing remarkable, and then we went to the Buckroe area. (Having been raised in Hampton Roads, I remember a little ditty from a radio advertisement: “Let’s go to Buckroe!” Advertising must be a powerful medium because I haven’t heard that jingle in 40 years, but still remember it clearly. And yet I couldn’t find it on youtube or google. Strange.)

I’d been through the Buckroe section before, but apparently, I’d missed the sweet spots. With Cynthia’s help, I found a surfeit of Sears Homes I’d never seen before.

Check out the photos below for a real treat, and if you know anyone who loves old Hampton, please send them a link to this blog! :)

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In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and published by Susan Miller.

In the early 1900s and into the 1960s, Buckroe Beach was a happening place. I'm not sure what happened to Buckroe, but the area by the beach is now open field. I'm told that Buckroe Amusement Park was closed in 1985 and torn down in 1991. What a pity. This photo is from www.gardenrant.com, and is copyright Susan Miller.

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To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, visit Susan’s website here. Lots of wonderful pictures.

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While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look.

While driving down Seaboard Avenue, I spotted this darling little cottage and asked Cynthia to back up so I could get another look. Note the three windows down the side? That caught my eye, as did the cut-out shuters.

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Oh my stars, its a Sears Claremont!  (1928)

Oh my stars, it's a Sears Claremont! (1928)

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Such a pretty little thing.

Such a pretty little thing. And other than the door, it's perfect!

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I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, theyre original too!

I thought about asking Cynthia if we could come back after dark and steal the shutters. It was tempting. And yes, they're original too! As are the Cypress shakes on the exterior.

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Cute, isnt it? And such a nice match.

Cute, isn't it? And such a nice match.

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Less than a block away on Seaboard, this Lewiston was just waiting to be discovered. That's the car window in the upper right of the frame. Oopsie.

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The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Lewiston, as seen in the 1930 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

Also found this pretty thing in the 900-block of North Mallory.

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Its a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

It's a Sears Somerset, looking much like the day it was built.

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fefe

Aladdin was a company which, like Sears, sold entire kit homes through mail-order.

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This is an Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable.

Just around the corner on Atlantic Avenue, I found this Aladdin Madison with an altered front gable. Due to the trees, you can't see the side, but that little bumpout is present on the far right of the home (just as it should be).

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assess

Here's a close-up of the Aladdin Madison from the 1931 catalog.

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Heres a photo from the Hampton Assessors website.

Here's a photo from the Hampton Assessor's website. In this photo, you can see that bump-out on the side, and also see how that front gable started life as an arched entry.

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Last but not least is the Fullerton. Id found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

Last but not least is the Fullerton. I'd found this house in the Buckroe area several months earlier, but this time, there was no big red truck parked in the front yard, making it far easier to get a good shot of the house. This is in the 200-block of East Taylor.

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What a nice match!

What a nice match, right down to the flared columns!

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To see an earlier blog I did on the kit homes of Hampton, click here.

To see more vintage pictures of Buckroe, click here.

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