Posts Tagged ‘rosemary and penniman’

Architectural History and “Facebook” are Just Not Compatible

January 7th, 2019 Sears Homes No comments

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”

That’s a quote from Jonathan Swift, who died in 1745. (For the youngsters, that was a couple years before the internet was invented.)

There’s a photo of a purported “Sears Roebuck” house that has now had millions of views (thanks to Facebook), and people are eating it up with a spoon.

As a historian, it is painful to see misinformation spread like wildfire.

First and foremost, if it’s a “Sears kit house,” it should look like a Sears kit house. If it can’t be matched to one of the 370 designs that Sears offered in their 38 years in this business, then you’ll have to find other ways to authenticate (original blueprints, marked lumber, shipping labels, etc.). Absent that, it’s just not a Sears House.

And if it was built pre-1908, it can not be a “Sears & Roebuck” house.

Every now and then, I’ll try to jump into these frays on Facebook and I’ll state, “It’s a lovely house but it’s not a Sears House” and invariably, I’ll hear the same comments from the percipient literati of that site:

1) You don’t know everything. Maybe it’s a new model.

2) And what makes you think you’re an expert?

3) The Realtor couldn’t post that if it wasn’t true.

4) My grandmother said it is, and you say it’s not. You’re just wrong. Accept it.

5) U R a moran.

And worse. Much, much worse.

Take a gander at these photos. They’re worth a lot of words!



The listing states that this house was built in 1926. Okay, that's believable - IF they used building materials salvaged from a house built in 1885. This house predates the 20th Century. Of that, I am sure. Thin porch posts, frippery and fretwork and gable ornaments are all classic indicators of a late 19th Century house.



Yes, it's a great house but it is NOT a Sears House.


Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.

Allegedly, this house (Edison, TN) was destroyed by fire recently.



Nice porch on this not-a-sears-kit-home house!


If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Heres the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image.

If it is a Sears House, it should look like a Sears House! Here's the Sears Whitehall, side-by-side with the original catalog image. Those two pictures are a good match!


Come see Rose in person on Monday night!

Want a laugh? Check out these pictures from Zillow.

Penniman Houses in Norfolk! Enjoy the pictures!



Norfolk and Penniman: A Talk on January 14th! OPEN TO ALL!

January 2nd, 2019 Sears Homes 4 comments

Everyone loves the story of a ghost town, and the story of Penniman is especially intriguing because so little is known about this WW1-era village, which was home to more than 15,000 people at its peak!

And, it’s especially important to Norfolk, because about 70 houses from Penniman were transported by barge to Norfolk and surrounding communities.

Monday night (the 14th), I’ll be giving a fun talk on Penniman for the Colonial Place/Riverview Civic League at the Eggleston Garden Center at 110 LaValette in Norfolk (near the Norfolk Zoo).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) starts at 6:30 and there will be books to sell (and sign) after the talk.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

All are invited to come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.



The caption on this photo says simply, "Freckles: The Trial of All of Penniman." At a lecture someone asked me, "How do you know that the caption was referencing the DOG?"


Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this on eBay.

Thanks to Steve Beauter, we have pictures like this, showcasing life at Penniman. Steve found this photo album on eBay.



His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?



This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.



After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and about 70 of the houses landed in Norfolk.



Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.



Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.


To read more about Penniman, click here.


If You Believe in the Power of Prayer…

July 1st, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

I sure could use them now.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’m back in a valley and struggling to rise to my feet again. Part of the challenge is that the shock is wearing off, and so many memories are returning. Some are good memories but many are bad memories of conversations with Wayne. Conversations that I didn’t understand at the time, but I understand them now.

My prayer-warrior friend Tracie tells me that sometimes, we need to focus our prayers. And right now, I need “the peace of God that passes all understanding.”

I also need to find a home in a beautiful place. My worldly possessions are scattered hither and yon in storage units. I’m living - camped out really - in a rental unit that was supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately, I’ve been here almost a year now.

Why am I stuck? I don’t know. Should I keep hoping for the best or “embrace the suck”?

I always believed in the power of visualization and setting goals. I believed that God answers prayers in a way that brings the maximum blessing. I believed that the universe was a friendly place.

All three of those beliefs have been shattered into a billion pieces.

I don’t know what to believe.

Never in a million years did I think my husband would commit suicide. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a renter at the age of 58, with my favorite things stuffed in storage units. Never in a million years did I think that my much-loved husband would do some of the things that he did, designed to create maximum confusion and despair after his death.

Never in a million years.

My daughter said that *that* should be our new mantra - “Never in a million years.”

So here I sit on the first day of July, pouring my heart out on a blog, trying to find my way out of limbo and into The New Normal™.

I’ve prayed until I’m blue in the knees, so I ask my friends for your prayers.

With much gratitude,

Rosemary and Teddy.



This image speaks to me, and I'm not sure why. There's desolation but there's also hope. For some time, I've felt trapped in a sort of limbo, and I need to find the way out. The image is from "What Dreams May Come."


To read about Rose’s new book, click here.


The Children Are Coming!

June 13th, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

Yesterday, I was notified that the books are printed and will soon be arriving!

And I’m happy to report that if the trend continues, this “first printing” (small run of only 200 books) will be sold out in less than 30 days. After that, I’m going to take a little time and decide what’s next. There’s every possibility that the 200 books will be it.

A heartfelt thank you to those who have ordered a copy.


*To order your very own copy of “Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City,” click on the Paypal button below. Price is $29.95 plus $6.00 shipping. This first printing will be only 200 copies, each of which will be signed by the author.


The Whisnant family, in front of Penniman bank, have waited a very long time for this book.

The Whisnant family, in front of Penniman bank, have waited a very long time for this book.


My books are probably enjoying the ride.

My books are probably enjoying the ride, courtesy Saia Freight Lines. (Image is courtesy Saia, Inc., kind of, but in reality, I lifted this image from their website without permission, so let's hope they're feeling courteous.)



Front cover of the Penniman book.


To order your very own copy of “Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City,” click on the Paypal button below. Price is $29.95 plus $6.00 shipping. This first printing will be only 200 copies, each of which will be signed by the author.



The Last Seven Books…

May 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nothing has been “orderly” about the last 12 months, and as a result, book orders have been delayed and a few orders fell between the cracks. Worst of all, several boxes of books got packed into storage which now (according to Harrison Moving) can’t be retrieved without a minimum $160 fee.

Every single thing in my life took a hit from The Bad Thing™.


I have seven books left. That’s it for now. After these seven are gone, I’ll probably do one more reprinting and then that’s the end of the run.

Horise I, Horsie II and Horsie III are guarding the last seven books.



The last seven copies of "The Houses That Sears Built."


To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Penniman is another fascinating story. More on that here.


“Happy Widow’s Day”?

May 4th, 2017 Sears Homes 37 comments

This isn’t a post about architecture or Sears Homes or the ghost town of Penniman, Virginia. It’s about surviving to the one-year mark of the worst tragedy I have ever known.

Someone told me that yesterday (May 3rd) was “National Widow’s Day.” I don’t know much about that, but I do know that it’s been a little more than a year since my husband killed himself.

Grief is a messy business and way too much folks seem to think that after the earth has spun around the sun 365 times, a widow should be “over it.”

I understand their position: It’s tough to see someone in pain and it seems that grief - a type of extreme emotional pain - is especially difficult to watch.

My husband was seven years my senior and I’d always assumed that I’d outlive him, but not like this and not so soon. I always assumed that I’d be a “good old widow” and cheerfully reminisce and cherish the memories of our long life together.

The suicide tainted everything. Every single thing.

It’s true that “suicide is a death like no other.”

Obviously, my husband wasn’t happy. Obviously, he didn’t want to grow old with me. Obviously, this wasn’t the love affair I thought it was. Obviously, I was not the wife that he wanted, and obviously, this wasn’t the life that he wanted.

Or maybe it was.

But I’ll never know. There were no clues and no hints and not a whiff of an idea of what he was planning. April 18th, 2016, he dropped me off at the Norfolk International Airport so that I could travel to Boston and see my middle daughter. As soon as I landed in Boston (five hours later), I called him and asked him how he was doing. He was starting a big court case on Tuesday morning and I’d been very worried about his health.

He answered my questions and then started an argument over the phone. His words were so vitriolic that I was stunned.

I asked him why he was doing this.

He simply continued with the angry words. Wayne knew, “he who asks the questions controls the conversation.” He was in control of what was going to be our last conversation. I don’t and won’t remember how that conversation ended and/or who hung up first. One year later, it’s a path in my brain that must remain barricaded and closed and permanently sealed, lest I slip into insanity.

About 10:00 am, he sent me a text claiming that his next action would be my fault. It was a text that was both puzzling and terrifying. Yet not in my worst nightmare could I have imagined what would come next. As soon as that text had been sent, he turned off his phone and left his office at City Hall. Within 90 minutes, he’d be dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

For several weeks, I slept at friends’ homes and lived out of a Harris Teeter shopping bag. I lost more than 30 pounds in two months. Three or four times a week, I returned to my beautiful home in Norfolk long enough to get fresh clothes and then took off again. Sometimes, I traveled to see friends in Illinois. For a couple weeks, I stayed at a religious retreat in northern Virginia. A couple times, I spent the night in the car. So much of that time is lost to memory. I was in deep shock, and didn’t even realize it.

Family and friends feared that I was slipping away. There were days that I thought that insanity might provide some relief to the excruciating emotional pain. For the first time in my long life, I understood - with great clarity - why people become homeless and why they become alcoholics and drug addicts. I wanted to slip under the radar of society and take my Harris Teeter bag and disappear into a crowd somewhere and live out the rest of my days, weeks or years with “my people” - the hopeless homeless.

Lyrics from my favorite song “Don’t Laugh At Me” (Mark Willis) became crystal clear.

I lost my wife and little boy when
Someone crossed that yellow line
The day we laid them in the ground
Is the day I lost my mind
And right now I’m down to holdin’
This little cardboard sign…

Would people say that the day Wayne died was “the day I lost my mind”? People had cracked up under less. Would this be the event that cost me my sanity?

As I slipped further into the deep black well of hopelessness, friends tried desperately to lean over the rock-ribbed walls and throw a rope down to me. The problem was, I was too cold and too weak to grab onto it. The turning point came sometime in Summer 2016 (I don’t remember the date). A friend - someone that had been on the periphery of my life - appeared and said, “You’re going to come stay with me. I have a spare bedroom in my house and I live out in the country. Pack up some things and come out tonight.”

For four months, I lived with my friend on a peanut farm. Each evening, when she returned home from work - too tired to take a deep breath - she’d stand at the foot of my bed and talk with me, and pray with me. Every morning, she’d greet me with a smile and pray for me and help me remember that I was loved.

There was another friend that I’ll talk more about later. These were two of my angels (and there were so many others), who kept me going when I no longer had the will, the strength, the desire or the vision to face one more day.Without them, I would have been another statistic.

Throughout this last year, I have literally craved love. Over on Facebook, at my “Sears Homes” group, I asked the 1,600 members to post a few happy words about how my books had blessed their lives. I read that thread again and again and again.


About six months after Wayne’s suicide, I moved into a rental home where I’m living now. I remain hopeful that - in time - I’ll find a home to purchase, and can then unpack my things and restore some order and structure to my life.

I know that several readers of this blog are prayer warriors, and believe in the healing power of prayer. If that describes you, I’m so very grateful for your love and your prayers. Please know that at the darkest times of my year, I’ve visualized those many prayers being poured into my soul, and that imagery (and the love behind it) has brought me much comfort.

Because of Wayne’s suicide, I’ll never be the same. This has forever changed me. But because of Wayne’s suicide, I’ll always be part of a “club” that understands the full depths of human suffering, as well as the unbelievable amounts of divine love and genuine kindness that can be found in a stranger’s heart.

Each day is still a mighty struggle, but each day, I strive to find one thing for which to be sincerely grateful. And many days, I find several things.

Perhaps that’s what healing looks like.

Let’s hope.

* *  *

Please leave a comment below.


Horise and Rosemary in Illinois

These days, I have a new travel companion: A cute little stuffed horse that's been named "Horsie." Here's Horsie and Rosemary in a selfie, taken in southwestern, Illinois.


Horsie gazes longingly out the window in Elsah, Illinois.

Horsie gazes longingly out the window in Elsah, Illinois.


Horsie has mixed feelings about flying home to the modest rental. More than 50% of my worldly belongings are in storage, while we hope to find a suitable home to buy in a suitable place. Its taking a lot longer than I thought, which is adding to the stress.

Horsie always enjoys flying in an aeroplane. It's all that darn waiting and security and hassles BEFORE that drive Horsie nuts. On a recent security screening, Horsie endured a very personal examination which left him feeling rather humiliated.


Horsie is glad to be back on solid ground. Flying is nerve-wracking for so many reasons, and ever more so when youre already stressed from other life events.

Horsie is glad to be back on solid ground at RDU (Raleigh/Durham airport). Flying is nerve-wracking for so many reasons, and ever more so when you're already stressed from other life events.


I prefer to end on a happy note, so theres a picture of another Horsie (tentatively named Horsie II) thats on its way to my house.

Horsie has brought me so much joy that I decided to add another Horise to the fold. Tentatively named "Horsie II," he's now living with Horsie I in my home in Virginia.



Vincent Van Gogh - The Good Samaritan. Vincent Van Gogh was staying in an institution for the mentally ill (following a psychotic break) when he painted this work, in May 1890. Saving someone who has been given up for dead is incredibly hard work, as this picture so beautifully shows.