When I first started playing with kit houses in 1999, Sears Homes were my specialty. It had taken me several months to memorize all those 370 designs that Sears offered during their 32 years in the kit house business (from 1908-1940). Before long I realized I had to start learning the designs offered by other companies, too. Working with friends Dale and Rebecca, we made countless copies of our dusty old kit home catalogs and organized those thousands of pages into a comprehensive field guide to kit homes sold by Aladdin (Bay City, MI), Lewis Manufacturing (also Bay City), Sterling Homes (Bay City, too), Harris Brothers (Chicago), Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa), and Montgomery Ward (Chicago).
And when I moved to Norfolk in 2006, I was surprised to find a prevalence of Aladdin kit homes in the area. Aladdin, I later learned, had a mill in Wilmington, NC (a lot closer to Hampton Roads than Chicago and Bay City!).
Below are some of the kit homes I’ve found in the Lafayette/Winona section of Norfolk. The most remarkable find was the Montgomery Ward Model #101. Unfortunately, the subject house in the Lafayette area has endured a great deal of insensitive remodeling which has altered its appearance.
First, my favorite: The Aladdin Plaza on Lafayette Blvd. The catalog image (from a 1919 catalog) is shown first:
Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog
One of my all-time favorite Aladdin Plazas is on Lafayette Blvd in Norfolk. It's in wonderful condition and looks much like the line drawing.
The Pomona (named after the city in California) was a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow.
Aladdin Pomona, complete with white picket fence! Unfortunately, the windows have been replaced, but it does have its original siding.
Trees, cars, boats, and miscellaneous little people prevented a better photo, but this is a nice little Aladdin Pomona, and it still has the original diamond-muntin window in the living room.
Aladdin Pasadena from the 1919 catalog
Little old cottage from Pasadena...
If you look close, you'll see what the original porch looked like on this house.
And you can see the remnant of the beams on this house in Lafayette.
The Aladdin Sheffield was a popular house. I know of three in Norfolk.
This Aladdin Sheffield is a real treasure, and even has the "bumped out" vestibule as shown in the original catalog drawing.
Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog. Note, this Shadowlawn has a porte cochere.
And its porte cochere is still in use!
The Aladdin Winthrop. Awnings not included.
The distinguishing feature of this Aladdin Winthrop are the windows in side of the bay and the four windows across the front. Also note how the front porch spans the full width of the house. This was a special delight because I'd missed this one on prior trips through the 'hood and just found it this week!
And onto Sears! This is the Sears Elsmore - a hugely popular house for Sears
My favorite feature of this house is that it's painted the same colors as the catalog picture!! Notice, it has the recessed entry way.
Sears Alhambra from the 1919 catalog
Sears Alhambra? Eh, maybe. Maybe NOT. If anyone knows the owners of this house, I'd love to get inside and find out if it's a Sears Alhambra. It might be, but I wouldn't bet money on it. An interior inspection would reveal if this is indeed a true Sears Alhambra.
**THIS** is what an Alhambra should look like! This house is in the 1500-block of County Street in downtown Portsmouth.
Sears Argyle from the Sears Modern Homes catalog
This Argyle has some wear and tear on it, but you can still see a sweet little Argyle hiding in there. This is just outside the border of the Lafayette Winona area.
Original image from an early 1910s Montgomery Ward catalog. This is Wardway Model #101.
Wardway #101. My favorite find of the day. This house has been severely aluminized and the original windows are nothing but a memory, but this house has several very unique characteristics that make me think it's probably the Wardway #101. Two of those unique features are bay windows on the front and side. The porch has been extended around to the side (fairly recently, judging by the joinery) and the substitute siding has really distorted the home's original appearance.
To see more pictures of the kit homes in Hampton Roads, click here.
To buy a copy of Rose’s book, click here.
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