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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 4)

April 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of their Crescent Hill “Sears Homes” being promoted in a local brochure were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure - with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes - was not to be changed.

It was very upsetting. Those who write about history have a solemn charge to make sure it is kept pure and honest. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes.  (Reader’s Note: This blog is Part 4 of a series.  Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here. Blogs with photos of Aladdin kit homes are labeled with Roman numerals.)

The beauty part of identifying Sears Homes is matching the houses to their original catalog image.

Below is one such example:

And the Sears Lynnhaven. There are two in Hopewells Crescent Hills.

The Sears Lynnhaven from the 1936 catalog.

Sears Lynnhaven #2

Sears Lynnhaven in Hopewell. Nice match!

Now that’s a nice match. The house in Hopewell looks just like the catalog image. That’s what makes this topic so fun and so intriguing and so delightful. And the cold hard fact is, if you can not match up a suspected kit home to an image in a vintage mail-order catalog, you got nothing.  The house must be a spot-on match (minus remodelings, substitute sidings, etc.).

And that’s my complaint with Hopewell’s purported “Sears Home” at 105 Prince George Avenue. The brochure offered at the Hopewell Visitor’s Center identifies this house as (and I’m quoting), “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

I kid you not.

That’s all the information offered on this house.

Speaking as someone who’s written several books on this topic, and as someone who’s traveled all over this country for the last 11 years, seeking and finding kit homes of every name and nature, I can say with authority, I have no idea what they’re talking about. Sears offered 370 designs of kit homes. Their very first catalog had 22 designs within its 44 pages, and not one of those designs was called, “Original Sears Model.”

There is no “original Sears model” (remodeled or not).

Further, I’m of the opinion that the house at 105 Prince George Avenue is not a Sears Home. And if it was a Sears Home, I’d show you a catalog image so you - the reader - could contrast and compare the two pictures.

But on this house - I got nothing. No idea. So here’s the house in Hopewell that the brochure identifies as, “Original Sears model (remodeled).”

Frustrating

That vinyl picket fence might be from Sears. Maybe that's what they're talking about.

To read more about identifying Sears Homes, click here.

To see Danville’s amazing collection of Sears Homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Kit Homes: And They’re Not in Crescent Hills (Part II)

March 23rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In downtown Hopewell, not too far from the water, there’s an impressive collection of early 1910s Aladdin Kit Homes. While the city of Hopewell has put its focus on their eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they’ve well-nigh ignored these many blocks of little Aladdin Homes.

The eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills are fine-looking residences. The cluster of Aladdin homes are definitely more modest, but they also have a story to tell. They tell about Dupont coming to Hopewell in the early 1900s and building a factory and creating jobs and investing in modest homes for their workers.

And it’s a part of Hopewell’s history that’s getting lost - quickly. Judging by the landscape in this neighborhood (where the Aladdin Homes are located), countless numbers of these modest homes have already been leveled. Perhaps as people become aware that this is a piece of Hopewell’s history, the rest of these houses might be spared.

Part 1 (click here) focused on the many Aladdin Edisons in this part of town. In Part 2, we’ll focus on the Aladdin Plymouth and the Aladdin Burbank. This area has countless examples of both houses, but due to heavy traffic, late afternoon sun and general malaise, I was only able to photograph a handful. If you know of the location of other houses in Hopewell that look like these, drop me a line.

As mentioned in the prior post, this large collection of houses was ordered by Dupont, as housing for their many workers.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

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A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

A close-up of the text from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth, as seen in the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Plymouth

This Aladdin Plymouth does not have a fireplace (as shown above), but fireplaces were optional extras, and cost extra, too!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison!

Floorplan for the Aladdin Plymouth shows it was also a fairly small house, but bigger than the Edison! Note, there is only one bedroom closet, and it's 2'6" by 3'. Not very spacious!

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless Burbanks in this part of town.

The Aladdin Burbank is another Aladdin kit home in this downtown section of Hopewell. There are countless "Burbanks" in this part of town.

The Burbanks floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

The Burbank's floorplan shows it to be a much larger house than the Edison or the Plymouth.

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Close-up of the Aladdin Burbank

Its a little rough around the edges, but theres no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank

It's a little rough around the edges, but there's no doubt that this is an Aladdin Burbank. Note the original windows!

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Another Burbank in downtown Hopewell.

Some day, I’d love to go through Hopewell slowly and do a proper tally of all their kit homes.   THere are about 50 of these houses in and around the downtown area.  That’s a lot of kit homes!

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part I, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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