“Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the kit house business,” I tell folks at my lectures, “but judging from my emails, you’d think that number was 70 million kit homes.”
Some people really, really, really want their house to be a kit house, but not every 1920s house is a kit house.
And if I were queen of the world (a title I aspire to), I’d make that Hopewell’s town motto.
When I visited Hopewell in 2003, I caused a stir when I proclaimed that 36 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills weren’t really Sears Homes. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well.
And the fact is, I might have made a mistake.
Rachel Shoemaker and I have reviewed some of the photos, and we now believe that 38 of the town’s 44 Sears Homes may not be Sears Homes.
Still, that leaves six Sears Homes in Crescent Hills (Hopewell).
After the “stir” in 2003, I didn’t hear back from Hopewell. But then, several years ago, I offered to help Hopewell do a proper survey of their kit homes - for FREE!
The town never responded to my emails or letters.
Eight years later, when I returned to Hopewell in Spring 2011 (wearing a wig and a fake nose), I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only a few Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here and here.
However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing a few of the fake Sears Homes.
For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 201 Prince George Avenue is the Sears Van Jean.
Let’s make this simple.
It has a gambrel roof and a chimney and some windows, but that’s about it.
The photos below make that pretty clear.
Learn about the Aladdin homes in Hopewell here.
Read my favorite blog on Hopewell here.
Hopewell, if you’re listening, you can contact me by leaving a comment below!
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The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
Notice the double windows centered on the 2nd floor, and the double windows on the first floor. Notice also the placement of the home's chimneys. These things do matter.
Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.
This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but it's not a Van Jean. The 2nd floor windows are wrong, and the front porch is also not a match - for many reasons. The Van Jean has those oversized cornice returns. This house has none. I'd expect that the footprint for this house is also wrong. In short, it's *not* a Sears kit house.
The edges of Van Jean's porch roof are aligned with the primary roof. The Hopewell porch roof extends well beyond the roofline. The Sears House porch has a closed triangle, with a cross member at the bottom and then a fascia board below that. The Hopewell porch roof terminates at the cross member.
Hopewell's brochure explains the "differences" (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean. Oopsie. They neglected a few details. And a few facts. And one big reality: This ain't no Van Jean.
Will there ever be a day when someone in Hopewell exclaims, “Enough of this! Let’s call that gal in Norfolk and get this right - once and for all!!”?
In the meantime, Hopewell certainly does offer a lovely opportunity of how not to promote historic architecture.
To learn more about the real kit homes in Hopewell (and they’re not from Sears), click here.
To read about Sandston, click here.