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Kit Homes in Kinston - What a Bonanza!

January 25th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Was I surprised to find 19 Aladdin kit homes in Kinston? My oh my, yes! And those 19 were found during a very quick windshield survey. There are more lurking about, I’m sure.

Last week, my husband and I visited New Bern, and while there, we drove out to Kinston to look at the local architecture. Lo and behold, we found an Aladdin kit home on almost every street in the older neighborhoods. In one memorable area (near Harding and Pollock Streets) we found seven Aladdin homes together.

The older suburbs we visited had many wide-open spaces, suggesting that many of these early 20th Century kit homes have already been demolished.

If you’re new to this website, you may be wondering, what is a kit home? In the early 1900s, aspiring homeowners could order a “kit home” from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Each 12,000-piece kit came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that the neophyte homebuilder could have the house ready for  occupancy in 90 days. In addition to Sears, there were other companies selling kit homes through mail-order catalogs, such as Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) and Gordon Van Tine (Davenport, Iowa).

Aladdin was bigger than Sears, in business longer, and sold more homes than Sears, but they’re not as well known as Sears. Aladdin had a mill in Wilmington, North Carolina, which explains why Aladdin Homes were so popular in the Southeast.

Based on my research, the overwhelming majority of people living in these kit homes didn’t know what they had, until I contacted them (or they discovered their home on my blog).

What was the industry that promoted Kinston’s growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? Industries often turned to Aladdin to supply housing for the workers. It’s likely that someone turned to Aladdin for the houses we’re now finding in Kinston, but who was it?

Lastly, before we get into the photos, I’m hoping some progressive-minded soul in Kinston will contact me about coming back to town to do a thorough survey. Perhaps identifying these bungalows as historically significant kit homes can be a key to revitalizing parts of Kinston.

Let’s hope.

Contact Rose by leaving a comment below.

In addition to the 19 Aladdin homes, I found a lone Gordon Van Tine home: The Peach House Restaurant! And it’s a real beauty! You can read more about that by clicking here!

You can read here about the kit homes I found in New Bern, NC.

UPDATE! We found a Montgomery Ward kit home in Kinston, too!

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1914 Moosejaw

Aladdin sold more homes than Sears, but was not as well known.

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1916

What was the industry that promoted Kinston's growth in the early 1900s, and put them on the map? It seems very likely that *that* employer turned to Aladdin to supply worker homes in Kinston.

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houses

Aladdin had catalogs devoted to "solving the problem of industrial housing."

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Aladdin 1916

Aladdin was named for the magical genie who built "a house in a day" for his master. Apparently, Old Genie is perusing the latest catalog to find a snappy design.

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1919

The Shadow Lawn is one of my favorites. It was spacious and beautiful (1919).

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Shadow two

When I drove in Kinston, the first house I spotted was this Aladdin Shadowlawn on Lenoir Avenue. Looks like it walked right off the pages of the 1919 catalog (shown above).

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Shadow

During our brief time in Kinston, I initially missed this Shadowlawn (another beauty) on Atlantic Avenue. Shown above is a screenshot from Google Maps. It's another delightfully original house.

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1916

The "Colonial" was probably Aladdin's biggest (and fanciest) kit home.

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19 Colonial

And there's one in Kinston! Do the owners know that they're living in a kit home?

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1919 Classic Bungalow

The Pomona was a classic early 20th Century bungalow (1919).

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Pollock 805

This was my favorite Pomona in Kinston (which has three of them). This house still as so many of its original features, including the half-timber effect on the porch gable, original windows with diamond muntins and those rectangular eave brackets. And that appears to be an old wooden storm door.

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305 Washington

This Pomona on Washington Street is also a lovely home, but its windows have been replaced.

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810 Collge

The years have not been kind to this Pomona on College Street.

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Carolina 1923

In all my travels, I'd never seen an Aladdin "Carolina." It seems fitting that there are not one but two Carolinas in Kinston, North Carolina. This image is from the 1923 catalog.

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605 Rhem

This Carolina on Rhem Street is in picture-perfect condition.

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308 Capitol

This is an Aladdin "Carolina" and it does have its original windows, so that's a plus. It's had some insensitive remodeling. Anything salt-treated on an old house is just not a good plan.

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Willard 1919

I've not seen that many "Willards" in my travels, but there are two in Kinston (1919).

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Details

It's also a cute little house with lots of interesting details and features.

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Willard 413 Harding

And this Willard on Harding Street is perfect - right down to the lattice!

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Willard on Harding

From every angle, it's a beauty!

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Porch

And it's astounding that 100 years later, that lattice is still in such good shape.

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811 Pollock

On an opposing corner, I found this Willard which has had some remodeling, but still looks a lot like a Willard. It's a pity that the guy-wire got in the way of an otherwise perfect picture.

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1919

The Virginia was a popular house for Aladdin (1919).

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310 Capitola

This "Virginia" on Capitola Street is next door to the Carolina shown above!

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Capitola

Okay, so we lost the little girl (in the image on the right) and gained a trash can, but other than that, it's a lovely match. And a pretty house, too!

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Florence 1916

The Florence was a popular house for Aladdin and I've found an abundance of these in North Carolina's mill towns. There are two Florence models in Kinston.

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Florence

And they're across the street from each other. This is on Harding.

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406 Harding

And so is this one.

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1919 BLVD

The Aladdin Boulevard was not a hugely popular house (1919).

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BLVD

But it is distinctive with that low shed dormer and the window arrangement. The Boulevard has 12/1 windows on the front porch (1919).

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Street

This was the first "Boulevard" I've ever seen. On this model, someone took out those living windows when they put in that fireplace. There's also an addition on the rear of the house.

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House

In this picture, you can see those 12/1 windows on the Kinston "Boulevard."

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1924 Sunshine

The "Sunshine" was a popular house with a really cute name (1924).

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Sunshine

"You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine..." This was the only Sunshine we found in Kinston.

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Street

These four models were lined up like little soldiers in a row on Pollock Street in Kinston.

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Harassment Street

The Willard is to the far left, with the Sunshine next, the Boulevard beyond it, and the Pomona at the end of the run. Kitty-corner to this Willard was The Perfect Willard, and the two Florences are behind this WIllard. These are the seven Aladdins mentioned above.

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Bruns 1923

I've been looking for an Aladdin Brunswick for a long time, butt prior to coming to Kinston, I'd never laid eyes on the real deal (1923 catalog).

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509 Washington

And Kinston has two of them. This house is on West Washington.

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Brunsh

A distinctive feature of the Brunswick is this window arrangement on the side of the house. The centered window is a staircase-landing window. The small windows are closet windows.

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Brusnswisk

This is another house that I missed on my first drive through town, and found when I was double-checking addresses via Google Maps. It's in pitiable shape. It's just off Perry and Atlantic, and just around the corner from that stunning Aladdin Shadowlawn. I hope this home has a hope of restoration.

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GVT

And the Gordon Van Tine #705 was the only non-Aladdin home I found in Kinston.

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Moo

Now this is a beautiful house - and it's also a restaurant!

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Gustatory Delights

Had we only been more familiar with the delicious delights offered at The Gordon Van Tine #705 Restaurant, errr, the "Peach House" we would have stopped there for lunch!

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At the end of the day,

At the end of our trip to Kinston, Hubby was mighty glad to get back to our "home away from home," The Aerie Bed and Breakfast in New Bern. He was tired of looking at houses.

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You can visit The Peach House website here.

To read about what I found in nearby New Bern, click here.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn: A Mass of Lights and Shadows

January 3rd, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Did you ever see a more beautiful picture of its kind than the one shown here? A mass of lights and shadows, softening the greens, browns and grays of the foliage; shingles and cobbles delight the eye. You can almost feel the touch of the sunbeams patterning the lawn, and you just want to stroll up the steps and into the inviting shade of the porch.  (From the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog)

So reads the promotional text for the Aladdin Shadowlawn. And it is a beauty. That Shadowlawn was probably one of Aladdin’s top five most popular designs.

Aladdin, like Sears, sold kit homes through a mail-order catalog. Aladdin started business in 1906, and Sears started two years later in 1908. Sears closed their Modern Homes Department in 1940, but Aladdin continued on until 1981!  To learn more about Aladdin’s history, click here. Thanks to Dale Wolicki for info on Aladdin!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn as seen in the 1919 Aladdin catalog.

Probably my favorite Shadowlawn, and its right here in Hampton, Virginia. I wonder if these people even know they have an Aladdin Shadowlawn. If theyre like most people Ive encountered, theyre convinced its a Sears Kit Home because theyve never even heard of Aladdin.

Probably my favorite Shadowlawn, and it's right here in Hampton, Virginia. I wonder if these people even know they have an Aladdin Shadowlawn? If they're like most people I've encountered, they're convinced it's a Sears Kit Home because they've never even heard of Aladdin.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, and this one is in Tarboro, NC. Aladdin had a big mill in Wilmington, NC.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, and this one is in Tarboro, NC. Aladdin had a big mill in Wilmington, NC, so it's not surprising that there are many Aladdins in North Carolina.

This Aladdin has had some additions, but it still looks good. Its in Rocky Mount, NC which also has an abundance of Aladdin kit homes (and a couple Lustrons, too).

This Aladdin has had some additions, but it still looks good. It's in Rocky Mount, NC which also has an abundance of Aladdin kit homes (and a couple Lustrons, too).

This Shadowlawn is close to home, and its in Portsmouth, VA (my home town). Its in a section of town known as Port Norfolk (yes, its in Portsmouth), not to be confused with West Norfolk (also in Portsmouth) or South Norfolk (which is in Chesapeake). I live in Norfolk. Period.

This Shadowlawn is close to home, and it's in Portsmouth, VA (my home town). It's in a section of town known as Port Norfolk (yes, it's in Portsmouth), not to be confused with West Norfolk (also in Portsmouth) or South Norfolk (which is in Chesapeake). I live in Norfolk. Period.

Another beautiful Shadowlawn and this one is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and may not be used or reprinted without permission.

Another beautiful Shadowlawn and this one is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker, and may not be used or reprinted without permission.

Another Shadowlawn close to home, this one is on Elm Avenue in Portsmouth.

Another Shadowlawn close to home, this one is on Elm Avenue in Portsmouth.

The fake Shadowlawn shown in the planbook has a much higher pitch to the roof. Look at the position of the eave brackets here.

The "fake Shadowlawn" shown in the planbook has a much higher pitch to the roof. Look at the position of the eave brackets here.

Is this a Shadowlawn in Maryland?

Is this a real Shadowlawn in Maryland or another fake?? Porches come and go, and sometimes, they're never built in the first place. The windows sure look right, but look at that roofline. It's much higher and steeper than a true Shadowlawn. I'd have to say it could be the planbook house (shown above). To be sure, I'd have to go inside the house and measure the rooms.

This house in Lombard, Illinois is definitely NOT a Shadowlawn. The roof is way too steeply pitched, the eaves are too small, and the brackets are in the wrong place.

This house in Lombard, Illinois is definitely NOT a Shadowlawn. The roof is way too steeply pitched, the eaves are too small, and the brackets are too small and not placed where they should be. This is a "faux" Shadowlawn. There was also a plan book design that looked a lot like the Shadowlawn. It's possible that this house came from a planbook.

Is this an Aladdin or Plan Book house? Id lean toward Aladdin, mainly because Ive found so many Aladdins in this part of Norfolk (Lafayette/Winona).

Is this an Aladdin or Plan Book house? I'd lean toward Aladdin, mainly because I've found so many verified Aladdins in this part of Norfolk (Lafayette/Winona section).

Located on Alby Street in Alton, IL, this probably is a Shadowlawn, despite the slightly different window arrangement. The brackets are right, the roofline is right and the house just looks like an Aladdin Shadowlawn. The living room stretches across the entire front of the house, so changing the windows around a bit wouldnt be too problematic.

Located on Alby Street in Alton, IL, this probably is a Shadowlawn, despite the slightly different window arrangement. The brackets are right, the roofline is right and the house just "looks" like an Aladdin Shadowlawn. The living room stretches across the entire front of the house, so changing the windows around a bit wouldn't be too problematic.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, this one is in Concord, NC.

Another favorite Shadowlawn, this one is in Concord, NC.

Another favorite, this is in Baton Rouge, LA. For years and years and years, everyone thought this was a Sears House, but no one knew the model name. When they drove me out to this house and said it was a special Sears House, I couldnt help but giggle. Way too often, Aladdin kit homes are called Sears Homes, just because Sears was a more well-known name.

Another favorite, this is in Baton Rouge, LA. For years and years and years, everyone thought this was a Sears House, but no one knew the model name. When they drove me out to this house and said it was a "special" Sears House, I couldn't help but giggle. Way too often, Aladdin kit homes are called "Sears Homes," just because Sears was a more well-known name.

And this Shadowlawn in Baton Rouge had a matching Aladdin Garage.

And this Shadowlawn in Baton Rouge had a matching Aladdin Garage.

The Peerless Garage, offered by Aladdin as a match to the Shadowlawn.

The Peerless Garage, offered by Aladdin as a "match" to the Shadowlawn.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was very spacious.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was very spacious.

A precursor to the Aladdin Shadowlawn was the Massachusetts.

A precursor to the Aladdin Shadowlawn was the "Massachusetts." (1914)

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To learn more about identifying kit homes, click here.

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Rocky Mount is High on Sears Homes (Part II)

April 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior post, I went through Rocky Mount, North Carolina several months ago and found a handful of kit homes, but apparently (without my handy dandy Garmin), I missed the good stuff. Today, I returned to Rocky Mount and this time (thanks to Garmin), I found all kinds of treasures in neighborhoods that I didn’t even know existed. (Read Part I here.)

All of the houses (below) are located in Rocky Mount, and most likely, the people living in these early 20th Century homes don’t realize that they have a kit home that came from a mail-order catalog.

The Aladdin Pasadena was a popular house, and a distintive one, too!

The Aladdin Pasadena was a popular house, and a distintive one, too!

This Pasadena has seen a few changes, but still retains the look of its original design.

This Pasadena has seen a few changes, but still retains the "look" of its original design.

The Aladdin Pomona was one of Aladdins most popular houses!

The Aladdin Pomona was one of Aladdin's most popular houses!

The siding people have had their way with this Aladdin Pomona, but fortunately it still retains its original railings!

The siding people have had their way with this Aladdin Pomona, but fortunately it still retains its original railings!

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was another very popular house for Aladdin.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn was another very popular house for Aladdin. The eaves on this house are quite spectacular. Notice also the diamond muntins on that small second-floor window.

Despite a pretty substantial addition to the side, this Shadowlawn is still easily recognizable!

Despite a pretty substantial addition to the side, this Shadowlawn is still easily recognizable!

Heres an older Shadowlawn. Note the little window with the diamond panes.

Through the years, the Shadowlawn went through some changes! Is this an earlier model Shadowlawn? I'd say - probably it is. But it's not a spot-on match like the house above.

Aladdin Plaza

Aladdin Plaza

The dark colors hide its true beauty, but this Aladdin Plaza is in wonderfully original condition.

The dark colors hide its true beauty, but this Aladdin Plaza is in wonderfully original condition.

This Aladdin Plaza is NOT in wonderfully original condition.

This Aladdin Plaza is NOT in wonderfully original condition yet it retains some of its original features.

Aladdin Sherburne from the 1931 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Sherburne from the 1931 Aladdin catalog

Unfortunately, Im not able to scan an original image of the Aladdin Sherburne right now, but you have to trust me. It looks just like this.  :)

Beautiful Aladdin Shelburne on a beautiful lot!

Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Detroit, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

A nearly perfect Detroit in Rocky Mount!

A nearly perfect Detroit in Rocky Mount!

Aladdin Winthrop from the 1919 catalog.

Aladdin Winthrop from the 1919 catalog.

Slightly hidden behind a tree, this Aladdin Winthrop is still easy to spot with those small windows in the gabled bay, the four porch posts (two of which have no columns atop them) and the four windows across the front.

Slightly hidden behind a tree, this Aladdin Winthrop is still easy to spot with those small windows in the gabled bay, the four porch posts (two of which have no columns atop them) and the four windows across the front.

And finally, my two favorite finds of the day!

The first is the Aladdin Williamette. This house was offered only in the 1920 Aladdin catalog, and this Williamette in Rocky Mount is the only Williamette I have ever seen. And it’s just a perfect match.

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Williamette from the 1920 Aladdin catalog

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes dont realize that theyre living in a kit home!

And here it is: The Aladdin Williamette in Rocky Mount, NC. More than 90% of the people living in these homes don't realize that they're living in a kit home!

The second house is the Sears Elmhurst. This was also a very rare house and looks nothing like a typical “kit” home. This neo-tudor is both spacious, grand and ornate, and has lots of fine features you won’t find on your average Sears House!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

The Sears Elmhurst - a fine house!

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the side.

Sears Elmhurst in Rocky Mount. This really is a beautiful match, and the only difference is, the house in Rocky Mount has had an addition put onto the both sides.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

And here's a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

Aladdin

I'd love to know what this building is! It's massive and appears empty. If you know its original (or current) purpose, please leave a comment below.

Enjoy the photos, and if you know of anyone in Rocky Mount who might be interested in learning more about these amazing and delightful discoveries, please share this link!

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Poor Little Aladdin Shadowlawn

August 17th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the 1980s, I rode by this house (see pics below) and saw that it had been lifted from its foundation, and according to the placard in the window, was headed to a new site, about 2 miles west on Portsmouth Blvd (Route 337).  A new foundation was prepared at the new site - just down the road - and then one day the house was moved.

Now, in 2010, the house is again standing in harm’s way. Across the street from this spacious two-story bungalow is a sprawling, growing, mega-monster shopping mall and complex, with the requisite Applebys, Olive Garden, Lowes, Home Depot, BJs, Walmart, 16-screen movie house, Michaels, Target, Dillards and about 250 more homogenized American stores.

I’d be surprised if this house is not already zoned commercial, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the house is purchased and demolished by some over-zealous developer. Pity, too. The house pictured here is a classic Aladdin Shadowlawn, one of Aladdin’s fancier kit homes.

Aladdin was based in Bay City, Michigan and started selling kit homes in 1906. They remained in business until 1981, selling about 75,000 kit homes. (Thanks to Dale Wolicki for the stats on Aladdin!) The Hampton Roads area has dozens of Aladdin kit homes, probably because of the Aladdin mill in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina.

However, we may soon have one less.

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

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, VA

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog

Aladdin Shadowlawn from the 1919 catalog