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Posts Tagged ‘the history of hopewell’

Sears House or Plan Book? Let’s Help Hopewell Figure This Out

August 31st, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

When I visited Hopewell in 2003 (to give a talk), I was shown a well-publicized brochure touting 44 Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

As mentioned in several other blogs (here, here and here), I feel strongly that they’re wrong about 36 of those houses.

In my personal (and professional) opinion The Crescent Hills neighborhood in Hopewell has eight Sears Homes.

One of the houses on that “list of 44″ was this house (shown below).

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The brochure claimed this was a Sears House: The Newbury. Uh, no, it's not.

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According to the brochure, the house shown above was The Newbury (from Sears) with some "differences. Take a look at the list of differences. Those are a LOT of differences!!

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Heres a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

Here's a picture of the Sears Newbury from the 1936 catalog.

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And heres a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. Youll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

And here's a picture of a real Newbury (Elmhurst, IL) shown next to the catalog image. You'll notice that the house in Elmhurst actually looks like the catalog picture!

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And

And here's a picture of the catalog page compared to the house in Hopewell. You may notice that the house in Hopewell looks nothing like the catalog picture.

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Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! Its from Standard Homes Plans (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

Ah, but thanks to Rachel Shoemaker, we now know where this house in Hopewell came from! It's from "Standard Homes Plans" (1923, 1928 and 1929). You may notice that THIS looks a lot like the house in Hopewell!

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Close up of the house

Close up of the house. Beautiful house!

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And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

And, it looks a lot like the catalog picture!

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So that’s one more house properly identified in Hopewell’s Crescent Hills neighborhood, thanks to Rachel Shoemaker.

I wonder if the homeowners of this house know that their house came from a Plan Book?

To learn more about plan book houses, click here.

To read more about Hopewell’s houses, click here.

Or here.

Or here.

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“One of These Things is Not Like The Other…” (Part II)

August 30th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

As mentioned in a prior blog, Sesame Street children are familiar with a toe-tapping ditty that helps them learn how to observe what makes things similar and dissimilar.

Those same life lessons are of inestimable value in identifying and authenticating Sears Homes.

In Hopewell, Virginia, they have eight beautiful Sears Homes in Crescent Hills. Unfortunately, in Hopewell, Virginia, they’re claiming to have a lot more than eight Sears Homes in Crescent Hills.

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

Hey boys and girls, can you figure out which of these is different from the others?

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This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

This example (with houses) is even easier than the example above!

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Now there are folks in Hopewell claiming that all three of those houses (with the dormers, and the two windows flanking the front door and the symmetrical front gable and the three windows in the living room) are Sears Rochelles.

Sadly, they’re wrong.

Will the real Sears Rochelle please stand up?

The

It's been remodeled quite a bit, but this is the real Sears Rochelle (in Lombard, Illinois). You may notice that it's very different from the three Hopewell houses shown above. For one thing, it has no dormer. For another, it's got an asymmetrical front gable (around the door). The houses in Hopewell have symmetrical gables. This is a pretty substantial detail. (Photo is copyright 2012 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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The Rochelle shown above (in Lombard) is the only Rochelle I’ve ever seen.  This Rochelle was photographed by Dr. Rebecca Hunter (Elgin, IL). You can visit her website here.

So, what is it they have in Hopewell?

I’ve no clue, but I do know, it is NOT a Sears Rochelle!

Sears Roechelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

Sears Rochelle as seen in the 1930 catalog.

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You may notice, the house above (catalog image) bears no resemblance to the Hopewell houses.

To read more about the many differences between these Hopewell homes and the real deal, click here.

To learn more about Dr. Hunter, click here.

To learn more about Hopewell, click here or here.

Interested in Aladdin kit homes? Hopewell has several. Click here to read about them.

The “Boom Towns” of Dupont

January 10th, 2012 Sears Homes 4 comments

Since I moved to Norfolk in September 2006, the 16 identical bungalows on Ethel Avenue have been whispering my name, and imploring me to come close, and learn more about their unique origins. Problem was, I could never quite make out what they were saying.

For years, I pored through my vintage catalogs from Sears, Aladdin, Gordon Van Tine, Lewis Manufacturing, Sterling Homes and even Pacific Ready Cut Homes, hoping to identify them as kit homes from a mail-order company.

I never could find a matching design.

Someone in town said the houses were built for the Jamestown Exposition (1907) and moved from that site to their resting place in Riverview (Norfolk). That didn’t ring true, because these little bungalows were more typical of the early 1910s.

And then we learned that DuPont had a munitions plant in Penniman, Virginia (about 30 minutes from Norfolk), and that the houses might have come from Penniman. And then I started doing research on Hopewell, Virginia and learned that Hopewell has also been the site of a DuPont munitions factory. So Mark Hardin (Hopewell resident and fellow researcher) and I drove around Hopewell, trying to find our “Ethels” (as they came to be known).

There have been many interesting discoveries along the way. To read a full history of our* project, click here.

In short, DuPont had at least twelve designs of houses that were built for their workers in factory towns such as Dupont, Washington, Louviers, Colorado, Ramsay, Montana, Old Hickory, Tennessee, and Hopewell and Penniman Virginia.

In the 1910s and 1920s, it was widely believed that providing housing for employees created a more stable work force. In the case of DuPont, their plants manufactured things that went BOOM, such as dynamite and gun powder and gun cotton. DuPont built their factories outside of population centers, due to the constant threat of explosion. (In November 1915, 31 men died in a horrific explosion at the DuPont plant in New Jersey when a horse’s shoe created a metal spark, igniting several thousand pounds of black powder.)

After The Great War was over (November 11, 1918), some of these factories - such as the one in Penniman - were no longer needed. An unknown number of houses at Penniman were put onto a barge and floated down the York River and Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River and then to the Lafayette River to Norfolk, Virginia. According to an article in the Richmond News Leader (1938), more than 50 houses came to Norfolk.

And then on January 9, 2012, Robert Hitchings (Head, Sargeant Memorial Room, Norfolk Public Library) sent me a photo of these houses coming to Norfolk via barge (see below).

And if anyone knows where I might find more of these “Dupont Designs” in Norfolk, please leave a comment below!

To read the first blog on this topic, click here.

*David Spriggs and Mark Hardin have done most of the research on this subject. On this project, I’ve been the blog writer and photo taker! :)

Photo from 1921 shows the houses being transported by barge down the Lafayette River.

Photo from 1921 Virginian Pilot shows the houses being transported by barge down the Lafayette River. These are the houses that now sit on Major and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. There are two Dupont Designs shown here. The house on the left is the Dupont "Haskell," and the house on the right is the "Cumberland."

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On the left is a vintage picture of a Dupont Design (The Haskell) that was built in Old Hickory, TN. On the right is a house in Norfolk (on Major Avenue). We now know that most of the houses on Major and Glenroie Avenue came from Penniman (site of a Dupont Munitions Factory) and were floated by barge to this location. According to an article in the "Richmond News Leader" (June 1938) there are 51 of these "Dupont Homes" in Norfolk, in varying designs.

Of all the Dupont houses on Major, this one retains most of its original features.

This Dupont "Haskell" still retains most of its original features. You can see the unique window arrangement on the Haskell design in this photo, with the left side of the brown house and the left side of the white house next door (which is also a Haskell).

Some of these DuPont Haskells have undergone significant remodeling, but

Some of these DuPont "Haskells" have undergone significant remodeling since being moved here in 1921. They were probably built about 1912 - 1914 at Penniman.

Some

Some are turned 90 degrees on the lot.

And some have gabled roofs, but theyre all Dupont houses.

And some have a gabled roof on the front porch, but they're all Dupont houses.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

Vintage photo of Old Hickory (site of a Dupont Munitions Plant in Tennessee) shows two of the eight housing styles found there. These are the same two housing styles found on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk, VA.

This little Dutch Colonial

This little Dutch Colonial was one of the "Dupont Designs" found in Old Hickory, TN. Note the narrow windows by the front door. This house was named "The Georgia."

Dutchie

There are nine of these "Georgia" (Dupont' designs) on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue in Norfolk. These Norfolk houses are a perfect match to the houses in Old Hickory, TN.

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Another "Georgia" on Major Avenue.

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There are many "Georgias" in Norfolk!

Cumberland

The Cumberland was one of 12 designs created by Dupont and found in both Norfolk and Old Hickory. There are two of these on Major Avenue (Norfolk). It's one of the houses shown on the barge in the photo above.

And heres the real life example.

And here's one of two Cumberlands on Major Avenue. It is a perfect match to the Dupont Cumberland found in Old Hickory, TN.

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue

The other Cumberland on Major Avenue.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Riverview. Note the unusual attic window.

This is the two-story house (ensconced in the land of Ethels) in Norfolk. Note the tall thin attic window which is a perfect match to the Old Hickory house above. There are other architectural features which lead us to believe that this is also a "Dupont Design." This house was floated by barge to its location here in Norfolk. This is a big house to move!

Close-up of the attic window.

Close-up of the attic window found on all the two-story Dupont designs.

I spent many hours of my life, poring through old mail order catalogs, trying to identify these bungalows as kit homes.

And it all started with these houses on Ethel Avenue (which are also DuPont designs).

And there are dozens of Ethels in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant.

And there are dozens of "Ethels" in Dupont, Washington, site of another Dupont Munitions plant. This Ethel is in Dupont, Washington (and shares the neighborhood with 100 identical twins).

Theyre 3,000 miles away, but their identical to our Ethels in Norfolk.

They're 3,000 miles away, but these houses in Dupont, Washington are identical to our "Ethels" in Norfolk on Riverview.

While we call them Ethels, they were actually given a name - The DuPont.

While we call them "Ethels," they were actually given a name - "The DuPont Model."

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window on these "Ethels" in Riverview (Norfolk) is a pretty distinctive feature. And it's a spot-on match to the Ethels (er, Duponts) in Dupont, Washington.

Dup

In the early 1900s, making things go boom was a very popular idea.

The picture above was from a DuPont pamphlet, but there was an employee newsletter called, “The Projectile,” which featured a story on the building of these houses. Finding that would also be an incredible bonus!

We’re still hoping to find more “Ethels” (and Haskells and Cumberlands and Georgias) in Norfolk and other parts of Hampton Roads. If you know the location of any more of these “DuPont Designs,” please leave a comment below!

If you’d like to read earlier posts, start with Part I.

And then go to Part II.

Part III.

Part IV.

Part V.

Part VI.

Part VII.

Part VIII.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 5)

April 9th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last night, a friend called and asked about my recent travels. I told her I’d visited Danville, Lynchburg and Hopewell, Virginia.  .

She quickly replied, “Hopewell?! I thought you were banned from that city!”

She’s a funny girl, that one.

When I last visited Hopewell in 2003, many good things happened, and I was treated kindly and showered with Grade-A Southern Hospitality. The downside was, I discovered that most of the purported “Sears Homes” in their Crescent Hills neighborhood were not Sears Homes at all. There were some folks in Hopewell that were pretty unhappy about that.

It was eight years before I visited Hopewell again.

On this trip in March 2011, I focused on the amazing collection of Aladdin kit homes in that city. While Hopewell has only EIGHT Sears Homes in Crescent Hills, they have dozens and dozens of Aladdin kit homes near the downtown area. More on that here, here, and here.

However, I couldn’t resist driving through Crescent Hills and photographing these purported Sears Homes. I say “purported” because these are clearly not Sears homes, and yet they’re still being promoted as such.

For instance, the city’s brochure states that the house at 101 Crescent Avenue is Sears Branford.

Okie doakie. Let’s look at the photos.

Sears Branford, as seen in the 1940 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Sears Branford, as seen in the 1939 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Branford

No, this is not a Sears Branford. The gabled entry is the first major clue. The Branford does not have a gabled entry. Secondly, as the city's brochure states, the "wing" on this yellow house was not original to the structure, but was added later. That's also a really important detail, because the defining features of the Sears Branford are the garage (to the left) and the KITCHEN to the right. Even if someone decided to forgo the garage, it's not likely they're going to take a pass on building the KITCHEN.

Floorplan

Close-up of the Branford's floorplan

Again, the Sears Branford as seen in the 1940 catalog.

Again, the Sears Branford as seen in the 1940 catalog. The casual observer may notice that this house LOOKS NOTHING LIKE the yellow Cape Cod above. The "wing" on the right juts forward. Not that it matters in comparing it to the pretty yellow house above, but that's an interesting architectural feature that makes identifying the Branford easier.

Okay, so what if you chopped off the two additions on the side?

Close-up of the Branford. Nope, still doesn't look like the house below!

Branford

Nice flag.

Sometimes, people are so eager to “see a Sears House” where there isn’t one that they make way, way too many allowances.

If you look at the house in Hopewell, it’s got a substantial gabled entry, and the fireplace is in the wrong place, and it doesn’t have the garage and it’s missing its kitchen (a pretty big deal) and this means the interior floorplan must be completely different (in the little yellow house above), and that is also a very big deal. The Branford was only offered in 1939 and 1940. That’s it.

According to the city tax records, the house above was built in 1941.

Considering all these important facts, I’d be willing to state - with confidence - that the little yellow house above is not a Sears Branford.

In the late 1930s, the Cape Cod was one of America’s favorite housing styles.  And the Sears Cape Cods are especially difficult to find, because these houses were offered in the 1930s Sears Modern Homes catalogs, and by the 1930s, sales of kit homes had plummeted. Sears sold about as many homes in 1929 (one year) as they sold from 1932-1940 (almost a full decade). The Great Depression really put a hurting on everything, including home sales.

But as to identifying Sears Homes,  once you start saying, “Well, maybe they added this to the house, and took this away, and added the light here, and put on a gabled porch, and moved the fireplace, and moved all the rooms around inside, and took the kitchen out…” well, you could call ANYTHING a kit home with all those changes!

Your subject house must be a GOOD match to the original catalog image.

So what does the Branford (Sears Home) have in common with the pretty Cape Cod on Crescent Avenue?

They both have a front door and some windows and a couple cute dormers.

That’s all folks.

To learn more about the Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read part 6 (the next blog about Hopewell’s non-Sears Homes) click here.

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia is the proud owner of eight bona fide Sears homes in the Crescent Hills area.  That’s well and good, but they also have entire neighborhoods of Aladdin kit homes in other parts of Hopewell.   It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight houses, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel sorely neglected!

Most likely, the majority of the Aladdin Kit Homes were ordered by Dupont in 1914, for their dynamite factory in Hopewell.  And there along the waterfront - on Ramsey Avenue - are the Aladdin Wenonah, an Aladdin Brighton, and an Aladdin Plaza.

The Plaza sits at the end of Ramsey, and I’d just love to know - do these homeowners know that they’re sitting in a piece of Americana, enjoying their restful slumbers in a historically significant kit home, that was shipped in from Bay City, Michigan via boxcar, with 12,000 pieces of house?  And what about the city itself? Are they aware of these precious architectural gems that sit within its borders, uncelebrated, unheralded and unprotected?

It’d be a dandy idea for the city - at the very least -  to put a placard in front of these homes, identifying them as Aladdin kit homes, or perhaps include them on their tourism brochures. Urbana, Virginia has ONE Sears House, and look what they’ve done!

A city full of architecturally significant homes is a terrible thing to waste.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza as shown in 1919 Aladdin catalog

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

Aladdin Plaza in Hopewell, very near the waterfront

To read Part VI, click here.

Click on these links to read Part I, Part II, Part III or Part IV.

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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

March 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

As mentioned in prior posts, Hopewell, Virginia has eight Sears homes in their Crescent Hills neighborhood, but they have dozens of Aladdin kit homes throughout the city. It’s a puzzle why so much energy and ink is invested in these eight Sears Homes, while the Aladdin homes are ignored! If I were a little Aladdin Home in this small Richmond suburb, I might feel snubbed!

The Aladdin homes are mostly worker cottages and definitely more modest than their fancy cousins in Crescent Hills, but these small homes also have an important 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 disappearing. Judging by the empty lots,  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 remaining houses might be spared.

Aladdin, like Sears, was a company that sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Kit homes sold by both Aladdin and Sears were made with top-quality lumber and builing materials. In fact, Aladdin offered their customers “$1.00 for every knot any customer can find…”

These were good houses, made with building materials the likes of we will never again see in this country. At the very least, the lumber in these homes should be salvaged when the homes are leveled. At the very least.

Down by the waterfront, on Ramsey Street, I found a perfect Wenonah (and that is the correct spelling). This is a fairly unusual house for Aladdin, and I’ve only seen two in my house hunting career.

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah from the 1915 catalog

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

Aladdin Wenonah - close up and flipped (mirror image)

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell.

The Wenonah on Ramsey Street in Hopewell. The windows have been replaced and the porch roof was extended, but it's still clearly an Aladdin Wenonah.

The next house is an Aladdin Brighton, and it’s the only “Brighton” I’ve ever seen. And while I’m not 100% sure it’s an Aladdin Brighton, the fact is, it’s smack dab in the heart of a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell. There are kit homes on all three sides of this house, and a river sits behind it.  As mentioned above, Ramsey Road seems to be the place where the supervisor’s homes were located.

The Brighton was a spacious and beautiful home, and it’s very believable that this house could have been built for upper management.

Aladdin Brighton

Aladdin Brighton from the 1914 Aladdin catalog.

Close-up of the house seen in the catalog

Close-up of the Aladdin Brighton, as seen in the catalog

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Is this the Aladdin Brighton? I think it is.

Detail

Notice this interesting detail on the porch column.

Notice this detail on the front porch. Pretty distinctive feature.

And it's also present on the house in Hopewell. Pretty distinctive feature.

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Close-up of the dining room gabled bay, which is a good match to the catalog image above.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

Details on the high quality of materials that came with the Aladdin Brighton.

The Brightons floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

The Brighton's floor plan shows an inset wall, which also matches the house on Ramsey Road.

Unfortunately, the landscaping around the house prevented me from getting better photos, but based on the high number of Aladdin kit homes in this neighborhood, and the striking similarities between The Brighton and the subject house, I’d say the little white bungalow on Ramsey Street is indeed an Aladdin Brighton!

To read Part V, click here.

Click here to read Part I, Part II and Part III of “Hopewell’s Historic Homes.”

Click here to buy Rose’s book.

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