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Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 7)

April 10th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The driving-tour brochure offered by the tourism office in Hopewell, VA is called, “The Sears Roebuck Houses by Mail Neighborhood.”

Not everyone would agree that eight Sears Homes within a six-block area represents a “neighborhood.” But then again, sometimes people get a little confused about what constitutes a Sears Home. As the author of several books on this topic, I feel confident in saying that a true Sears House must have both building materials and blueprints from Sears.

From 1908-1940, Sears offered a specialty catalog promoting and selling their “Sears Modern Homes.” Today these old catalogs fetch $50 - $200 at online auction sites.

catalog

In the 1920s, the "Modern Homes" catalogs had 100-140 pages, and offered 80-100 designs. This is the 1922 catalog, and the Sears Lexington is on its cover.

Prospective homeowners would choose from several designs and pick a house that fit their budget and their needs. Next, they’d send in a $1 good faith deposit to Sears Roebuck, and Sears would send them blueprints, and a complete list of everything they’d need to build their home. If the homeowner liked what he saw, he’d send in the balance of his money and Sears sent him (typically by rail), 12,000 pieces of house, together with a 75-page instruction book that told the homeowner how all those pieces and parts went together.

Hopewell’s Crescent Hills’ neighborhood has eight of these Sears Homes. Click here to see photos of those eight Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, this brochure also shows many houses - identified as Sears Homes - that clearly are not Sears Homes.

The first house listed on this brochure is at 211 Oakwood Avenue, and it’s identified as a Sears Lexington and that is an error.

Some people have an eye for detail, and some people don’t, but the Sears Lexington and the house at 211 Oakwood are radically different in every conceivable way.

Lex

This house (211 Oakwood) is listed in the city's well-promoted brochure as a Sears Lexington. Hmmm. Let's see. What does it have in common with the Sears Lexington? They both have windows and doors. That's about it. The home's "footprint" is something that must be considered. In this case, the two homes are not even close. The Lexington is 34' wide. The house above is several feet wider. That's one of about 3,197 reasons that this house (above) does not match the Sears Lexington (below).

Sears Lexington

Sears Lexington from the 1922 Modern Homes catalog.

If you’ve read my books, you’d know that interior floorplan is a key in determining if your subject house is (or is not) a Sears House.  Room measurements are important, too! If your purported Lexington has a bedroom that’s 10′3 by 14′5, your subject house should have a bedroom that is 10′3 by 14′5!  After you’ve seen (and measured) a few Sears Homes, you’ll find that this is an accurate way of authenticating Sears Homes.

In 2003, I was invited to inspect the interior of the house at 211 Oakwood and the floorplan is completely different from the Lexington. The floorplan, room arrangement, room size, ceiling height - every single architectural element is different.  The only common ground is that both houses have bedrooms and bathrooms and a living room, dining room and a kitchen.

That’s it.

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. Youre NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

Floorplan for the Sears Lexington. In 2003, the owners of the house at 211 Oakwood invited me to see the inside, and I can say from experience - the interior floorplan of the house on Oakwood has nothing in common with the interior of the Sears Lexington. The subject house on Oakwood has a grand, sweeping, curved staircase. You're NOT going to find a grand, sweeping, curved staircase IN A KIT HOME. These were kits for novice homebuilders and everything was kept simple!

This is my 7th blog on this topic - of the not-even-close non-Sears-Homes in Hopewell, but of all the houses I’ve discussed here, this “Lexington” at 211 Oakwood is far and away the most glaring example. In other articles, I’ve delineated, point by point, why the subject house is not a match to the Sears House. But if I started that with this house at 211 Oakwood, it’d fill way too much bandwidth and the entire internet system might go down.

In short, I’m confident that the house on 211 Oakwood is neither a Lexington, nor is it a Sears Home of any kind.

Cmon, really?

C'mon, really?

And on a more serious note, it saddens me to see history misrepresented. It saddens me greatly.

By the way, this is what a Sears Lexington looks like “in the flesh.” You’ll notice, it looks a lot like the catalog picture.

Sears

Sears Lexington in Northern Illinois.

Lex

You might notice that the house (in Northern Illinois) looks a whole lot like this catalog picture.

To read about the other houses in Hopewell, click here.

To read about the collection of Aladdin kit homes in Hopewell, click here.

To read about happy, happy Sears homes, click here.

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

March 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Yes Virginia, Hopewell has a few Sears Homes. In fact they have eight in their Crescent Hills area.

And what’s even better than Sears Homes?  Well, nothing now that I think about it. Hmmm.  But wait, there’s more.

Hopewell also has a significant collection of Aladdin kit homes. It’s a puzzle why the city invests so much effort in promoting those eight Sears Homes, while forgetting about the dozens of Aladdin kit homes. Why, if I were a little Aladdin home in Hopewell, I’d feel like a red-haired stepchild!

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. Also on Ramsey is a perfect Aladdin Edison.

In short, there are several extra-fine houses on Ramsey Avenue, and they’re really nice homes, spacious, attractive, and a little bit fancier than the rest of the houses in that immediate area. Heretofore, I’ve been able to identify each and every one as an Aladdin kit home. Which brings us to the mystery house.

Mystery

Mystery

This house also sits on Ramsey, but I haven’t been able to identify it as an Aladdin home. Perhaps it was built pre-Aladdin (1906 or before). Perhaps it has no connection to the other houses whatsoever. Perhaps it’s the original farm house on that piece of land.

However, it seems likely that this house was built about the same time as the others. And the Dutch Colonial housing style was wildly popular in the early 1900s. And it is literally surrounded by Aladdin kit homes on every side.

I’d love to learn more about this mystery house there on Ramsey Avenue.

Is it Aladdin?  Or not? If it is, it’d have to be a customized design. I’ve searched every catalog and every resource and can find no houses that match this design.

If you have an insights or info, please leave a comment!

This is the sixth of six blogs on Hopewell’s Aladdin kit homes.

You can find Part VII here.

Part I can be found here. Part II is here. Click here for Part III.

The fourth series is hereAnd number five is here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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