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Posts Tagged ‘the sears homes of illinois’

“Barn Builders” Blunders Badly

April 11th, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Last week, my buddy Milton saw an episode of “Barn Builders” (DIY TV, Season 2, Episode 9), which featured a short bit on a Sears Home. According to the episode guide that accompanied the program, “the guys restore an 1856 log cabin.”

The log cabin sat on a spacious old family farm. The “Barn Builders” did a fine job with that 1856 cabin, but it all went off the rails when they decided to do a snippet on another structure on the land, sitting a few hundred feet away. The house in question was a very primitive house, probably built in the late 1800s, and on the cusp of collapse.

As one of the crew members wandered over to the badly dilapidated structure, he said, “this looks like a Sears kit house.” Thus began a four-minute segment on Sears Kit Homes, replete with quick shots of Sears Modern Home catalogs from the early 1920s and house plans and other imagery.

Next, the Barn Builder walked into the old house and made several comments affirming his remarkable find of a kit house from Sears.

The entire four-minutes worth of shenanigans left me shaking my head in disbelief. The show probably has a wide-spread audience, which means that “Barn Builders” has now disseminated a whole slew of bad information about kit homes to a whole new audience.

It’s mighty frustrating and even more so when you think about the fact that this house wasn’t even built in the right CENTURY to be a Sears kit house.

Enjoy the pictures below and if you happen to know anyone involved in the production of “Barn Builders,” ask them to give me a call.

Did you enjoy this blog? Please share this link with your friends on Facebook!

Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

To read about a bona fide Sears House in West Virginia, click here.

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Fine

This tired wooden house sits on an old family farm in West Virginia, and was featured on a recent episode of "Barn Builders." Its condition is very poor.

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After a few minutes, this fellow leaves the project (an 1856 log cabin) and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As hes walking, he identifies the old house as probably a Sears kit house. Thats when the real fun begins.

After working on the 1856 cabin for a time, one of the workers leaves the project and strolls over to the old farmhouse for a closer look. As he's walking toward the old house, he says that it's "probably a Sears kit house." That's when the real fun begins.

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The

There are many reasons as to why this is not a Sears kit house, but let's start with the "low-hanging fruit." First, it was probably built in the late 1800s. Sears started selling their "Modern Homes" in 1908. The house shown here is supported with what's known as "rubble stone" piers or "dry stacked stone" piers. While this type of foundation remained in use into the early 1900s, it was more common in the mid-to-late 1800s. And a rubble-stone foundation would not have been considered acceptable for a Sears kit home. And there's this: The house had no exterior sheathing. Those clapboards were nailed right to the studs. This is not a good way to build a house, and it's certainly not a kit house.

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The

It's rather amazing that this old house is still upright.

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If this house were in the south, wed say it was a mess.

There are no windows on the side of the house and there are two unusually long windows on the rear. This was a house designed and built by a novice. In short, it was the cheapest way to cover air in the 1800s.

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Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else.

Inside the house, the man rambles on about the fact that the kits came with nails and paint and everything else. If you look at the trim in the house, you'll notice that it's also extremely primitive. Again, it's pretty clear, no architects and no professional builders were consulted in the building of this house.

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These fellows should stick to building barns.

These fellows should stick to building barns.

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Read about another unfortunate use of the airwaves and old houses, click here.

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Finding the CUSTOMIZED Houses That Sears Built, Part II

January 27th, 2016 Sears Homes 2 comments

Thanks to the kindness of a Chicago-based FOSH (”Friend of Sears Homes”), we now have some stunning pictures of that house in River Forest, Illinois.

As mentioned in a prior blog, we have documentation establishing this residence as a “Sears kit home” built by long-time Sears employee Arthur Hoch. It was Arthur that turned to Sears’ “Architectural Service” for this beautiful spacious home.

Sometime in the 1910s, Arthur took a job with Sears & Roebuck in Chicago and quickly rose through the ranks. In the early 1930s, Arthur was living in River Forest, and sometime in the mid-1930s, he ordered this house from Sears. In 1954, Arthur Hoch retired from Sears, after more than 30 years of employment.

Arthur was a faithful employee and it appears that his faithfulness served him well. It’s no surprise that when this upper-level manager needed a home, he turned to his favorite retailer, Sears and Roebuck.

To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of architectural services to their customers (and employees).

In the 1930s, Sears offered a variety of "architectural services" to their customers (and employees).

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When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses, such as this one, The Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois.

When people think of Sears Homes, they tend to picture the modest houses. Shown above is "The Kismet" in Elmhurst, Illinois. A small addition on the back adds some breathing room to the 520-square-foot cottage.

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Sears

This house shatters the notion of "those boxy little kit homes"! It's quite grand and in every way. In 2013, the historical society commissioned a full survey of the homes in River Forest and in the description that accompanied this house, there was no mention of its unique origins. It seems likely that they didn't know that this house was ordered by Arthur from Sears. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet

According to Zillow, the house has 6,900 square feet but this appears to be an addition on the rear. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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If you look closely, you can see the differences in the brick.

If you look closely, you can see the differences in the old and new brick. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home.

Even so, as built, this was a very spacious home, probably close to 4,000 square feet. Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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What a HOUSE!

What a HOUSE! Photo is copyright 2016 Carrie Pikulik and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To learn more about the back-story of this house and its discovery as a “Sears House,” click here.

Thanks so much to Rachel Shoemaker for her help in researching this house and also to Carrie Pitulik for providing the beautiful photos.

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J. M. Cunningham and The Sears Hillrose

January 5th, 2016 Sears Homes 4 comments

Last August, my husband I visited a beautiful Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. We were traipsing about the great Commonwealth, doing our own self-guided “Tour of the Confederacy”, and we traveled from our home in Norfolk to Richmond (where we toured the White House of the Confederacy) to Appomattox (site of Lee’s surrender) and then Lexington (Lee Chapel and VMI Museum) and then on to Brandy Station (Graffiti House) and last but not least…

The home of Confederate hero Captain J. M. Cunningham and it’s a Sears Hillrose!

Truthfully, I didn’t know about the home’s ties to Civil War history until after we arrived there, and talked with the homes’ owners, Brian and Melody. They shared a 75-year-old newspaper article containing the obituary for Captain J. M. Cunningham, and proudly explained that he’d lived in their Hillrose for many years.

Brian’s parents purchased it from the Martin family, who’d purchased it from the estate of Captain Cunningham.

In the early 1900s, John Miller Cunningham was known around Culpepper County as “the grand old man.” He was born in 1843 in Powhatan County, and graduated from Virginia Military Academy in 1861. The 18-year-old soldier was brought to Richmond by Commandant Thomas Jackson (later known as “Stonewall”), to help train the newly formed army. The 1,500-word obituary for Captain Cunningham tells of many heroic deeds on the battlefield, but the most remarkable story is this one, attributed to Federal General Winfield Hancock:

The greatest obstacle to our advance [at the "Bloody Angle" at the Battle of the Wilderness] was a young artillery officer, standing in the breach, rallying his men so courageously that [I] did not have the heart to order my sharpshooters to pick him off. This young officer was Cunningham.

The 22-year-old Captain mustered out of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.

After the war, Captain Cunningham returned home and sometime between 1925-1930, he purchased the Hillrose in Brandy Station, where he kept Shetland Ponies on the farm. By all accounts, the diminutive horses were treated more like pampered pets than livestock. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch article dated November 18, 1934, Cunningham said his little ponies were “just a vest-pocket edition of a horse.”

When he died in July 1939, he was 96, and the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army.

That’s the story behind the Hillrose in Brandy Station.

Today, Brian and Melody appreciate and understand their unique role as owners and caretakers of this wonderful old kit home. As you’ll see from these photos, the house is lovingly cared for, and the 100-year-old oak and pine trim inside the house retains its original finish, and there are even a handful of original light fixtures scattered throughout. In the kitchen, the hard-rock maple floor is flawless, and down in the basement, Brian has salvaged and preserved other original fixtures from the house, with the hopes of restoring them.

Thanks so much to Brian and Melody for allowing me and Wayne to spend a couple hours oohing and ahhing over their grand old home. It was a memorable afternoon and the highlight of our fun trip.

To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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1916 Hillrose

The Hillrose, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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1918

The Hillrose was one of the largest kit homes offered by Sears, with more than 2,200 SFLA.

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Floorplan 1916

It featured five bedrooms, which could be six (if you counted the parlor).

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Brandy Statino

The Hillrose in Brandy Station was the very first Hillrose I'd ever seen.

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Front

One of its many unique features is this: The front door is not centered. The window arrangement is also unique. Very few foursquares have three windows on the 2nd floor and single windows on the first.

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Dormer

The dormer is another eye-catching feature. That's a mighty small window for such a big dormer.

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FFF

The Hillrose, as designed, has a small closet window on this side (first floor). The Hillrose in Brandy Station was modified to have a full door here. Another interesting feature are the two dormers. These are the only dormers (front and left side) on this house.

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Come inside

The front door is original. How delightful is that! And the beveled glass is original too!

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Photo is

And here's a photo of Captain John Miller Cunningham, the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army. He died in 1939 at the age of 96. Photo is courtesy Clark B. Hall.

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house bought

Brian, the home's owner, found a shipping label on the back of some millwork. The home's purchaser and builder was Dr. George M. Sparks. According to the 1920 Census. Dr. Sparks was a 50-year-old man with a 30-year-old wife (Daisy) and three children, 12, 10 and 2. Busy fellow, that Dr. Sparks. Seems that George married Daisy in 1905. In other words, in 1905, the 35-year-old doctor married a 15-year-old girl. Yowza. He died in 1925, and by 1930, Daisy was renting a home (with her three children) in Washington, D.C.

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original trim

As mentioned, much of the trim in this century-old house retains its original finish.

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Hingest

And what would a Sears House be without those classic Sears hinges?

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Hillrose

The French Doors that separate the living room from the parlor also retain their original finish.

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buffet

A built-in buffet, as per the home's original plans.

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Vintage

And even a vintage electrical switch.

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Sink 1920

One way to "date" an old house is to look under plumbing fixtures. This old pedestal sink (now relegated to the Hillrose's basement) has a casting date of January 1920, telling us that the house was built after January 1920.

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Score

God bless these wonderful homeowners. They've saved every piece and part that they've removed from the house, with the high goal of restoring these old fixtures and re-installing them.

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picture

Hopefully these sconces will one day grace the dining room walls again.

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Hillrose stair

The Hillrose staircase is in an unusual spot: Behind a door. It's also quite steep for a house of this size and vintage.

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stars

Close-up of the floorplan shows that staircase. And note the placement of that closet behind the stairs.

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window

A little piece of that 2nd floor closet window remains on this Hillrose.

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kitchen

In a Sears kit home, the floors in the kitchen and bath are typically hard maple. The original intention was that linoleum or some other traditional moisture-resistant floor covering be used. I've been in countless Sears kit homes where the homeowner removed layers of old flooring to expose the original maple. Beautiful, aren't they?

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Rrrrr

And this is what that large bay window looks like inside.

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house windo

I love this intricate detail on the wood trim.

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another angle

Another view of that spacious bay window.

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fffeeeff

Didn't I promise you that it was a grand and glorious home?

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To read more about the Hillrose, click here.

Want to learn more about how to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Hmmm…Whom Do We Know in Ohio?

January 2nd, 2016 Sears Homes 3 comments

Preferably near Convoy, Ohio (or Dixon, Indiana) and specifically at 12716 S. State Line Road. This is the site of yet another Sears Hillrose, which Rachel Shoemaker found with a little detective work.

Turns out that State Line Road is so named because it marks the boundary between Indiana and Ohio.

Thanks to Rachel, we have a picture of the Hillrose on State Line Road, but it’s from the assessor’s website and it has its limitations. Nonetheless, a crummy picture is incomparably better than no picture, so I’m very grateful that Rachel was able to find this image.

The reason I’m so enchanted by this house is that it appears to have its original siding, windows and porch - three big pluses.

Now, if we just knew someone who lived close enough to get us a few good pictures of this Hillrose on State Line Road! (And, there’s another one in Antwerp, Ohio which isn’t that far away from Convoy!)

To read more about the Hillrose in prior blogs, click here or here or here.

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beaut 1916

The Hillrose as seen in the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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1916

What a beauty! An interesting note: The front door on this house is not centered. That, with about a dozen other unusual features, makes this house easy to identify.

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Hillrose built in West Lafayette, IN

This Hillrose was built about 15 years ago (2000) in West Lafayette, Indiana. It's a modern recreation of an old classic, and has a few embellishments and upgrades.

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BS

Last August, the owners of this glorious Hillrose invited me to come see their home. It's in Brandy Station, Virginia (about three hours northwest of Norfolk, VA) and it's in wonderful condition.

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Gre

Carrie Milam found this old Hillrose in Griffith, Indiana. Sadly, the front porch is MIA. Photo is copyright 2015 Greg Decker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Dixon

And here's our sweet little Hillrose in Dixon, Ohio. Many thanks to Rachel for finding this photo at the city assessor's website. The Hillrose retains its original windows, siding and porch, which just makes me swoon. Perhaps best of all, that tiny closet window (2nd floor) is still in place! My kingdom for a few dozen photos of this treasure!

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Ruh Roh. Street view shows this house isnt feeling too well.

Ruh Roh. Street view shows this house isn't feeling too well. Google shows it as Convoy, Ohio.

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Im

I'm starting to wonder if this sweet thing is still among the living.

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Visit Rachel’s fascinating blog here.

Read more about the $1,000,000 Hillrose (built about 15 years ago in West Lafayette, IN) here.

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Coming Up - A Comprehensive Blog on The Hillrose

December 30th, 2015 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the last few days, I seem to have crossed the Rubicon with search engines, and am now consistently getting 1,500+ hits per day, and sometimes more than 2,000. That’s certainly happy news, as I’ve been faithfully blogging for five years and it is a major time sink.

Thus far, I have written 942 blogs here, each heavy laden with photos.

Ever since August, I’ve been wanting to do a blog on one of my favorite finds: A Sears Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia but I knew that this would be a time-intensive blog (requiring 4-5 hours to complete). With the holiday season, there is no time, so I thought it was time to do a truncated version of that time-intensive blog.

We’ll just call this a preview!

To read my earlier blog about another Hillrose, click here. (You should really read this blog first, as it gives some background on how the Hillrose came to be.)

Brandy Station is also the site of a famous Civil War campaign. Learn more about that here.

This Hillrose was owned for many years by J. M. Cunningham, a famous Confederate war hero.

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The Hillrose has long been one of my favorites - and apparently is several peoples favorites! It won a design prize (sponsored by Sears) in 1914.

The Hillrose has long been one of my favorites - and apparently is several people's favorites! It won a design prize (sponsored by Sears) in 1914.

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1916

According to this image from the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog, there are also Hillroses built at Griffith Indiana, Alvado Ohio, Stratford Iowa, Waterman Illinois and Houghton New York.

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Nice spacious floorplan, too.

Four bedrooms and good layout.

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fff

While it's true that I love them all, the Hillrose is a favorite.

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And heres the Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia.

And here's the Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia. And best of all, for many years, it was owned by a famous Civil War hero, J. M. Cunningham, the highest ranking surviving field officer of the Confederate Army at the time of his death in 1939. He was 96 years old when he passed. More on this hero in the next blog. And interestingly enough, I discovered this glorious house thanks to a comment left at my blog! The home's owner contacted me and said he had a Sears Hillrose. If I had a nickle for every time I heard that! ;) But in this case, he really did!

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Beautiful, isnt it?

Beautiful, isn't it? It's a historically significant home, located in a historically significant city, and formerly owned by a historically impressive Confederate war hero. Wow.

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From the aft side

A true beauty from every angle!

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What a house.

What a house, and it sits in such a beautiful, bucolic place. My oh my.

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In the next blog, well take a look at the inside of this fine old home.

In the next blog, we'll take a look at the inside of this fine old home.

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To read my earlier blog about another Hillrose, click here. (You should really read this blog first, as it gives some background on how the Hillrose came to be.)

Brandy Station is also the site of a famous Civil War campaign. Learn more about that here.

This Hillrose was owned for many years by J. M. Cunningham, a famous Confederate war hero.

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Veritable Veneration for the Aladdin Venus

April 25th, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Last week, Elisabeth Witt of Wisconsin contacted me and said she thought there were a few kit homes in Shorewood, Wisconsin. I went to Realtor.com and entered Shorewood to do a quickie search, and one of the first hits was an Aladdin Venus! Click here to see the listing.

The Aladdin Venus was a popular house, but what makes this house in Shorewood so interesting is that it’s the only Venus I’ve seen that retains its original wooden awning.

And before we get to the pictures, I wonder if the Realtor knows it’s an Aladdin kit home? If so, there’s not a peep about it in the listing!

Thanks so much to Elisabeth for sending the photos!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus Ive seen with that wooden awning intact!

Located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, this is the only Aladdin Venus I've seen with that wooden awning intact! And the rest of the house is in lovely condition, minus the windows on the side. Best of all, this house is for sale and if you click on the link above, you'll find an abundance of interior photos. Thanks to Elisabeth Witt for getting this photo!

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Detail of that wooden awning.

Detail of that wooden awning.

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The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house.

The Aladdin Venus was a beautiful house, with a lot of fun details, like those paneled columns, the L-shaped front porch, and the star-pattern of windows on the home's left side (shown here). It also has oversized eaves and the roof slopes over those upstairs windows. When you look at the interior photos, that slope is dramatic on the 2nd floor. (1919 catalog)

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The Venus was offered in two floor plans.

The Venus was offered in two floor plans. Venus #1 was smaller (18 by 24).

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One house

Venus #2 was 20' by 26' and a couple other minor differences.

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House

"It continually attracts attention from people walking by..."

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The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Aladdin Venus, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

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What a pretty little Aladdin Venus!

What a pretty little Aladdin Venus! But the removal of four windows is a curiousity!

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Heres a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

Here's a tired Aladdin Venus in Newport News, Virginia.

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Another weary Venus, and this ones in Norfolk (38th Street).

Another weary Venus, and this one's in Norfolk (38th Street).

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Heres an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

Here's an Aladdin Venus just outside of Roanoke Rapids, NC.

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If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this ones exhausted. Its on 35th Street, in Park Place. At one time, Park Place was solid working class and many classic bungalows. Now its a blighted, high-crime area thats trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

If those other Venuses (Venii?) are tired-looking, this one's exhausted. It's on 35th Street, in Park Place (Norfolk, VA). At one time, Park Place was solid working class neighborhood with many classic bungalows. Now it's a blighted, high-crime area that's trying to come back. In the meantime, the many bungalows in this neighborhood can be had for a song.

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Lets end on a happy note. :)  Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

Let's end on a happy note. :) Many thanks to Elisabeth for the wonderful photo. And someone should tell that Realtor that this is the real deal - an Aladdin (not Sears) kit home!

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To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

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And The Winner is… (Part II)

December 31st, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Earlier this week, I wrote about the “contest” offered by Sears Roebuck, where they invited 100 “up-to-date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design (Modern Home #189, “The Hillrose”), and second prize was awarded to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa for Modern Home #184.

Despite a lot of traveling, I’ve never seen an original Hillrose. However, in 2005, I gave a talk at a $1,000,000 reproduction of the Sears Hillrose in Prophetstown, Indiana.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is now open to the public, and in addition to the reproduced Sears kit home, there’s also a large working farm on the site.

When there in 2005, I had a thorough tour of the inside and snapped a few photos. As I told the director, I really loved what they’d done with the place. I snapped a few photos (old 35mm slides), which you’ll see below.

In 1916, the Sears Hillrose was offered for less than $2,000. More than 90 years later, the reproduction Hillrose cost more than $1 million.

To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

The contest was featured in an undated brochure (about 1914).

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The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose.

The first prize design was Modern Home #189, or The Hillrose (1914 catalog).

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The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

The cost to build the contemporary Hillrose was $1,000,000.

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Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn. Upon reflection, Im not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when youre relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago.

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to match the Sears barn to any known Sears kit barn designs. Upon reflection, I'm not sure this was a bonafide reproduction kit barn. Memory can be fickle at times, especially when you're relying on a conversation that you had 10 years ago. That's my little red 2003 Camry to the right of the barn.

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Close-up of the barn.

Close-up of the barn.

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As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk in this barn.

As mentioned in the prior blog, I ended up giving my talk that night inside this barn. Back in the day, I toted around two slide projectors and would show the two slides on two screens, comparing extant houses with vintage catalog images. I was rather relieved when the world went to digital. Organizing all those slides for every talk was a massive undertaking. I finally gave away those slide projectors in 2011 when we moved into a new house.

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The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty.

The interior of the Hillrose was a thing of beauty. It disappears in the shadows, but yes, that's a chamber pot under the bed. The wallpaper was gorgeous, and the rag doll was a nice touch too.

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Is that a Sears light fixture?

Is that a Sears light fixture? Not perfect, but close enough for government work. :)

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For someone whos spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, the kitchen was charming.

For someone who's spent their life trying to figure out how to get back to the 1920s, I'd say the kitchen was utterly enchanting. And who doesn't secretly dream of a turquoise and white cast-iron, wood-fired cookstove?

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Oh

What's not to love?

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And what proper Indiana homestead wouldnt have a Hoosier cabinet?

And what proper Indiana homestead wouldn't have a Hoosier cabinet?

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And properly stocked, too?

And properly stocked, too?

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Do you have an aunt living in one of these towns?

Even though I've never seen an original Hillrose, the 1916 catalog shows that there were Hillroses buit in these cities. Please call your cousin Bertha in Griffith, Indiana and ask her to find the Sears Hillrose there and then ask her to take a photo and send it to the lady in Norfolk. Or maybe your Aunt Beulah in Alvada, Ohio? Or Granny Kittle in Waterman, Illinois? Work with me here. I need a photo of a real life Hillrose. Really I do.

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To read more about The Contest, click here.

Want to join our group on Facebook? Click here.

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And The Winner Is…

December 29th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

It started out in 1913 as a contest.

Sears invited 100 “up to date farmers” to submit their plans for a “modern farm house for the 20th Century.”

Mr. Selck of Evansville, Wisconsin won first prize with his design, which came to be known as The Hillrose (Modern Home #189). In addition to having his creation featured in subsequent catalogs, he also won $50 - in gold.

Second prize ($35 in gold) went to W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Iowa. His house (Modern Home #184) didn’t last long enough to be granted a name (1918), and in fact, was gone by 1916.

Despite 14 years of wandering and researching, I’ve seen only one Sears Hillrose and that was in Prophetstown, Indiana (near West Lafayette) and it was less than 20 years old.

The house was re-created several years ago by architectural  historians who studied the old pictures and floorplans shown in a Sears mail-order catalog. The Hillrose in Prophetstown is part of a museum exhibit that offers an interpretive display of a working farm.

The first floor of the house is true to the catalog image and to the time period. The interior is filled with period furnishings, appliances and even ephemera. An old Sears catalog sits on an end table in the front room of the Hillrose. The second floor is thoroughly modern, not open to the public, and is used as administrative offices.

In 2005, I traveled to Prophetstown to see this recently built Hillrose “in the flesh” and to give a talk on Sears Homes.

Originally, it was planned that I’d give the talk in the front room of the Hillrose (with space for 30 attendees). Not good. These talks - even 10 years ago - often drew 100+ visitors.

The only option available at the last minute was the barn. And it was a real barn, with real critters and hay and implements.

That evening, at 7:00 pm, I addressed about 90 people, four goats, six cows and several chickens. In the barn.

This newly built Hillrose was a pricey little affair. The 1916 Sears catalog showed the house offered for $1,649. More than 90 years later, the Hillrose’s contemporary cost exceeded $1 million, due to the expense of re-creating an early 20th Century farm house.

And now Prophetstown has a real treasure and a tourism attraction that will endure for decades to come.

There’s a real-life Hillrose in Brandy Station, Virginia!

Read Part II here.

Click here to see inside the Hillsboro in Prophetstown.

To read more about this Hillsboro in Indiana, click here.

Want to learn more about to identify a Sears House? Click here.

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Contest

I wonder what an "out of date" farmer looks like? This image came from a promotional brochure, dated about 1914. Take a moment and read it in its entirety. It's fun!

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First prize

Modern Home #189 was the prize winner, and garnered $50 in gold for Mr. Selck of Evansville, Indiana (1914 catalog). Fine house (with more than 2,000 square feet) for a mere $1,473.

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house hosue house

W. L. Richardson of Cambridge, Ohio won $35 in gold for this design (1914 catalog).

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First prize winner

Apparently, Sears asked for a letter from the first prize winner.

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Second

And the second-prize winner, too.

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house

Aladdin was actually the originator of the business of selling kit homes via mail-order catalogs, but what's a little promotional puffery between friends?.

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hillrose

A comparison of the two houses - side-by-side.

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house

I guess the woodshed was the thing that carried the day.

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house

A panoramic view of Modern Home #189, showing not only the house, but outbuildings and livestock.

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1916

A closer view of Modern Home #189 (The Hillrose).

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barn

A close-up of the Sears kit barn, as shown with The Hillrose (above).

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Round barn with

I love that dormer atop not just the round barn but the silo, too.

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cheapter

Chicken House #221 is shown next to the Hillrose.

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Long shot

Here's a long view of the 2nd prize winner. He has a chicken coop, but it's not the #221. He has a vehicle, but it's only one-horse power. He has an outbuilding, but it's a little milk house.

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house 1916

Second-prize winner got cheaped out on the chicken house.

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house house

Nice little milk house, though.

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Even though Ive never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog).

Even though I've never seen a 1910s Hillrose, they are out there - apparently (1916 catalog). Alvado, Ohio can't be that big. It can't be too tough to find a big old Sears foursquare in little old Alvado. Perhaps a kind-hearted Avacadoan will find this Hillrose in their town and snap a photo for moi. Or maybe someone in Griffith will embark on this mission of mercy. One can hope. I need a picture of a Hillrose.

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However, I dont know if any of these homes were ever built.

However, I don't know if any of these homes were ever built. Good news is, this house is so distinctive, it'll be easy to spot! In addition to being an L-shaped foursquare (yeah, really), it has an offset porch, small vestibule, pedimented porch roof, big gabled dormer, oversized eaves and a dainty-looking horse in the front yard.

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The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy.

The Modern Hillrose in West Lafayette is a real dandy, and it's the only Hillrose I've seen.

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From catalog side

A view of the Hillrose from the same angle as the catalog.

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My favorite view of all

My favorite shot of the Hillrose, showing the barn in the background.

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Just a little archival storage tip: If youre going to

Just a little archival storage tip: If you're going to collect rare Sears House ephemera and sell it on eBay, don't cut it up into tiny bits and then laminate the whole caboodle with thick plastic. This photo here is to help explain why images 1, 4, 5 and 6 look like they were scanned through wax paper. Because - actually - they were. Special thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for purchasing this rare brochure and sharing it!

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To read Rachel’s wonderful blog, click here.

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Hopeless in Hopewell (Part 72)

September 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

“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’s not.

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.

The Van Jean, as seen in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note

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.

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Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

Details matter. The Sears Van Jean has large cornice returns.

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This Dutch Colonial in Hopewell is a fine house but its not a Van Jean.

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.

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Close-up, comparing the porch.

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.

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Hopewells brochure explains the differences (ahem) between the Van Jean in Hopewell and the Sears Van Jean.

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.

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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!!”?

I wonder.

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.

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The Aladdin Cumberland: 100 Years Old

August 23rd, 2014 Sears Homes 6 comments

In May 2014, we traveled to Wilmington, DE and Philadelphia, PA to do research at the Hagley Museum (Wilmington) and at the National Archives and Records Administration (Philadelphia).

Along the way, we stopped at Carney’s Point, New Jersey to check out some of the Aladdin kit homes.

There in Carney’s Point, we found an abundance of DuPont Houses (probably DuPont designs, but built with ready-cut materials ordered from Aladdin) and also Aladdin Kit Homes (Aladdin designs and Aladdin materials).

One of the models I saw in Carney’s Point that I had never seen before was the Aladdin “Cumberland.” This is such a pedestrian  foursquare that I’m now wondering how many of these I’ve overlooked in other places. There’s not a lot to distinguish this house from the tens of thousands of foursquares that cover America.

The house was offered in the 1914 and 1916 catalog. It’s likely that these houses in Carney’s Point were built in 1916, but they’re very close to the 100-year mark!

Hopefully, now that I’ve seen one live and in person, I shan’t miss another one!

Read about some of the other houses I’ve found in Carney’s Point here, and here.

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1914

The Cumberland, as seen in the 1914 catalog.

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1914

View from the staircase side. BTW, the house was built about six minutes ago, and that lattice work uner the porch deck already looks pretty crummy.

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1914

View from another side (1914 catalog). Lattice work looks worse on this side.

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1916

The Cumberland's living room (1916 catalog). Love the couch!

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1914

Traditional floorplan for a foursquare (1914).

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1916

"Sensible" equals uh, well, "pedestrian" (from the 1916 catalog).

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uddated

An undated view of Carney's Point. That's a Cumberland on the far right (foreground).

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1914

Staircase side (1914)

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Milto

This photo shows why it's so difficult to identify these houses a few decades later! Look at all the changes this house has endured through the years. Three fine windows - gone. At least that crummy lattice work has been repaired.

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milton

Another Cumberland on Shell Road in Carney's Point. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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other side 1914

View from the other side (1914).

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other ilton

At least this side is a better match to the original catalog image. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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House house

That dormer is unfortunate. Who thought *that* was a good idea? :( Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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BGunches

Long view of the many Aladdin kit homes on Shell Road in Carney's Point. In the foreground is an Aladdin Cumberland, followed by an Aladdin Georgia, Aladdin Amherst, Aladdin Gerogia and another Cumberland. Photo is copyright 2014 Milton H. Crum and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about DuPont and why they were in Carney’s Point, click here.

To read about Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost City, click here.

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