Archive

Posts Tagged ‘the sears homes of virginia’

The Sexton’s Sears House at Greenlawn Cemetery

September 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

According to local lore, the sexton’s home at the Greenlawn Cemetery (in Newport News, Virginia) is a Sears Home. As is so typical with these “legends,” no one knows which model of Sears Home, only that it came from the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1900s. (Sears offered 370 models of their kit homes.)

Recently, I went out to Greenlawn Cemetery (Newport News, VA) to see if the sexton’s home was the real deal.

More than 80% of the time, these “stories” about Sears Homes turn out to be erroneous. Most of the time, people do indeed have a kit home, but it’s a kit home from a different company. In addition to Sears, there were five other companies that sold kit homes on a national level (such as Montgomery Ward, Sterling, Harris Bros, Lewis Manufacturing, Gordon Van Tine and more).

While I was out at Greenlawn, I took some pictures of the house and walked around and studied it a bit. I’d still like to get into the house to confirm this, but I’m at least 90% certain this is a Sears “Berkeley.” However, before I declare this an official, authenticated Sears Home, I’d need to see the home’s interior.

The house at Greenlawn is not a spot-on match to the catalog image. The windows are significantly different, as is the front porch (which has been enclosed).

The Berkeley, as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Berkeley, as shown in the 1936 catalog

The Berkeley at Greenlawn Cemetery

The Berkeley at Greenlawn Cemetery

Nice quiet neighborhood

Front yard of The Berkeley. It's a nice quiet neighborhood.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

* * *

Have You Seen This House? (Part 3)

April 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

We’ve got a mystery here in Colonial Place/Riverview section of Norfolk.

In 2007, I moved to Colonial Place/Riverview neighborhood and in that first week, I started walking around, admiring the old houses. The first time I saw these 14 identical bungalows in Riverview (see below), they waved at me, jumped up and down and said, “Don’t we look like kit homes from Aladdin?” And yet, I’ve not been able to match these houses with any of the images in my many vintage catalogs.

Their 14 little faces have haunted me ever since.  (Later, I learned that Highland Park [Norfolk] has two of these homes.)

According to local legend, all of these homes were moved here (by barge) from another location.

They’re fairly distinctive little houses, and the $64,000 question is, where did they come from?

More and more, it’s looking like they came  from Penniman, Virginia, where DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). DuPont turned to Aladdin to supply houses for their workers in Penniman, and it’s likely that there were hundreds of “Ready-cut” houses, shipped from Aladdin’s mills in nearby Wilmington, NC.

Working with my history-loving friends David Spriggs and Mark Hardin, we’ve had several wonderful discoveries, but heretofore, we’ve found nothing conclusive.

For instance, Mark found an old article that said when “The Great War,“  ended (late 1918), the Aladdin Ready-cut Homes there in Penniman were “were knocked down and moved great distances on trucks and barges to many different localities, a number of them being most attractively re-erected in Williamsburg and the county.”

And Mark discovered a massive collection of these same “Norfolk Bungalows” in Dupont, Washington, another site where Dupont provided housing for their workers).  (To see these houses, enter this address into Google Maps: 214 Barksdale Street, Dupont, Washington, and then spin around 90 degrees.)

Friday, I went to Williamsburg and drove around the city and out towards the old Penniman site. I’m sorry to report that I found nothing of import or remarkable (other than one Sears kit home “The Oak Park” near the College).

So now we’re wondering if the houses landed someplace other than Williamsburg.

I hope so, because in Williamsburg, I found very little pre-WW2 housing of any kind. I suspect that these early 20th Century bungalows may have been obliterated by the massive and ongoing expansion of Colonial Williamsburg and The College of William and Mary.

The search continues. And I know that one day soon, we’ll have our answer.

If you’ve any information to contribute, please post a note in the comment’s section below!

House

One of our mystery bungalows on 51st Street. Photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Spriggs.

Another

Good shot of the two bungalows on 51st Street. This photo is courtesy of David Spriggs and may not be reused or reprinted without permission from David Sprggs.

house

This is one of the houses in Riverview that's in mostly original condition. The little dormer on the side was added in later years.

 

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

 

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that providing housing for workers created a more stable workforce. And that was probably true.

Aladdin promoted itself to companies as a supplier of industrial housing. It was believed that if a company provided housing for its employees, this would create a more stable workforce. And that was probably true. Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply homes for Hopewell and Penniman, Virginia and Carney Point, NJ. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

And the lone kit house I found in Williamsburg is this Sears Oak Park on Newport Avenue (very near the college).

Sears Oak Park from the 1933 catalog

Sears Oak Park from the 1933 catalog

Sears Oak Park

The lone kit home I found in Williamsburg: The Sears Oak Park.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

* * *

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.

*   *   *

The Original Camp David (Presidential Retreat), Part II

March 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In the Spring 1906 issue of American Carpenter and Builder there’s a fascinating article about the new presidential retreat, built for Theodore Roosevelt.  The 15-acre retreat - known as “Pine Knob” - was built in the Piedmont area of Virginia.

This wonderful article also included pictures of the staff and the building.

There was additional text that went with the story that I’d like to include here. The historians among us (such as myself) will find these little details of another time pretty darn interesting. Plus, there are several names in this story, and I suspect that the families would be thrilled to see pictures of their kin, and hear about their work at the presidential retreat.

The original text appears below. Photos of the workers (mentioned in the text) appear at the bottom of this page.  Be forewarned, the story is told using the idioms of its day, and it’s a vernacular that is a bit jarring. Nonetheless, I prefer to let this historical narrative speak in its own voice.

If you’re looking for Rose’s book, click here.

To read Part I of this story, click here.

Exterior of the Presidential Retreat.

Exterior of the Presidential Retreat in Pine Knob, not too far from Harrisonburg, VA.

This originally appeared in the Spring 1906 American Carpenter and Builder magazine

This originally appeared in the Spring 1906 American Carpenter and Builder magazine

Below are pictures of the staff at Pine Knob. Further below are close-ups.

The staff is fairly rustic, too.

The staff is fairly rustic, too.

Close-up of the crew at Pine Knob

Close-up of the staff at Pine Knob

Another close-up

Another close-up

Last of three slices of the original photo.

Last of three slices of the original photo.

And the news item below appeared in the New York Times, December 1905.

Whos Kermit?

Kermit Roosevelt, credited with saving his father's life during a safari, later took his own life after a horrific bout with depression (or melancholy, as it was then known).

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

* * *