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Posts Tagged ‘waterview in portsmouth’

Not For The Squeamish…

October 1st, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

More than 30 years ago, I obtained my real estate license and became a bona fide Realtor in Portsmouth, Virginia. The very first house I listed was in Waterview (Portsmouth). Because I was so young (22 years old) and because I was such a neophyte, I spent a lot of time sitting in my client’s living room and holding  her hand - literally and figuratively.

My client was an elderly widow who lived alone in the vintage Spanish Revival home. As is often the case with elderly widows, her old house was in mostly original condition.

And this woman was also a long-time neighbor. Having grown up less than a block away, I had always admired this house. In the midst of a neighborhood full of brick Colonial Revivals, this Spanish-flavored house really stood out.

I remember - as a little girl - approaching the house on Halloween night, and pausing to admire the beautiful wrought-iron sconces that hung high on the home’s brick walls and the three tall arches that protected the spacious front porch. (Pausing for any reason, whilst trick or treating with my brother, was always a poor choice, as he was likely to dash to the front door ahead of me and tell the homeowner, “Please don’t give my little sister any candy. She just got out of the hospital late this afternoon and she promised our mother she wouldn’t accept any sweets.”)

In 1982, I listed the house for sale at $51,500. About 90 days later, it sold for $45,000 cash. An elderly gent purchased the house for use as rental property.

For years, every time I passed the house, I’d wave at it and whisper sweetly, “Hello my Pretty. You’re looking especially lovely today.”

And then one day in the late 1990s, as I drove past this house, I literally gasped.

Someone had decided to commit an act of lewd remuddling against this classic 1920s home.

I stopped the car and stared in horror. Workers were busy as little bees, placing roof trusses on the home’s flat roof. A couple masons were adding a few bricks here and there. And those sconces were unceremoniously ripped off and tossed into a dumpster.

I felt like screaming. I wanted to stop them. I almost cried. But there was nothing I could do.

After a few minutes, I started the car and continued on my way.

Last month, I discovered that my first MLS listing was actually a plan book house, offered in the 1927 Home Builder’s Catalog. “The Celilo” was offered in two floor plans (”A” and “B”). The house in Waterview was the “B” floorplan (with a 1/4 basement).

The pictures bespeak the horror far better than words.

And if any folks from Portsmouth know more about the dates when this lewd act occurred, please leave a comment below.

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The  cereliaus

The Celilo was a plan book house offered in the 1927 Home Builders Catalog.

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house house house

Incredibly, the Celilo in Portsmouth had a quarter basement.

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house house hosue

My "Celilo" was done in yellow brick, not stucoo (as shown above), but other than that, the house in the picture above was a spot-on match to the house in Portsmouth (pre-remuddling). Look at those wrought-iron sconces!

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Today, the Celilo looks pretty mundane (and that's the kindest thing I can say about it). The proportions of the house are just "off." Stacking a gable roof atop a Spanish Revival was not a good idea. And the damage done to the home's unique architectural style is irreparable.

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house spanish

Even putting those sconces back up didn't help.

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soncen

If you look closely, you can see where the brick workers filled in this notched roof with more bricks. And then they had to paint it gray to hide the mismatched bricks and mortar.

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If you sneak a peek

Today, the only remnant of this home's Spanish-flavored origins is the old wrought-iron porch light. I'm surprised someone didn't toss these in the dumpster, too.

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House street messed

Words elude me.

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To learn more about the plan book houses of Portsmouth, click here.

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How to Properly Identify a Sears Magnolia

November 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 2 comments

Nary a week passes that someone doesn’t send me a note, happily reporting that they’ve spotted a Sears Magnolia in their neighborhood.

And 99.99% of the time, they’re wrong.

Priced at about $6,000, the Sears Magnolia (sold from 1918-1922) was Sears biggest and fanciest kit home. And despite lots of searching, only seven Sears Magnolias have been found.

Like most of the 370 designs of houses offered by Sears, the Magnolia was purposefully patterned after a popular housing style: The Southern Colonial. Here in Hampton Roads, there’s a Southern Colonial Revival in many of our early 20th Century neighborhoods.

However, the Sears Magnolia - the real deal - has several distinctive features that distinguish from “look-alikes.”

The photos shown below give some visual clues on how to identify the Sears Magnolia (the real deal).

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia was their biggest, fanciest and most expensive home. It was offered from 1918-1922. The picture here is from the 1921 catalog. If you look closely at the badge that shows the price, you'll see that the Magnolia was also known as #2089.

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After World War One (The Great War),

After World War One (The Great War), lumber prices went sky high. Sears catalogs had about a six-week lead time (from creation to publishing). Due to the volatility of building material costs, Sears couldn't keep up on the price info. As an alternate, they just stuck price sheets into the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. See the Magnolia above? This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the Spring 1921 Sears catalog.

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The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

The Magnolia had more than 2,900 square feet (as built). The first floor was pretty busy.

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Heres a close-up of the kitchen

Here's a close-up of the kitchen area and butler's pantry. Notice that there''s a downstairs "lavatory." Pretty upscale for 1921.

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My favorite Magnolia. This one is in Benson, NC.

A picture-perfect Magnolia in Benson, NC.

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And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

And this one is in Canton, Ohio.

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The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog.

The lumber in Sears Homes was numbered, as is shown in this graphic from the rear cover of the 1921 catalog. The mark is on one end of the lumber, and also on the face of it (typically about 6-8" from the end). "B" was for 2x4s, "C" was 2x6s, "D" was 2x8s.

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Heres a real life example of the marks.

Here's a real life example of the mark on the lumber.

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Mak

The Magnolia was also known as Modern Home #2089. If you look closely, you'll see the number 2089 scribbled on this 2x8. This is the basement of the Benson Magnolia. When the house was being prepared for shipment out of the mill in Cairo, Illinois, the model number was written on a few of the framing members. To the right is the name of the family that originally placed the order for this house.

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The Magnolia was offered with both Corinthian (as shown here) and Ionic columns. I havent figured out if this was an option, or if it was dependent on what year the house was ordered.

The Magnolia was offered with both Corinthian (as shown here) and Ionic columns. I haven't figured out if this was an option, or if it was dependent on what year the house was ordered. In the Sears Magnolia, these columns are wooden and hollow. I've found that most "Southern Colonials" (with these two-story columns) have concrete columns. If you think you've found a Magnolia, go rap on the columns and if they're made of something more solid than wood, it is NOT a Magnolia.

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The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA.

The entry hall of a Sears Magnolia in Irwin, PA. The details matter. Notice over the door, there's an arched fan light. Many "look-alikes" have a square transom over the door. Learn how to pay attention to these many details.

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Noticee these very disctinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house youre looking at have these very samee windows? If not, its probably not a Sears Magnolia.

Notice these very distinctive windows on the Magnolia. Does the house you're looking at have these very same windows? If not, it's probably not a Sears Magnolia.

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If it dooesnt look like this, its not a Magnolia!  :0

If it doesn't look like this, it's not a Magnolia! :)

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Here's another example of a Magnolia (located in West Virginia).

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And another

And another beautiful Magnolia in Syracuase, NY. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read another really awesome story on Sears Homes, click here.

My favorite blog (an interview with a man who built a Magnolia) is here.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Bathrooms

November 28th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

One day I dropped by my brother’s house for a visit, and he told me that he needed some help with “a little problem” in the bathroom.

His house was a gorgeous 1930s Dutch Colonial, well-maintained and well-loved, and the crowning jewel of the old house was the vintage bathroom, complete with subway tile, black and white tile floor, beautiful wainscoting, original fixtures, etc.

As I gasped in horror at the “little problem,” he explained that he’d hired a plumber to put in a new manifold (tub and shower faucet assembly) and the plumber had charged him $500 to do this little “fix.”

I asked him where he found this “plumber” and he said, “Well, he’s not really a plumber actually; it’s just something he does on the side.”

No kidding.

I understand the guy threw in the duct tape for free.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

To learn about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Growing Up in Waterview (Portsmouth)

June 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In 1953, my father took a job at Skippy Peanut Butter in downtown Portsmouth, necessitating a move from their home (and family)in California to Virginia. They rented homes in Park Manor and then in Shea Terrace, and then they decided it was time to buy a home of their own. In April 1957, they paid $17,500 for a house in Waterview, at 515 Nansemond Street. They used my mother’s veteran’s benefits to get a 15-year VA mortgage on the house.

Mom didn’t like the kitchen in the new house. The only cabinet space was a six-foot wide enameled metal base cabinet with a cast-iron double sink in the center. There was a drawer to the left and right, and four doors under the sink. It was pretty primitive. My mother took $500 of her own money and hired a carpenter to build a room full of knotty pine cabinets with wrought iron hardware. Yellowish/greenish Formica with a non-descript squiggly pattern (trimmed with a stainless steel edging) was the finishing touch. She also bought a fancy new GE electric stove with push-buttons on the console. The result was transformative, and after the work was all done, she came to love her “new” kitchen.

Mom spent a lot of time sitting on her screened-in porch, looking out at the spacious side yard. The sturdy canvas awnings with their scalloped edges together with the thick canopy of the tall pines provided a bit of relief on those hot summer days.

Whether Mom was relaxing on the porch or walking around the house, she’d often tell me, “I’m so grateful to live in this big beautiful house. Just so grateful.”

Hearing such things from a parent can have a deep and lasting impact on a child. My mother taught me how to love and appreciate old houses, and yet, it was not one of those “I’m teaching my child an important lesson here” moments. It was an abundance of love and gratitude that overflowed from her heart and right into mine. Her comments touched me deeply. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the main reason that I became an architectural historian.

I love old houses. I love everything about them. I love thinking about them and writing about them.

I’m so blessed to have a career where I can spend my days thinking about and writing about old houses.

And I’ve enjoyed having an old house of my own. It’s been a fun ride. And now it’s time to move on.

Enjoy the old photos!  :)

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Eddie licks the beaters (always a fun thing to do) while standing in front of the original kitchen cabinet. When the house was built in 1925, this base cabinet, together with a small matching wall cabinet (to the right) were the only cabinets in the entire kitchen.

Eddie and my father in the kitchen.

Eddie and my father in the kitchen. You can see a bit of this "remodeled kitchen" in the background.

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My mother looking happy in her beloved home. Tommy Fuller, Jr. stands behind Tom Fuller Sr (seated), and Rickey is setting fire to something on the table. Both parents have a hand on Eddie to keep him still long enough for the shutter to click.

The two oldest boys got shiny new bikes in Summer 1959, and Eddie (the youngest boy) got a new baby sister. Im pretty sure he would have preferred a red bike.

The two oldest boys got shiny new bikes in Summer 1959, and Eddie (the youngest boy) got a new baby sister. I'm pretty sure he would have preferred a red bike. The look on his face says it all. Great shot of our living room and foyer - and a stunned little brother.

Mom

Mom holds me up and away from the male land sharks.

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Good picture of the fan light over the front door. Dad and I look very worried.

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Eddie tries desperately to make the noise stop. I'm not sure, but I think he's offering me a corn dog. Judging by the look on my face, I'm giving the offer some serious consideration.

Eddie goes to sleep under the watchful eye of Lil Bo Peep and Bugs Bunny. I saw this same Lil Bo Peep applique in an episode of I Love Lucy, and it was over Little Rickeys crib. I guess Lil Bo Peep was a big item for boys in the mid-1950s.

Eddie goes to sleep under the watchful eye of Lil' Bo Peep and Bugs Bunny. I saw this same Lil' Bo Peep applique in an episode of "I Love Lucy," and it was over "Little Rickey's" crib. I guess Lil' Bo Peep was a big item for boys in the mid-1950s.

Were probably in that 45-minute period, waiting for the TV to warm up.

We're probably in that boring 45-minute period, where we'd sit around and wait for the TV to warm up.

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Rickey, Eddie and Tommy, about 1960.

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Neighborhood kids gather for Rickey's 9th birthday party. That's me in the lower right, hoping that someone with more advanced neuro-muscular skills will turn my teddy bear right-side up.

aw

The tall trees and canvas awnings worked together to keep the worst of the summer heat off Mom's favorite "room" - the sunporch.

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Our house on Nansemond in 1973, following a big snowstorm. Photo was taken by Gerald B. Anderson and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1957, when we moved in.

Pretty in pink

Our house, is a very, very, very nice house. With no cats and a dog, life used to be so hard...Oh wait, that's something else. Here's our house in Norfolk - a 1925 Colonial Revival pretty in pink.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

To learn more about Gosnold Avenue, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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Jim and Tammy’s House - a Kit Home!

February 2nd, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Those familiar with WYAH-TV and Portsmouth, Virginia will remember that this was where Pat Robertson and CBN got their start. According to his autobiographical book, Shout it From The Housetops, the name for Robertson’s flagship station came from the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. In 1960, when the station was first launched, this was a remarkable event. It was the first Christian television network, and it was located right here in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The station signed on the air October 1961, and in 1966, a young couple named Jim and Tammy Bakker started working for Robertson. Their show, “The Jim and Tammy Show” featured local kiddos in the studio audience. Growing up in Waterview, my best friend was Margee Anderson, and her mom would drive Margee and me down to the studio on Spratley Street and we’d take our place in the audience.  As a seven or eight year old child, I remember thinking that Jim and Tammy were good people. I’d like to believe that those cherished memories of childhood are right, and that the Bakkers merely lost their way in later years.

The Bakkers lived in Waterview, about three blocks from my own home. Sometime in the 1970s, they left Portsmouth and moved out of their Dutch Colonial home at the foot of the Churchland bridge.

In later years, I discovered that the Bakker’s home was actually a kit home, ordered from a mail-order catalog sometime in the early 1920s. The house was shipped by train - in about 12,000 pieces - and came with a 75-page instruction book that told the wanna-be homeowner how all those pieces went together. The house the Bakkers lived in was sold by Lewis Manufacturing of Bay City, Michigan. Their model was The Marlboro.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

Lewis Marlboro

Lewis Marlboro

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Lewis Marlboro in Portsmouth, as it appeared in 2004. The front door was covered with plywood, due to some issue (which eludes my memory right now).

From the 1921 catalog

From the 1921 catalog

The house as it appears today

The house as it appears today

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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Do You Live in a Sears House?

November 9th, 2010 Sears Homes 1 comment

As the author of several books on kit homes, I’ve given more than 200 lectures in 25 states, and the #1 question I’m most frequently asked is, “Do you live in a Sears House?”

The short answer is, no, I do not live in a Sears House. However, I love old houses and I love old things. It’s my love of old things that compelled us (me and the new hubby) to purchase a 1925 Colonial Revival home. It’s a real beauty and it’s also a real money pit. My husband and I have spent an inordinate amount of time and money restoring the grand old home to its former glory.

To read more about my house, click here.

(Story continues below the photos.)

Pretty in pink

1925 Colonial Revival Home in Norfolk ,Virginia.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

Our home as it appeared in 1948.

I have always loved old houses. I was born and raised in a 1925 Colonial Revival, much like the house I own now. That house was in Waterview, a 1920s neighborhood in Portsmouth Virginia.  My childhood home was built in 1925, and it was a solid brick home with a slate roof. Notice how similar it is to the house I now own in Norfolk?

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

My family home in Waterview (Portsmouth) as seen in April 1956, when we moved in.

In February 2006, my husband and I were looking for homes in Norfolk and that’s when I saw this house (see picture above) and immediately fell in love. I literally grabbed him the lapels and said, “I have to have this house.” Admittedly, it was a ridiculously emotional reaction, occasioned by the fact that it was very similar to the home in which I was born and raised.

As I’ve told many friends, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful wooden sculpture, and incredibly, we get to live and move and have our being within the four walls of this artistic creation.