Posts Tagged ‘williamsburg’

Beaverboard: Long Tough Fibers of White Spruce

June 13th, 2014 Sears Homes No comments

The houses that DuPont built for their munitions workers at Penniman, Virginia featured “Beaverboard” interiors. Sounds pretty fancy, but in fact, it was an economical alternative to real plaster walls.

Bill Inge lent me his “Sweet’s Architectural Catalog” (1917) which had a two-page spread on Beaverboard. It answered all my questions (and then some).

Apparently, this wallboard product was quite the rage in the first years of the 20th Century, and was hugely popular in low-cost industrial housing.

In 1981, our family moved into a house built in 1949, and it had Beaverboard on the walls of its small attic room (complete with 2-inch strips at the seams). When we tore it out, it created a massive mess.

Apparently, Beaverboard wallboard was a product that endured for many years.

According to Wikipedia, it can also be used as an artist’s canvas. Grant Wood’s famous painting of the morose farming couple - American Gothic - was painted on a piece of Beaverboard.

What made plaster so expensive? Click here.

To learn more about industrial housing at DuPont’s villages, click here.

Interested in Virginia’s own Ghost City? Click here.


Beaver Board

I wanted to title this blog, "Beaverboard: Who Gives a Dam?" but I couldn't bring myself to do it. ;)



The houses that DuPont built at their munitions plants had beaverboard walls.



Despite the glowing reports in the Beaverboard literature, this was still an "economical" alternative to plaster.



The header says, "Foreign Branches." Quite an outfit!



"Long tough fibers of white spruce...compressed and built up into...panels..."


house beaverboard

Is the homeowner weilding a walking stick at the old worker?



Now that the worker has started putting up Beaverboard, the walking stick has been removed from sight.



Why bother to put six big beautiful windows in a house and then cover them up? Why not just put Beaverboard right over the windows? If I were queen of the world, I'd make it illegal to have a sunporch shrouded in heavy drapes.



"It permits of mural decorations in theaters..." I have my doubts about this.



Under "Club" it reads, "The club's activities never will be hindered by repairs..." Wow.



Here's a Penniman house that was moved from the munitions factory to Capitol Landing Road (Williamsburg). Was it built with interior walls of Beaverboard? Probably so.


Was that house at Penniman beaverboard

How I'd love to see the inside of this Penniman/DuPont house when built in 1918.


To learn more about industrial housing at DuPont’s villages, click here.

Interested in Virginia’s own Ghost City? Click here.

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“Perhaps You’d Like to See Our Tombstone Catalog…”

March 27th, 2014 Sears Homes 4 comments

According to “Sears, Roebuck, USA: The Great American Catalog Store and How It Grew,” a Sears customer wrote the Chicago Mail-order giant and asked if she could return several bottles of patent medicine that she’d purchased the month before.

In her letter, she explained that the medicine had been intended for her husband and after ingesting the first bottle, he’d quickly passed on.

The clerk who received the inquiry responded quickly, with an assurance that certainly, she could return the unopened bottles, and by the way, would she like to see a copy of Sears’ Tombstone Catalog?

Funny story, but the sobering fact is, traditional, elaborate Victorian funerals were expensive. Tradition dictated that certain rituals and procedures be done, and a middle-class family might endure shame and scorn if they couldn’t afford a decent marker for their loved one. And what about the poor? Often, they had to quietly and stoically endure the humiliation of seeing their loved one placed in a pauper’s grave.

(An aside:  There’s a 1920s pauper’s grave in Williamsburg where 35+ bodies (many of whom are children) are buried. The only “markers” at the site were small granite stones - the remnants of tombstones - that were provided by the undertaker. These markers outlined the individual graves. With the passage of time, those graves were forgotten and now  there’s a condo built on top of part of that cemetery.)

After Aunt Addie’s exhumation made the headlines, several people shared “old family legends” about a time when a young child died, and the family - unable to afford a real burial and/or pay burial fees - surreptitiously stole into the city graveyard in the dark of night, and buried their little one in a make-shift coffin.

By contrast, such stories make a pauper’s grave seem like a mercy.

I have no pictures of Sears tombstones, but with all these testimonials, they shouldn’t be too hard to find. Plus, they were made from Vermont Slate, which as a distinctive color and veining.

If you look up Sears Tombstones on the internet, you’ll find there are folks claiming that Sears tombstones were hollow, zinc markers (metal) but this is one of those apocryphal stories. Not sure where it started, but it’s not true.

To learn more about Victorian burial customs, click here.

To read about early 1900s burial rituals, click here.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

Verse 1904 Thomb

The Tombstone Catalog from 1904.


people loved them

Does anyone in Plain City, Ohio want to get me a picture of the Frazell tombstone? I would love to see one of these. And there's the Chitty tombstone in Rapid City, SD. That's also a fairly unusual name.


freight costs might seem

You'd think freight costs would be prohibitive, but Sears had it all worked out.



Inscription cost six cents per letter, unless it's a verse, and then its 2-1/2 cents per letter, unless it's on the upper base and then it's 15 cents per two-inch letter.


here lies mary

Mark Hardin observed that most of these images in the 1904 catalog depict young people. In the late 1800s, one out of five children passed on before they reached adulthood. In early 1900s America, there would have been very few families whose lives hadn't been touched by the death of a child.


Mary again

When I was researching the life and death of my Aunt Addie (died in 1901), I came across one story in the 1893 Lake Mills Leader that I will never forget. It was the height of a diphtheria epidemic, and the diphtheria was present in many counties in Wisconsin. In southern Wisconsin, a family had lost seven of their eight children to that single epidemic. The paper reported that the "eighth child had also contracted the diphtheria" and was not doing well. The article said that the children apparently had "weak blood." Today, we'd call it a genetic predisposition .


another one

The epitaphs mostly depict a young child.


house tombstone

When my beloved mother died suddenly in 2002, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered. In retrospect, I now more fully understand the comfort that a marker such as this can provide to greiving families.



For a poor family desperate to have their loved one remembered, the economical "Sears option" may have been a God-send. It provided an option to an unmarked pauper's grave.



"Verse inscription ideas - at no extra cost to you, our loyal customer."



I sincerely hope that no one chose this verse.



This is not a Sears Tombstone, but I find the last line quite interesting. My daughter Crystal found this in an old graveyard near Hartwell, Georgia. Photo is copyright 2010 Crystal Thornton and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.


To read about Penniman’s poor flu victims that were buried in a forgotten grave, click here.

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Moving House: Williamsburg Style

November 22nd, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

Like thousands of good little schoolchildren before me, our elementary school class trekked off to see Colonial Williamsburg sometime in the 1960s. Little did I know that parts of this “Colonial” site were a mere 30 years old at the time.

Despite being a native of this area, it wasn’t until 2007 that I learned that part of Colonial Williamsburg was re-created in the early 1930s through the beneficence and foresight of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Hubby and I were touring Colonial Williamsburg when I pointed out that there’d been some restoration work done on these buildings in the 1920s or 30s. He looked at my quizzically and said, “You know that many of these buildings are re-creations done in the early 30s, right?”


Seven years later, while researching Penniman, DuPont’s 37th munitions plant on the York River, I discovered that the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) had several aerial photos of Williamsburg from the late 1920s and 1930s. David Spriggs and I drove to the library Tuesday morning to get a better look at these photos.

And it was a fascinating field trip.

Marianne, the Vital Resources Editorial Librarian, was every researcher’s dream. She was not only knowledgeable and well-versed, but eager to help us solve a few mysteries.

In looking at these old aerial photos, it was my hope to find a few of the 17 houses that were moved to Williamsburg from Penniman in October 1921 by W. A. Bozarth (according to the Virginia Gazette).  I did find nine Penniman houses in the photo.

Sadly, judging from these vintage photos, many early 20th Century houses and eight of our relocated Penniman houses went bye-bye during the Colonial Williamsburg restoration. (Kind of pitiable really. The little Penniman houses survived the “leave no board behind” government salvage at Penniman, and then died a tragic death just 10 years later.)

Finding those Penniman houses was fun, but there was hidden treasure I discovered in that photo that was even more fun!

Scroll on down.

To learn more about John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), click here

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Shiawassee History

This undated aerial view of Williamsburg was probably from the early 1930s. Those familiar with Williamsburg will recognize "The Triangle" where Richmond and Jamestown Roads merge at Duke Of Gloucester Street. These photos were taken by the Army Corps of Engineers and the detail is stunning. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)



When I first saw this house, I told my husband, "Why, it looks like that house is sitting in the middle of the street!" And then I realized, that the house IS sitting in the middle of S. England Street! The photographer managed to catch a picture of Williamsburg on a day when a house was being moved. With all the development of Colonial Williamsburg, I'm grateful to know that a few houses were moved rather than destroyed, and this image offers photographic proof! Most likely, the house is being moved backwards, and headed south on S. England Street. The absence of power lines and overhead wires made it a lot easier to move houses. In fact, in the early 1900s, moving houses was a surprisingly common practice. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)


house house

And if you look real close, you'll see what appears to be a pair of tracks behind the house. From what I can glean, S. England street was a paved street at the time of this photo. Those rails would have been used to move the house. They were laid behind the house (where it's advancing) and then as the house moved, the sections were taken up from the front and moved to the rear. Remember, the house is being moved backwards. Moving a house back in the day was a very slow process. Often, houses couldn't be moved from old site to new site in a single day, so at the end of the day, the workers went home and left the house sitting in the middle of the street. Given that I see no workers present, I suspect that's what is going on here. (Photo is courtesy The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)



One of the finest examples of early 20th Century moving that I've ever come across is this picture from the Shiawassee History website. See link below. If you look at the image above, you'll see rails laid down in front of the house. At the website (below), there's a thorough explanation of how this move was accomplished, but in short, the horse walked in a circle around that capstan which was anchored to a tree or some solid object. The winding of the rope around the capstan acted like a winch, pulling the house forward on those rails, SLOWLY.


For a real life example of how this capstan works, click here to see it in use.


In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that

In October 1921, the Virginia Gazette reported that Mr. Bozarth had moved 17 houses out of Penniman and into Williamsburg. Better yet, they were "desirable houses"! I wonder how many "undesirable houses" he moved?


Just this morning, I was talking to a curator at a local museum who told me, “I heard that some houses were moved by barge from York County to Norfolk, but I told the person making the inquiry that they didn’t move houses in the early 1900s, and that it was just a myth. Just too difficult for a variety of reasons.”


In fact, it was much MORE common in the early 1900s than it is today. The absence of overhead power lines made it even better, plus this country had a different mindset about wasting precious resources.

To read about the houses that came by barge to Norfolk, click here.

Click here to visit the *fabulous* Shiawassee History website, and learn more about the how and why of moving houses in the early 1900s.

The site also offers a splendiferous explanation of how (and why) so many houses were moved, rather than destroyed (as they are today).

For all our 21st Century noise about recycling, we’re way too eager to send old houses to the landfill. The house shown probably represents 250,000+ pounds of irreplaceable building materials.

To learn more about the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library in Williamsburg, click here.

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Bucktrout Cemetery: Even Penniman’s Dead Have Been Forgotten

November 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Updated: You can buy the book here.

Three years ago, this “Penniman Project” started when David Spriggs, Mark Hardin and I tried to figure out the origins of 17 little bungalows on Ethel Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia. In my last blog, I talked about the fact that we now have some answers.

We learned that the “Ethels” (plus another two dozen houses on Major Avenue and Glenroie Avenue) came from Penniman, DuPont’s 37th munitions plant, built on the shores of the York River, east of Williamsburg.

Finding information about Penniman in contemporary literature has been difficult. In fact, most of our information has come from two sources: The Virginia Gazette (a weekly Williamsburg paper) and the Hagley Museum and Library (in Wilmington, Delaware).

At its peak, the village of Penniman had a population of 15,000. In 1918, the War to End All Wars ended, and Penniman became  Virginia’s very own ghost town.

The newly built houses at Penniman were sold off whole (and some were shipped by barge to Norfolk) and they were also sold in pieces, as salvage. A hotel from Penniman ended up on the William and Mary campus, along with several houses.

Thanks to Terry Meyer’s wonderful article, “Silence of the Graves,” I learned about Bucktrout Cemetery in Williamsburg, populated predominantly with Penniman’s influenza victims. During the height of the influenza epidemic (Fall 1918), the deaths were so numerous that local funeral directors quickly became overwhelmed. (To read Terry’s full article from the June 1998 Virginia Gazette, click here.)

Because of the Spanish Flu, public gatherings became illegal, schools were closed to children and re-opened as hospitals, and public funerals were outlawed.

On October 8, 1918, The Daily Press reported 5,000 cases of influenza in Newport News.

“To show the terrific pressure under which a handful of doctors here are working, one physician yesterday is said to have had 500 calls,” reports The Daily Press (October 8, 1918).

On October 9, 1918, children were told to go to their school and pick up all their belongings so that the schools could be converted into hospitals. And it was also on the 9th of October that a large headline announced, “No More Public Funerals Allowed” (The Daily Press). In the same story, people were advised to wear a gauze mask over the face when they ventured outside.

The next day, another article reported that “nearly every home [in Newport News has been] affected by the disease” (The Daily Press, October 10, 1918).

It was unlike anything we can imagine today.

In the midst of this, a small graveyard was opened up on Horatio Bucktrout’s farm for the paupers of Penniman. Its location is, as Terry Meyers described, “South of present-day Newport Avenue and east of Griffin Avenue,” or about three blocks from William and Mary College.

November 6th, I drove out to Williamsburg determined to see the Bucktrout Cemetery with my own eyes. And I was successful.

Sort of.

There are no markers, and there are no remnants of markers and there are no depressions in the ground suggesting an old grave site. In fact, there is no evidence that two dozen people were laid to rest in Bucktrout Cemetery. A local resident was kind enough to show me a place in his backyard where three graves were known to exist.

In 1979, a new housing development was built on Counselor’s Way, and it’s possible that the new development was built over the unmarked and forgotten Bucktrout Cemetery. But according to Mr. Meyer’s article, no graves were discovered during the construction process.

And yet, I wonder: Would a heavy equipment operator, sitting high in the saddle, with sun glaring in his eyes and sweat dripping from his brow, really notice a small piece of an old marker, or would they assume that it was just a bit of concrete, a remnant from an old outbuilding or an abandoned cistern or septic tank? What are the odds that a backhoe operator, ripping through hundreds of pounds of topsoil, is going to notice dirt-stained, dark-brown skeletal remains? (Speaking as someone who witnessed an exhumation, I can tell you, those old bones look a lot more like small sticks than anything human.)

The funeral records from Bucktrout Funeral Home show that 25 bodies were laid to rest at Bucktrout Cemetery. In “Silence of the Graves,” Terry points out that there are another 13 Penniman influenza victims who may have landed in that cemetery, which would bring the total number of bodies to 38.

There were five babies laid to rest at Bucktrout. John Steinruck’s baby was 10 months old. The other four babies were less than five days old. “Peachy” Cooke’s son James was only nine years old.

As a historian, I understand that there are lots of unmarked and forgotten graves in our historic Commonwealth, but somehow, Bucktrout feels different to me. For one, the location may be lost, but there is a written record that 25+ bodies were placed into coffins and lowered into the ground, having been lovingly and tenderly prepared for burial by a local funeral home. With few exceptions, each burial record gives a row and grave number within the newly created cemetery plot.

Secondly, from my reading of these burial records, these were the poor people of Penniman. While most burial permits record the closest of kin, birth dates, place of birth and more, the burial records for the men and women of Bucktrout Cemetery were hauntingly sparse. One burial record shows only a first name (Roger), with an “estimated age” of 25.

Third, I’m both enchanted and captivated by the story of Penniman, and this is part of Penniman’s story, and part of Virginia’s history and a keyhole peek at an international pandemic. Just as the country was ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief because The Great War was ending, The Spanish Flu blew through, killing 60 million people (about 5% of the world’s population).

In life, the people laid to rest in Bucktrout Cemetery were forgotten, unattached, and desperately poor. They were outside of all the important circles of community and church and family and privilege and wealth. And now, in death, there is nothing to remember them by. Not even so much as a memorial plaque to mark the spot.

My focus and goal for today is to finish writing the book, and share what I’ve learned about Penniman, but I hope and pray that at some point, when the manuscript is complete, we can put our heads and hearts together and figure out a respectful, proper way to memorialize Bucktrout Cemetery, a pauper’s cemetery, and a piece of history right in the heart of prestigious Williamsburg.

To read “Silence of the Graves,” click here.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Many thanks to Bucktrout Funeral Home (Williamsburg) for donating the old ledgers to Swem Library (W&M), and thanks to Swem Library for making them available to researchers.

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The overwhelming majority of the Penniman flu victims breathed their last at the Penniman Hospital.

The overwhelming majority of the Penniman flu victims breathed their last at the Penniman Hospital in Penniman, Virginia. This photo was taken in Spring 1918, about six months before the Spanish Flu wiped out 60,000,000 people. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)



Close-up of the Penniman Hospital. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)


Death Certificate

Typical "Funeral Record" for Bucktrout interment. Very little information is shown, and there's no next of kin, no age, etc. DuPont paid a death benefit of $105, which covered the cost of the service, preparation, coffin, plot and burial. Mr. Cole was laid to rest in a varnished coffin on October 17, 1918.


As with

With few exceptions, cause of death for most Penniman flu victims was listed as pneumonia. Technically, this would have been correct. According to DHHS National Institute of Health, the majority of deaths during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 were not caused by the influenza virus, but from the bacterial pneumonia that followed.


These bodies werent just dumped in a mass grave.

People in Penniman and Williamsburg must have been frantic, and yet the funeral directors had the presence of mind to document the precise location of each grave for future generations.


While going

Corporation-bashing is a popular sport these days, but DuPont did right by their employees, in paying all funeral expenses. At the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic, DuPont paid out more than $9,000 in one two-month period for Penniman workers. In 1918, that was a significant sum of money.



Of the DuPont employees gathered here, you have to wonder how many survived the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918/1919. This photo was taken early 1918 in Penniman. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)


Today, theres no sign that a cemetery was present here.

The site of the Bucktrout Cemetery is now a suburban backyard in the heart of Williamsburg. According to the home's owner, three rectangular depressions could be seen in the center of the yard decades earlier. In "Silence of the Graves," long-time residents of the area shared remembrances about other depressions in other yards that were so deep that the children had to "clamber in and out."


In closing, here’s a list of the people buried in Bucktrout Cemetery. It’d be interesting to sketch out the plots, and figure out who’s buried where.

1) May 1918   George Worley  DuPont employee, no age, grave 3, first row

2) June 1918  Gaspare Farola  Dupont employee, no age, grave 4, first row

3) Sept 1918  James Cooke, child of Dupont employee, age 9,  no grave number given

4) October 1918 Dalton Winkles, age 19, grave 7, first row

5) October 1918, James Arthur, Dupont employee, grave 8, first row.

6) October 1918, Mrs. Sadie Stanley, grave 1, second row

7) October 1918, B. P. Humphrey,  no age, grave 2, second row

8 ) October 1918, John Steinruck’s baby, 10 months old, grave 1, third row

9) October 1918, G. W. Robbins, age unknown, grave 2, third row

10) October 1918, E. R. Commbs, age uknown, grave 3, second row

11) October 1918, W. W. Cole, age unknown, grave 5, second row

12) October 1918, John D. Saunders, age unknown, grave 3, third row

13) October 1918, N. J. West, age unknown, grave 4, second row

14) October 1918, C. M. Coffey, grave 6, first row

15) October 1918, Earl Farris, grave 6, second row

16) October 1918, W. F. Winkie, age 33, grave 9, first row

17) October 1918, George W. Hicks, age 29, grave 4, third row

18) October 1918, U. T. Thomas, age uknown, grave 7, second row

19) October 1918, Levereta Moss Bosnell, age 23, no grave number given (c)

20) Jan 1919, Louis Filler’s baby, age 3 days, grave one, first row

21) April 1919, Robert, no age, no last name, no nothing, no grave number (c)

22) July 1920, G. Thorton Carpenter, age 3 days, no grave number

23) Dec 1921, Joe Pleasant, age 78, no grave number

24) Mar 1928, John M. Williams, age 5 days, no grave number

25) July 29, 1930, Catharina Elizabeth Taylor, age one month, five days, no grave number


To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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South Carolina, Churlish Chiggers, and Fake Maggies

July 25th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

Last month, I spent several days traveling in South Carolina. I visited many cities in the northern part of South Carolina but found very few Sears Homes. The highlight of the trip was Anderson, where I found several kit homes from Sterling Homes (a competitor to Sears).

Click here to see photos of those houses.

I did, however, find more than 20 chiggers. Or should I say, they found me. I was in Pumpkintown, SC merrily traipsing through a happy, happy meadow when I picked up Satan’s microscopic hitchhikers.

Suffice it to say, my sufferings in the next few days rivaled that of Job, who used pottery shards to relieve the itch of his sores. (Having endured this misery, I’m now convinced that old Job hisself got into a mess of chiggers.)

But I digress…

During an earlier trip to Blacksburg, South Carolina (February 2011), I’d visited the twin of the Sears Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg turned out to be a fake Sears Magnolia. And yet, it was so close to the real thing. After spending three days at this fine house, I decided it could not be a Magnolia.

In retrospect, I believe it may have been an early pattern book house, and that the fine folks at Sears discovered this pattern book design and incorporated it into their “Book of Modern Homes,” calling it, The Magnolia.

The house in Blacksburg was built about 1910 (according to tax records), which also fits with my pattern book theory.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia, which is interesting (and also fits with the above theory). When Sears “borrowed” patters from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a tiny bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made a lot of sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

I seriously doubt the SCFM is the only one of its kind. Does your town have a fake Magnolia?

To read my favorite blog on the Sears Magnolia, click here. It’s an old carpenter telling about HOW he built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

To read about the sweet ride that carried me to old South Carolina, click here.


The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Sears Magnolia, as seen in the 1921 catalog.


And heres the SCFM in Blacksburg. Its NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.

And here's the SCFM in Blacksburg. It's NOT a Sears House, but it sure is close.


Really, really close.

Really, really close.


I mean, cmon. You cant get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly.

I mean, c'mon. You can't get much closer than this. And yet, this is not a Sears Magnolia. Sadly. All the details are just so darn close...


Even has those distinctive marginal lites.

Even has those distinctive marginal lites.


And the porch is a good match, too.

And the porch is a good match, too.


One of the first thigns that caught my eye were these columns. Theyre concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.

One of the first details that caught my eye were these columns. They're concrete. The Sears Magnolia had hollow wooden columns (poplar). No kit house is going to come with concrete two-story Corinthian columns. The weight would be enormous. When I saw these columns I knew - this was not a kit home from Sears.


And its a beauty, too.

Minus the concrete columns, it's still such a good match.


Inside the house, it has a Magnolia room!

Inside the house, it has a "Magnolia Room"! How apropos!


The citys records show that this house was built in 1910, and those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect theyre close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s.

The city's records show that this house was built in 1910, and oftimes, those city records are not always right, but in this case, I suspect they're close. The SCFM had a fireplace in every room and they were coal-burning fireplaces, which was typical for homes built in the first years of the 1900s. The Magnolia had two fireplaces, both wood-burning.


This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall...

This beautifully decorated house has a massive entry hall, but that's one of the problems. The floorplan for this SCFM is NOT a good match to the Magnolia's floorplan. Plus, the Sears Magnolia had nine-foot ceilings. The ceilings in this house were 10' or more.


The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot.

The staircase in the real Magnolia is in a different spot. It's much closer to the front of the house, whereas the SCFM's staircase is much further back, and its hallway goes straight back to a rear entry door (unlike the floorplan above).


In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!

In the end, I had to boldly declare that this was NOT a Sears Magnolia which made me very sad. However, it did tell me that this was probably a planbook house at some point. Now we just need to figure out WHICH plan book!


Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. Its LAVENDAR!

Also in Blacksburg, SC I found my favorite Alhambra of all time. It's LAVENDER!


If you see this house, send me an email!

Such a beauty - but it's not from Sears.


This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio.

This is the real deal in Canton, Ohio. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

To read more about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

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Have You Seen This House (part 2)

April 15th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Norfolk is home to 16 of these little bungalows (see below), which were moved to their resting place in Riverview and Highland Park from another location.

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

Did they come from Hopewell? That’s one popular story, and it’d be especially interesting because Hopewell had hundreds of Aladdin kit homes, ordered by Dupont for their workers. (The factory in Hopewell manufactured gun cotton.)

Maybe they came from Penniman, Virginia, where DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). DuPont again turned to Aladdin to supply those houses, as well. (And this was one of the largest collections of Aladdin Homes in the country.)

Despite searching throughout my old Aladdin catalogs, I have not been able to identify these Norfolk bungalows as Aladdin kit homes, but it’s possible that Aladdin created some custom designs for these large orders for Dupont.

The indefatigable researcher and fellow kit-home aficionado Mark Hardin just discovered an old article that states, “Late in the fall of 1918 the nearby munition plant (The Penniman plant in DuPont) began gradually to decrease its activities, and by March 1, 1919, there was quite an exodus of population from Williamsburg and the county…”  (The Great War ended in November 1918.)

The article goes on to say that the “ready cut houses” in Penniman “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.”

Here in Norfolk, we’ve long heard that our 16 bungalows arrived by barge. That old legend, coupled with the story above, suggests even more strongly that these houses were part of the 600+ houses that Dupont ordered from Aladdin sometime in the early 1910s.

Now it’s time for me to go to Williamsburg and see if I can find the rest of the collection. If anyone has any idea where I might start find early 1900s bungalows in Williamsburg, I’d be grateful to hear!

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


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.


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.


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 dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview


Close-up of the original porch railing.

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. (1919 Aladdin catalog)

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