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Posts Tagged ‘Zajicek’

Richmond: Replete with Recherché Kit Homes

February 14th, 2018 Sears Homes 4 comments

My late husband loved Richmond. In the beginning of his legal career, he had lived in Richmond and worked as a clerk for a judge with the Supreme Court of Virginia. I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember the judge’s name.

Wayne always seemed pleased that I could identify these homes at 60 paces. I would whip out the original catalog image so that he could see and compare the archival image with the extant property. He seemed to truly enjoy this.

“Well lookie there,” he’d say, almost whimsically. “I don’t know how you do this, Rosemary. It’s quite remarkable.”

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In October, I gave a well-attended talk in Onancock, Virginia (Eastern Shore). That was a good talk. Standing in front of that crowd, I felt alive again. My brain started coming back online. Old neural pathways fired up again. My heart felt a surge of joy it hadn’t experienced in some time. It was a lovely memory of who I was, and who I could be again.

Returning to my hotel that night, I laid in the brass bed with its luxuriant duvet and thought to myself, “I’m going to be okay.”

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My dear friend Dale tells me that maybe it’s time to expand my horizons. He’s usually right about these things. The revised (and improved) Penniman book will be out soon. And after I do a little promoting and lecturing on that topic, maybe I can find a job at a local hardware store. I like hardware stores.

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If you read the captions below, you’ll find that surveying the kit homes of Richmond was a collaborative effort (as it always is). In many cases, I consulted with co-author Dale Wolicki on the Gordon Van Tine and Aladdin Houses, who affirmed that some of my “suspects” were (or were not) kit homes.

Sometimes, I sent Rachel Shoemaker a few emails to ask if she recognized a design. Richmond artist Melissa Burgess went out into a busy road with her camera to get the perfect shot of a Sears Avalon for me.

Other Richmond folks shared pictures with me (and are credited below). Molly Todd gave up an entire day to drive me throughout the older Richmond neighborhoods. This wasn’t just my work. This involved many people over a period of years.

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To read one of the original blogs on Richmond, click here.

Read about Penniman and and Richmond here.

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This is one fine house: The Sheraton.

This is one fine house: The Sears Sherburne.

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I remember the day I found this house. It was such a thrill. My daughter was flying into the Richmond airport and I arrived extra early so that I could tool around and find the kit homes. This was Summer 2012, and my life was so different then.

I remember the day I found this house. It was such a thrill! A Sherburne right here in Richmond! My middle daughter was flying into the Richmond airport and I arrived extra early so that I could tool around and find the kit homes before her flight arrived. This was Summer 2012.

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In 2014, I was invited to Richmond to give a talk on Sears Homes, and several delightful women accompanied me on that tour of Richmond. The woman hosting the tour lived in this house. It tickled a memory, but it took me some time to find this house.

In 2014, I was invited to Richmond to give a talk on Sears Homes, and several delightful women accompanied me on that "tour of Richmond." The woman hosting the tour lived in this house. It tickled a memory, but it took me some time to identify this house.

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I spent countless hours in my home office, studying old catalogs to match Mollys house, but I found the house.

I spent countless hours in my home office, studying old catalogs to match Molly's house, but I found the house. It's a delightful Gordon Van Tine #628. Gordon Van Tine, based in Davenport, Iowa, started selling kit homes in 1910.

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GVT

To my surprise, there are many Gordon Van Tine homes in Richmond.

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Heres a lovely example of a Gordon Van Tine

Here's a lovely example of a Gordon Van Tine#507. Photo is copyright 2012 Taber Andrew Bain and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. There I go again with that silly copyright stuff. I'm such a silly girl.

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This was one of my favorite finds, and quite memorable! As I recall, Molly was driving us around in her Lexus SUV and I saw this sweet house peeking out behind some heavy vegetation.

This was one of my favorite finds, and quite memorable! As I recall, Molly was driving us around in her Lexus SUV and I saw this sweet house peeking out behind some heavy vegetation. Image above is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker.

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And thanks to a slew of helpful researchers, we were able to establish that this GVT is the very same house featured in the testimonial

And thanks to a slew of helpful researchers, we were able to establish that this GVT is the very same house featured in the testimonial (lower left from the catalog image above). I well remember what a happy event that was - to find this very rare Gordon Van Tine home right there in Richmond.

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And Molly found this house on her own. When she first contacted me about it, I could hardly believe that this house - offered by Lewis Manufacturing in Bay City - was in Richmond, Virginia.

And Molly found this house on her own. When she first contacted me about it, I could hardly believe that this house - offered by Lewis Manufacturing in Bay City - was in Richmond, Virginia.

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According to my buddy Dale, this is a very rare house, and thats not surprising. Its quite massive for a kit home!

According to my buddy Dale, this is a very rare house, and that's not surprising. It's quite massive for a kit home! Photo is copyright 2014 Molly Todd and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Richonm

I've spent countless hours of my life playing with various artwork programs and creating "side-by-side views." This highlights the details around the front entry.

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assess

Aladdin kit homes are more prevalent here in southeastern Virginia. Aladdin had a mill in North Carolina (about three hours from Richmond). The "Madison" (shown above) was one of their best selling homes.

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And heres my little pretty in Richmond, Virginia.

And here's my little pretty in Richmond, Virginia.

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Heres another fun one.

Harris Brothers was originally known as Chicago Wrecking Company, and later became "Harris Brothers Company."

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Im not sure which trip it was when I first spotted this house, but it was a very popular model for Harris Brothers.

I'm not sure which trip it was when I first spotted this house, but it was a very popular model for Harris Brothers. It's a beautiful match to the original catalog page - stucco finish and all!

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We found a Harris Brothers 1513 in another part of town.

We found a Harris Brothers 1513 in another part of town.

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Every detail on this Harris Brothers 1513 is spot on.

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Finding this kit home offered by Aladdin was another happy moment in Richmond.

Finding this kit home offered by Aladdin was another happy moment in Richmond. I wasn't sure that we'd found this rare "Ardmore" so I corresponded with my co-author Dale, and he affirmed that it was the real deal.

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When I spotted this house, I had Molly go forward, and backward, and forward and backward, as I struggled to eyeball the many details. She was a wonderful chaffeur and as I recall, we circled the block many times until I was satisfied with my many pictures.

When I spotted this house, I had Molly go forward, and backward, and forward and backward, as I struggled to eyeball the many details. She was a wonderful chauffeur and as I recall, we circled the block many times until I was satisfied with my many pictures.

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The Sears Avalon was found in several spots throughout Richmond.

The very popular Sears "Osborn" was found in Richmond.

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The Sears Avalon

This Sears Osborn looks much like it did when built in the 1910s.

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Several Sears Avalons were found throughout Richmond.

Several Sears "Avalons" were found throughout Richmond. Check out the detail on the chimney. Those three vents on the cross gable are also distinctive.

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And

My oh my, what a match. And thanks to Melissa for taking that ladder out to that road for the perfect shot! Picture is copyright 2014 Melissa Burgess and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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Another Avalon in Richmond, Virginia.

Another Avalon in Richmond, Virginia, also a delightful match to the catalog image.

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This is my favorite Avalon in Richmond. It retains its original details, right down to the railing!

This is my favorite Avalon in Richmond. It retains its original details, right down to the railing!

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The Sears Westly was one of their most popular models.

The Sears Westly was one of their most popular models. If a neighborhood has only five Sears Homes, chances are one of them is a Westly.

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I identify so well with this Westly. Its had a hard life but its still standing.

I identify so well with this Westly. It's had a hard life and bears a few scars, but it's still standing.

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This is another fun house.

This is another very rare pre-WW1 Sears Home. I've seen only one other "190" and that was in Illinois.

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Here

The polygon bay - first floor and second floor - is its defining feature. Also notice the cornice returns on steroids. This house (as is shown in the catalog) has a stucco finish.

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The Sears Stratford is one of my favorite designs. This neo-tudor is so pretty and has such pretty lines.

The Sears Strathmore is one of my favorite designs. This neo-tudor is so pretty and has such pretty lines and is well proportioned.

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My husband and I were driving through Richmond together when I spotted this house. He was duly impressed that I spot these homes at 60 paces. I would always whip out the original catalog image so that he could compare the two images. Well lookie there, hed say to me. I dont know how you do this, Rosemary. Its quite remarkable. That was a good day.

My husband and I were driving through Richmond together when I spotted this Strathmore. It's in beautiful condition and it has a Buckingham Slate roof. Buckingham Slate is the finest slate roof, and weighs about 1,400 per square.

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Sometime in early 2014, Wayne and I traveled to Richmond, where he appeared before the Supreme Court of Virginia to try a case involving a police recruit that died during training exercises. We arrived the day before and strolled around Richmond. We both went out shopping the week before to buy new clothes for this occasion. Never for a moment did I take him for granted. Never for a moment.

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My first trip through Richmond was July 4th 2010, and it was my 51st birthday. I saw this flag draped across a residential street and snapped a photo. I knew that I would like Richmond. That was my thought in 2010.

My first trip through Richmond was July 4th 2010, and it was my 51st birthday.

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To read one of the original blogs on Richmond, click here.

Read about Pennimand and Richmond here.

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The People of Penniman: Personal Papers?

February 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 1 comment

There’s no doubt in my mind that a “Pennimanite” left behind a personal reminiscence or journal or unpublished manuscript or something, telling about his war-time experiences at Penniman, Virginia.

The problem is finding these people, and then finding their descendants, and then finding a written record.

Thus far, I’ve had three good breaks, where wonderful vintage photographs of Penniman have come into my possession. Two of those good breaks came from people with relatives connected to Penniman. The third event was a fellow who purchased a vintage photo album from eBay, and later found me (and this website).

Below, I’ve listed the names I’ve found thus far in the hopes that we might find these folks, and perhaps find a personal reminiscence of a Pennimanite.

Within the tags (at the bottom of this blog) are more names.

To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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Allshouse, Atkinson, Austin, Barnett, Bell, Benesh, Browne, Byrne, Casey, Cavanaugh, Cheep, Curry, Davidson, Davis, Doubille, Dunsworth, Fitzgerald, Gaugler, Gluss, Gohegan, Goodrich, Hazlehurst, Hess, Hoke, Huger, Huntley, Jenson, Krebbs, Loughborough, Luderlow, Ludqig, Marable, McCourt, McLelland, McMannus, Miller, Moser, Newcomb, O’briean, Odem, Osiff, Parkus, Pennee, Peters, Plumer, Rhodes, Shevlin, Stowe, Stumzi, Sykes, Tragsdorf, Trask, Van Dyke, Wadsworth, Walbauer, Walton (Benjamin Franklin Walton, from Hanover County), Wellford.

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FF

Thanks to the "Penniman Projectile" (December 1918), we now have several names of the people at Penniman, including the members of the Penniman Baseball team!

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Face

After spending more than six years studying Penniman, it's a delight to have faces for the "names" and it will be even more delightful to find some of the families of these men.

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According to the Penniman Projectile,

According to the Penniman Projectile, these were "prominent men" at Penniman.

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Mr. Benesh was the superintendent of the plant. After the war, DuPont sent him to China.

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Will we ever know the names of these many children?

Will we ever know the names of these many children at Penniman? And an aside, the sign overhead says "Girls' Industrial War Service Club." None of these children would be alive today, unless they lived well beyond 100 years old.

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Ora Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and ministered to Pennimans sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

Ora C. Huston was the lead pastor at Penniman, and he and his wife ministered to Penniman's sick and dying, throughout the flu epidemic. Did he leave behind a published account?

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Did Major Gaugler leave behind a memoir of his time at Penniman?

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To read about the soldiers at “Camp Penniman” click here.

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The Bungalow in the York River

February 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 3 comments

Bunny Trails: They’re one of the best parts of doing historical research. And while researching Penniman, Virginia, I read newspaper accounts from Pennimanites, talking about a house “sitting on stilts” in the York River.

And while systematically reading through every single page (from 1916 to 1925) of the Newport News Daily Press, I found this gem: “[John Ross] Built His House On the Waters” (September 1922).

It was an indepth article about John’s home in the York River. And then last month, it got even better when Carolyn Willis contacted me through this website, and shared some pictures from a family photo album of Joseph and Ola Whisnant. She’d found the word “Penniman” on the old snapshots, but didn’t know exactly what a Penniman was - until she googled the word.

Carolyn’s photos showed me pictures of day-to-day life within Penniman, and provided an incredible peek of life inside the village. Each of the 22 pictures was a treasure, and I’m so grateful that Carolyn found me, and was willing to share those pictures.

The article in the Daily Press said,

John E. Ross is wiser than the man who ‘built his house on the sands,’ as related in the Bible, to have it destroyed when the winds came. The windws may come, storms may kick up a sea in the York River, and the ice-packs of winter may crunch and grind around his abode, but it will stand the buffeting of every day assaults that nature can make. At least it has done so for years past and appears to be as firm and safe as when first it rose above the waters…Mr. Ross and his family live in happiness and security in one of the oddest abodes in this section.

Mr. Ross is a well-to-do oyster planter and located near here years ago. He conceived the idea of building a bungalow on stilts in the York River, far enough out to escape the discomforts on inshort. Pilings were sunk and upon this structure arose the neat little house that has long been the home of his family. He solved the water problem by sinking a deep artesian well and has one of the best over-flow wells in this section. A fast motor boat tired up at the foot of a pair of steps leading down in the water solves the transportation problem.

The Ross home, located almost at the mouth of King’s Creek, several hundred yards out in the water, is one of the most unique in this section and never fails to attract attention from visitors. It is just off Penniman. Probably 20 feet off water is to be had the house, and all all Mr. Ross has to do when he wants fresh fish for a meal is to drop a line out the kitchen window and wait for a bite.

They live happily in peaceable surroundings, not disturbed even by their neighbors’ chickens (September 8, 1922).

A local genealogist found this additional information on John Ross: John Edward Ross left this house sometime in the 1920s and in 1930, he was living at 24 Channing Avenue (the Cradock section of Portsmouth). In 1910, he was a widow with a child and living with his father. By 1920, John, wife Grace and 16 year son Edward Ross (by John’s 1st wife) were living on the York River.

The Hurricane of 1933 destroyed a tremendous amount of property along the York River, and this bungalow on stilts was surely one of the houses that became flotsam.

Thanks to Carolyn and the family of Joseph and Ola Whisnant for the pictures shown below.

Learn more about Penniman here.

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Hagley Panoramic

The panoramic image of Penniman shows a house out in the York River, not far from the Penniman Spit. Image is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Hagley Panoram

A close up of the "bungalow on stilts." Hagley Museum and Library.

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Permission Carolyn Something

Here's a picture of John's house on the York River. According to the "Daily Press," it's at "the mouth of King's creek, several hundred yards out in the water, and is one of the most unique in this section. It's just off Penniman." Thanks again to Carolyn Willis for sharing this image. Photos are the courtesy of the family of Joseph and Ola Whisnant.

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House in Nansemond

I've never seen anything like the John Ross house but there is a duck-hunting club sitting in the middle of the Nansemond River. I took this photo from the bridge that spans the Nansemond River on an early Sunday morning as I drove to church in Suffolk. Fortunately, there were no cars behind me.

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Bungalow in the York

Close-up of the duck-hunting club in the Nansemond River. I am curious as to how this building handles the discharge of waste.

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Do you know of any houses built in the middle of a river? Please send photos. I’d ask for an address, but that would be problematical.

Learn more about Penniman here.

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Village For Sale. Cheap.

March 24th, 2014 Sears Homes 3 comments

Incredible researcher and smart cookie Mark Hardin has made another remarkable discovery. He found an advertisement (dated October 1922) in the Richmond Times Dispatch, offering the Village of Penniman for sale.

By this time, most of the contents of the WW1 munitions plant had been sold off (per the terms of a contract between DuPont and the U. S. Government [dated December 1917]). All proceeds went to the U. S. Government.

There’s still so much I don’t know about Penniman, but in this advertisement, I found something mentioned that took my breath away. It said, “Full particulars regarding the offerings…and other details of this auction will be found in the catalogs which may be obtained from Philadelphia District Ordnance Salvage Board, Frankford Arsenal.”

Catalogs?

Catalogs?!

Be still my heart.

If anyone has any idea where I might find these catalogs, please let me know.

To learn more about this amazing “Ghost City,” click here.

To read about how Norfolk got tangled up with Penniman, click here.

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Rich

Where are these catalogs now? (Richmond Times Dispatch, 10.28.1922)

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Quite a village

At its peak, there were 15,000 people in Penniman. This is just one small piece of a massive panorama showing the village of Penniman. That's the York River in the background. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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The building of Penniman began in Spring 1916.

The building of Penniman began in Spring 1916. Judging from the old photos, the laborers who built Penniman were overwhelmingly African-Americans. The laborers who toiled in the air-less bunkers, loading powdery, yellow TNT into 155-mm shells were mostly women. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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First

The first "salvage" ad that I've found appeared March 10, 1921 in the Virginia Gazette.

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Dispersed Penniman

The best salvage ad is this one (Richmond Times Dispatch, October 23, 1921). Lots of detail, including the costs of these various structures. (Thanks to Mike Powell for finding this ad!)

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One of the best Penniman quotes Ive seen is this from a 1983 article in the Newport News Times Herald:  Penniman was not erased; it was dispersed.

An article in the Newport News Times Herald said, "Penniman was not erased; it was dispersed" (September 5, 1983). Shown here is a DuPont design, "The Denver." There were many Denvers at Penniman, and several of them were moved to Williamsburg. Unfortunately, most of them have been torn down.

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This Denver came from Penniman.

This Denver, which now rests on Capital Landing Road, originally came from Penniman.

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picture two

Just last month, I had the good fortune to find this late 1910s catalog of Dupont designs. On the cover, it shows a Denver in a bucolic setting, with a DuPont plant in the background.

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If you have any idea where I might find these catalogs, please let me know.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

To read about how I became involved with Penniman, click here.

Was your great-grandfather stationed at Penniman? Click here to find out.

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Our First Public Talk on Penniman!

February 6th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thursday night, David Spriggs and I gave our first talk on Penniman, Virginia’s Own Ghost Town.

While preparing our powerpoint presentation, I learned two things I had not known before:

1)  Sometime in 1917 or 1918, a German sub made its way to the York River, in a bid to blow up Penniman.

2)  Women who did the shell loading were known as “The Canary Girls,” because the exposure to the TNT and other chemicals turned their skin, hair and nails a bright, canary yellow. Many died as a result of this poisoning.

Below, you’ll find a VERY condensed version of our powerpoint presentation, which shows a mere 10 of the 100 historical photos we’ve unearthed during our research.


To read more about Penniman, click here.

One

While doing research for this book, I learned that many of these shell loaders died terrible deaths as a result of their exposure to the powerful chemicals and explosives. The information above comes from an extremely rare document, chronicling day-to-day life at Penniman.

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In

In the mid-1910s, a skin cream was developed - just for women shell loaders - to help them cope with the yellowing of their skin, nails and hair. Brunette women saw their hair turn green. Many women lost their hair completely. As one woman said, "No amount of washing would take that yellow away." Sadly, no one knows how many women died from this work, but it's said that their numbers were significant. Image is from Wikipedia.

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The Ch

A British officer credited DuPont with helping them win the war. At a time when chemistry was greatly needed, DuPont did a lot to gear up for the war, and obviously, made a huge difference.

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In addition to the dangers of things

In addition to the dangers of chemical poisoning and explosions at Penniman, Mr. Kelley states that the Germans were hoping to launch an attack on Penniman. Hiland Kelley was a superintendent at the plant.

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Penniman got it from all sides. Even the local hoity toity folks didnt want them there.

Penniman got it from all sides. Even the local hoity toity folks didn't want them there.

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It

From the Morecock Family Papers.

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I became interested in Penniman in 2010, when I tried to figure out the true source of 17 bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk) that had been barged in - from somewhere.

I became interested in Penniman in 2010, when I tried to figure out the true source of 17 bungalows in Riverview (Norfolk) that had been barged in - from somewhere. The image above shows one of our "Ethel Bungalows" in Penniman. The image below is from the 1948 City Assessor. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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house

We've counted 18 "Ethels" in this vintage photo of Penniman. There may be more out of frame. (Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.)

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To continue reading about Penniman, click here.

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Frank’s Beautiful Strathmore In Waldwick, NJ

January 20th, 2014 Sears Homes 15 comments

Sometime in the 1930s, a man named Frank Workman not only built a Sears Strathmore, but he had the wisdom to document part of the process through photographs.

About 80 years later, a kind soul named Ms. Dickinson had the wisdom to save those photos and put them on eBay.

Last week, yet another kind soul named Dale Wolicki had the wisdom to send me a link to these photos, and I hastily put in a bid and subsequently won this treasure trove!

Thanks to Frank, and Ms. Dickinson, and Mr. Wolicki, at least 2,000 people will now enjoy these many photos of a Sears Strathmore being built at 21 Pennington Avenue in Waldwick, NJ.

Ms. Dickinson reports that Frank’s daughter (shown in photos below) lived in the house until recently. These houses were built with so much love, and the first families intended that these houses be passed down through the generations.

But unfortunately…

According to the wonderful note Ms. Dickinson included with these photos, Frank’s house was demolished about one month ago. How many Sears Homes are we going to tear down before someone decides that they’re worthy of preservation?

So very frustrating.

Frank Workman obviously took great pride in his beautiful Strathmore. How disturbing that someone in Waldwick, NJ saw fit to tear it down.

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Frank

Frank Workman must have been quite a character. He's standing on the side of his Strathmore in Waldwick, NJ. Perhaps Frank had Indian roots. Or maybe he just really liked this headdress.

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Frank

Frank really liked that headdress and he really liked his house.

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The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you dont find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception.

The Strathmore was a popular house for Sears. Typically, you don't find that many post-Depression Sears Homes, but the Strathmore is the exception. It had an expandable attic, for extra square footage (1936).

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Good florplan

The Strathmore had 1-1/2 baths, which was a plus. The kitchen was a mere 12-feet by 7-feet.

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Ive always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

I've always had a soft spot for the Neo-Tudor, and the Strathmore is one of my favorites.

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Side view of the Strathmore under construction.

Side view of the Strathmore under construction. Note, the planking is horizontal. On many houses of this vintage, the planking runs diagonally. However, this house ended up with cypress shakes, so maybe that's why the planks are run horizontal.

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This is a close-up of those packing crates.

Close-up of those packing crates (seen in the foreground of the photo above). I suspect that the quality of lumber used in these packing crates is far superior to the "premium" lumber currently being sold at the big box stores.

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What a grand photo!

What a grand photo, and it really demonstrates a different time in American architectural history. Years ago, I knew a man who built his own home in Elsah, Illinois and it was all the rage in Jersey County. He was a novice homebuilder who undertook to build his own home "from scratch." And yet in 1930s, people didn't think anything of buying a kit home and building it themselves.

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I love

And here's a close-up of that same photo. Look at that make-shift ladder! And that wooden scaffolding looks a bit primitive, too. Looks like Frank might have been doing his own brick work. My favorite item in this photo is the 55-gallon drum overturned on its side. For the life of me, I can't imagine what would have been in that drum. Paint and varnish were supplied in one and two-gallon metal buckets.

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Another i

Another view of the home's front, during construction.

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Franks daughters

According to Ms. Dickinson, Frank's daughter lived in this house until very recently. Judging by the clothes, it looks like this photo dates to the late 1930s, or shortly after the house was finished. It seems likely that these are Frank's two daughters, seated on the "cheek" of the front porch. Check out the original batten shutters behind the girls.

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Another view of the two daughters.

Another view of the two daughters. And judging by the steps, it does seem likely that Frank did his own brickwork. Kind of reminds me of the Lucy episode where she rebuilt the brick barbecue pit in the backyard.

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Another view of the completed house, date unknown.

Another view of the completed house, date unknown. However, it's interesting to note that those three windows next to the fireplace have already been replaced. Originally, these three had diamond muntins.

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Frank loved cars, too.

Frank loved cars, too. The home's left side is shown here. Can anyone identify the year of this car? My best guess is early 1930s, or even late 192os.

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View of

Good view of the home's left side, and kitchen door.

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Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

Nice view of the house sometime in the 1950s (judging by the car).

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Frank

Oh Frank, I'm sorry to say that your beautiful Strathmore - built with such love and care - is now sitting in a landfill somewhere. When will we decide to stop tearing down old kit homes?

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And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, its still standing.

And to end on a happy note, a beautiful Strathmore in Richmond, Virginia. As far as I know, it's still standing. Then again, I haven't been down that street in four years, so who knows.

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To learn more about what makes Sears Homes so valuable (and worthy of restoration and preservation), click here.

To contact Rose, leave a comment below.

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Moving Houses in 1916: Slow, But Doable!

December 17th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

Whilst researching Penniman, I’ve had the occasion to talk with many historians and museum curators and too many to count have told me, “One hundred years ago, houses just weren’t moved. People didn’t have the means to move an entire house like they might today.”

Typically, I try really hard not to roll my eyes.

And sometimes, you can convince them that, yes, ours was a much more thrifty society in the early 20th Century and we were not likely to waste anything, certainly not anything as big (and labor intensive and expensive) as an entire house!

And then they’ll say, “Well, little tiny houses maybe, but not big houses.”

Alas!

Last week, I was reading through a book that Bill Inge found for me, “Manufacturer’s Record” (December 1916) when I discovered this small advertisement for a house-moving company. Check out the photos below, for it’s almost unbelievable.

Thanks again to Bill Inge from providing me with another cool vintage book on historic architecture!

To read another blog about house moving 100 years ago, click here.

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Word press

Before Bill Inge, I'd never heard of "Manufacturers Record." It's quite a large tome!

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barge Dec 1921

My interest in moving houses was piqued when I learned that more than 60 houses were moved from Penniman, Virginia to Norfolk. And better yet, these 60 houses were moved to Norfolk by barge! (Photo is from the Virginia Pilot, December 1921). Thanks to Robert Hitchings for finding this wonderful photo!

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house house house

While reading the Manufacturers Record, I found this advertisement at the bottom of a page. This fellow claims that he had been moving houses since 1875!

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house that is shown here

And see the description he has offered here? The house that was moved was an all brick house, and it measured 50' by 75 feet, and it was raised four feet, turned 90 degrees and moved 300 feet. I love this photo because it demonstrates that the house was moved on rails. YES, on rails. The rails (typically two) were laid in front of the house, and it was slid across those rails, which would then be moved from the rear, back to the front.

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househouse

Close-up of the house. Now that's a big house!

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hou house

And I love the description: "Largest movers of Buildings in the United States."

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Shiawassee

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.

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Many thanks - again - to Bill Inge - for sharing his knowledge and his cool old books!

To visit the Shiawassee History website, click here.

To learn more about the mechanics of moving houses in the early 20th Century, click here.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Looking for the story about Penniman soldiers? Click here.

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Was Great-Grandfather at Penniman? (A Genealogist’s Dream Come True)

December 16th, 2013 Sears Homes 10 comments

In my ongoing quest to learn more about Penniman, Virginia, I visited Ike Skelton Library (a military library in Norfolk) and they told me about “The Shell Inspector,” published by the U. S. Army in 1918. The 44-page book was written by the men of the Enlisted Detachment, Ordnance Corps, U. S. Army at Camp Penniman.

Unfortunately, the only copy in the entire world was at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia.

Fortunately, the VHS still possessed their one copy.

Unfortunately, the VHS does not scan entire documents for patrons.

Fortunately, they allowed me to visit their library (94 miles one way) and take pictures of this old book.

Unfortunately, I visited on the very same day that 4,387 noisy short people from the local elementary school were there.

Fortunately, “The Shell Inspector” was housed in a room with double doors, which the librarian quickly closed when the noisy short people approached the common hallway.

Within the pages of this book I discovered a genealogist’s dream. There were pictures of the 312 Army men stationed there, with a little tiny white number hand-drawn on each man, and a corresponding list of the men’s names and home cities.

And an interesting aside, the book was written days after the war ended (November 11, 1918), so this is one happy bunch of young men.

If you’d like a closer view of a particular man, leave a comment below and I will email you the image you want.

As I said - it’s a genealogist’s dream come true!

Please share the link on your Facebook page!  :D

To read more about the fascinating story of Penniman, click here.

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The whole dea

The original picture of the Ordnance Corps comprised several pages.

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44 one bee

For ease of viewing, I cut the image into several sections.

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44 1 c

These fellows are from the 2nd section.

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doggy

See anyone you know?

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dododo

Yes, that is a dog, and he's number 312. Sadly, he's not listed in the roster!

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Thirty five one A

They do look like a happy bunch of soldiers. No doubt they were happy. After all, they'd survived the war and the war was over and they were headed home.

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Thirty five one B

And in this photo, you can see the officers (in chairs).

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Cluster

These men were photographed independently of the others. I wonder if they missed the first picture day?

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Group two

Second group of men that were photographed independently.

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And now the names.

And now the names.

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Second list of names.

Second list of names.

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Third

I don't see any Fullers or Hoyts on the list. Drat!

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Roseter

No Whitmores, either!

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And there was

And there was this woman, Mrs. Robert Oberholser. If someone could tell me why an adjutant is needed in a WW1 Army camp, and how a woman snagged this position, I'd be most grateful.

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This map from The Shell Inspector shows that the men came from all over the country.

This map from The Shell Inspector shows that the men came from all over the country, but the majority came from the Northeast. I wonder where #312 was from?

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house

"The Shell Inspector" was dedicated to the two officers of the camp.

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Captain dog

Lieutenant Carl Trometre, enlisted May 1898.

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Butler

Lieutenant Frank Butler, enlisted September 1894.

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Shell

The Shell Loader was published in 1918 by the U. S. Army. It was an incredible find.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

Interested in reading about bungalows and germs? Click here!

Why were kit homes so popular in the early 20th Century?

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