Where Art Thou, Little Ethel?

Here in Norfolk, we have 16 little bungalows (dubbed, “The Ethel”) that were originally built at another location, and then moved here by George P. Hudson on April 14, 1922.*

Several months ago, we learned that 3,000 miles away (in Dupont, Washington), there are dozens of identical bungalows, built by Dupont for the dynamite factory. Thanks to Lee and Joh from the Dupont Historical Museum in Dupont, Washington,  we now that the little houses were built in Fall 1909.

And then old-house lover and researcher Mark Hardin found another neighborhood of these “Ethel Bungalows” in a little village just outside of Butte, Montana. (It was Mark who found the houses in Dupont, too.) More recently, an Ethel was spotted by Rachel Shoemaker in Oklahoma.

So, our Ethel Bunaglow in Norfolk (which came from somewhere else) is a spot-on match to the company houses in Dupont, Washington,  and Butte, Montana. And there’s also one (and maybe hundreds more) in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Fellow old-house lover Mark Mckillop took a trip to Dupont, Washington and photographed more than 100 of the houses in that tiny village , and then sent me the photos. His photographs prove (as we suspected) that the Ethel Bungalows in Dupont are indeed identical to the Ethel Bungalows here in Norfolk.

To read more about what we’ve learned thus far, read Part Five of this ongoing (and fascinating) story.

Despite what we’ve learned, many unanswered questions remain. Are these “Ethels” kit homes from Aladdin? Are they pattern book houses? If not, where did DuPont get this design? Why are these houses popping up in several of Dupont’s neighborhoods? And where did the houses in Norfolk come from?

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

* Thanks to Norfolk historian David Spriggs for finding that date, and also finding the name of the man who moved them! To learn more about what David learned, click here.

Our Ethel Bungalow in Dupont, Washington. All photos are courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Our "Ethel Bungalow" in Dupont, Washington. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Dupont Ethel is in largely original condition. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

I wish Mark had taken his chain saw with him. Landscaping is always a problem when photographing old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This Ethel in Dupont has seen a little modification. Vinyl siding is not a friend of old houses. (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Ethel

This is such a distinctive little house. Have you seen it in your neighborhood? (This photo is courtesy of Mark Mckillop and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Next are the photos of our Ethels, which art in Norfolk. As you’ll see from the photos below, they really are a good match to the houses in Dupont, Washington.

House

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

Another

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

house

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

Close-up of railing

Close-up of railing

Close-up of dormer

This dormer window is a pretty distinctive feature.

another Ethel

Another "Ethel Bungalow" in Riverview

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

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

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

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

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

* * *

1 Comment

  1. Alan Winston

    While “Du Pont – the story of a company town,” by May G Munyan [ http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006C6X76/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=blockplay-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=B0006C6X76 ], doesn’t explicitly address the question of whose design was used, the (brief) description of the construction strongly suggests that both the workers and the supervisiors were DuPont employees.

    The best that can be drawn from that is that the question never even occurred to the author, and that in her collecting of oral history from primary sources, there was never any mention of third party participation, nor of ‘boxcars of premade windows’ or any similar components, coming from wherever. But, like most community histories, this is a “people” book, so isn’t in depth on specialty subjects.

    Elsewhere, it is interesting to note that in at least some references to mill-cut homes, there are references to the components coming in TWO boxcars – one might hypothesize that one car delivered precut dimensional lumber from the nearby vendor or associated general sawmill, while the other car brought millwork, windows, such from the specialty mill much further away. Hence my specifically seeking oral history mention of the latter type components arriving by rail.

    Aladdin had a mill in Portland, OR, not terribly far away, and Gordon Van Tine had one in Centralia, WA – quite close to DuPont, so use of mill-cut dimensional lumber would be plausible, but for this number of structures, the temporary erection of a portable on-site sawmill would have been more likely – such facilities were common in this area, and this seems a plausible application.

    WWII barracks and postwar Levittown are two well-known examples of mill-cut techniques being used on-site, where on-site facilities cut & sized lumber without concern for which structure it would go in which structure or for which purpose.

    Standardized structures were built for company towns well before DuPont, WA, with components often cut “at the mill” – either for a “mill town” or for portable logging camps which were moved as intact structures from site to site by rail. It is only a small step from there to mill-cutting for off-site assembly, and indeed, I have seen some tantalizing hints that in fact mill-cut components for off-site company towns may have significantly preceded retail sales of individual house kits.

    The concept of mill-cut structures may have been introduced to North America via Western Canada (again, rather close to DuPont, Washington, though not to the DuPont home office), and was possibly imported from Malaysia or other (at that time) British colonies. This does not preclude independent invention in the US Midwest, but does tend to remind us that corporate histories may omit some outside precedents.

    Whatever bearing some of that has on this specific house design might be stretched, but Company Towns are fascinating on their own terms, and worthy of exploration by mill-cut house fans.

    Some excellent titles:

    Building the Workingman’s Paradise, by Margaret Crawford – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0860916952/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=blockplay-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399369&creativeASIN=0860916952

    The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy, by Hardy Green – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NSVFR2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=blockplay-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399373&creativeASIN=B004NSVFR2

    And for regional context for Dupont, WA, –

    Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest, Linda Carlson – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0295983329/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=blockplay-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399369&creativeASIN=0295983329

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *