Hopewell’s Historic Sears Homes! Well, sort of. (Part 3)

As mentioned in Part 1, I recently visited Hopewell (Virginia) for the first time in several years.

In early 2003, I went to Hopewell to give a talk on Sears Homes. The talk went well and I sold a bunch of books and I had a wonderful time.  Unfortunately, there was a downside to this otherwise delightful visit. Driving through the city, I discovered that most of the “Sears Homes” in their infamous Crescent Hills neighborhood were not Sears Homes.

Unfortunately, a handful of people did not agree with me, and Hopewell’s brochure – with its inaccurate information on their Sears Homes – was not to be changed.

It was one of the most upsetting events in my professional career. History is important and must be kept pure from defects or errors. That’s something about which I feel passionate.

When I returned to Hopewell (March 18 2011), I was gratified to see that a few of the errors had been removed from the city’s well-promoted brochures, but many non-kit homes were still being wrongly identified as Sears Homes. To help clarify what I’m talking about, I’m going to post the Hopewell house, together with an original catalog image and (where possible), an extant example of that kit home in real life.

Click on the links to see Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.

Hopewell claims to have several “Rochelles” (see pictures of these houses below).

I have enough information to have an authoritative opinion on this.  😉

Here’s the Rochelle (1929 Sears Modern Homes catalog). It’s a cute little neo-tudor with many distinctive features.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1930 catalog.

The Rochelle, as seen in the 1929 catalog.


Notice how the front gable on this Rochelle is asymmetrical. In other words, it extends much further down the left side than the right. And notice the little stylistic feature to the right of the front door. It's touches like this little gabled wall, that give the Rochelle its tudor-esque charm. Also notice how the gable on the roof goes all the way up to the roofline. And lastly, this is a house with a small attic, suitable for storage but not living space.


Here's one of Hopewell's so-called "Rochelles." Oh dear - the roof is much too high! And there's a full bedroom in that upstairs area! And look, the front gable (with the door) is symetrical. Why that's nothing like the catalog picture! And the front gable is much wider, with two little windows. Plus, that gable behind that (to the left, with the two bedroom windows) actually extends quite a bit beyond the primary wall. And on the right side, there's a little nook for the fireplace that extends three or four feet beyond the roof line. And look at the windows! The house above has three on the right and two on the left. The Rochelle has one and one. In short, these houses are quite different. Last but not least, the furnace chimney on this house is in the rear. In the Sears house, it's near the center of the house. That's actually a pretty important detail.


Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.

And heres the non-Sears house in Hopewell.

And here's another Hopewell "NOR" (Not-a-Rochelle).


Again, for comparison, here's the Sears house.


Nice awnings, though.

Well maybe we could focus on what these houses (extant photos) have in common with the Sears Rochelle.

1)  They have walls and windows

2)  They have lots of lumber.

3)  They have pointy rooflines.

4)  They have pretty green stuff in the front yard.

That’s about it.

Sears Homes were offered in 370 designs, and they were purposefully designed to emulate the popular housing styles of the day. To authenticate a Sears Home, you must start with visual clues. These three Hopewell homes are lacking in that regard. Next, you should check the “footprint” of the house. These houses are not the same dimensions as the Rochelle. That single fact right there is a deal breaker.

A comparison of the two homes

A comparison of the two homes

To learn more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To read Part 1, or Part 2 of this story, here and here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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1 Comment

  1. Rachel

    Oh dear, how WRONG they are! Those are not even close to a Sears Rochelle. How can they not see the differences and so many differences at that?