Have You Seen This House?

To read the most recent update, click here!

There are 16 of these little bungalows in Norfolk (see below) moved from another location. According to local lore, these houses were floated up the Lafayette River from an unknown city (where they were originally built). Fourteen of the houses were then placed on lots along Ethel. Lucerne, and Lavalette Avenue (in the Riverview section of Norfolk), and two of the bungalows landed in Highland Park (a few blocks away on 51st Street).

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

One story alleges that the houses came from Hopewell. That’d be especially interesting because Hopewell had hundreds of Aladdin kit homes, built for the workers at the Dupont factory (where they manufactured gun cotton). Another story says that these houses came down the York River.  That could also be an interesting story, because DuPont built 600+ homes for their workers at Penniman, Virginia (now Naval Weapons Station Yorktown and Cheatham annex). (By the way, this was one of the largest collections of Aladdin Homes in the country, and all these houses are now GONE.)

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.

If we could find houses in other cities that match these Ethel Bungalows, that might help us figure out where they came from. So have you seen this house in your city? If so, tell me more!

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

Originally written April 12, 2011.


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.

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. Donna Bakke

    Rose – does the roof and the dormer flare out? Kind of an Oriental feel? I’ll keep my eye out!

    Rose’s Reply: Yes, that’s a perfect description, Donna! Both the roof and dormer have that bellcast roof, and because it’s such a distinctive house, finding it’s long-lost cousins should be an attainable goal! 🙂

  2. Mark Hardin

    In your blog, you write, “All these houses are now GONE.” I’m not so sure they’re gone. I found the same homes sans the bellcast roof in of all places Dupont Washington. The neighborhood they are located in has streets named Penniman and Hopewell!

    Rose’s reply: Mark, you are an amazing resource. Just amazing. I’m 100% confident that the houses in Dupont, Washington were NOT shipped out to Norfolk, VA. However, I’m becoming more and more confident that these are indeed kit homes.

    In short, here’s what I know.

    1) Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply about 400 houses in Hopewell, VA.
    2) Dupont turned to Aladdin to supply several hundred homes in Penniman, VA.
    3) Dupont, Washington (named after DuPont), has blocks and blocks of our little Ethel bungalow. It’s likely that Dupont turned to Aladdin to build the blocks and blocks of identical homes in Dupont, Washington. They are all identical, and they’re also a perfect match to the houses in Norfolk.
    4) Dupont is praised in Aladdin literature as being a builder of industrial housing.
    5) Aladdin had a huge mill in Portland, Oregon which is not far from Dupont, Washington.
    6) There was a major rail artery from Portland, OR to Tacoma, Washington (which is very near Dupont, Washington).

    All of which leads me to believe that these are kit homes, and the houses on Ethel Avenue in Norfolk came from the same place as the houses in Dupont, Washington. Was that Aladdin? It sure seems likely.

    As to shipping these houses down the Lafayette River, that was not too difficult, from a logistical standpoint, and was done more frequently than you might think. In the late 1910s, they would have used horses or mules, or maybe even a gas-powered tractor, or maybe a steam-powered tractor to pull these houses down the road (to the river). I’ve seen countless photos of houses being moved in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it was MORE common then than it is now, probably because the “waste-not, want-not” mentality was prevalent, and it took SO MUCH WORK – and MANPOWER – to build a house! No one would let all that work go to waste, so a home would be MOVED, not destroyed.

    Now, if that nice corporate archivist from Dupont would just get back to me!!! And fast! 🙂


  3. Michaela

    I know this is a very old post/mystery, but is there a floor plan published for these houses as built?