Having lived in Norfolk for seven years now, I have scoured every street in this city, searching for mail-order kit homes. I’ve ridden around with several friends, studied maps, queried long-time residents and harangued my husband and I was quite certain that I’d seen every early 20th Century neighborhood that Norfolk had to offer.
Wednesday night, my buddy Milton and I were on our way to CERT class, and we swung by Church’s Fried Chicken to buy some of their world-famous honey biscuits. For reasons I can’t explain, an integral part of the CERT class is a pot-luck supper. (We’re expected to bring a piquant and palatable platter of something wonderful to these weekly classes.)
As we pulled out onto Virginia Beach Blvd, I noticed a lovely Dutch Colonial staring back at me.
“Huh,” I thought to myself. “That Dutchie has an interior chimney, just like the Martha Washington (Sears Home). Isn’t that something?”
And then I noticed that it had the curved porch roof, just like the Martha Washington.
And then I looked again and thought, “And it’s got those short windows centered on the second floor, just like the Martha Washington.”
Next, I looked at the small attic window and thought, “And it’s got that half-round window in the attic, just like the Martha Washington.”
As Milton drove down the road, I twisted my head around and saw that the Dutchie had the two distinctive bay windows on the side, just like the Martha Washington. Those two windows are an unusual architecture feature, and that was the clincher.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I told Milton. “I think that’s a Sears House.”
Now anyone who’s hung around me for more than 73 minutes knows that I’m a pretty big fan of Sears Homes, and my friends understand that a significant risk of riding around with Rose is that there will be many detours when we pass by early 20th Century neighborhoods.
Milton gladly obliged and gave me an opportunity to take a long, lingering look at this Dapper Dutchie.
That night at the CERT meeting, I kept thinking about the fact that one of the most spacious and fanciest Sears Homes ever offered was sitting right here in Norfolk, and after seven years of living in this city, I just now found it.
The next day, Milton picked me up around 11:00 am and we returned to the Sears Martha Washington so that I could take a multitude of photos. Sadly, as we drove through the adjoining neighborhoods, we saw that the nearby college (Norfolk State) had apparently swallowed up great gobs of surrounding bungalows.
Between that and some very aggressive redevelopment, it appears that hundreds of early 20th Century homes are now just a dusty memory at the local landfill.
Do the owners of this Martha Washington know what they have? Based on my research, more than 90% of the people living in these historically significant homes didn’t know what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.
What a find! What a treasure! And it’s right here in Norfolk!
So is there a Magnolia hiding somewhere nearby? 🙂
To learn more about the kit homes in Norfolk, click here.
To learn how to identify marked lumber, click here.
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To learn more about the Martha Washington, click here.
To learn more about biscuits, click here.
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That’s OK Rose, we all miss the houses hiding out in plain sight. Today I found a 1950s Aladdin Coronado that I have been driving past for 20 years!
Hey Rose – I live in a Dutch Colonial built in 1928. I’ve been looking on the internet for some exterior remodel ideas and colors etc and stumbled on your site.
I live in Gladstone Va and saw a picture of the Martha Washington in Bedford.
I live about 45 minutes east of Bedford, and I am interested in picking your brain. If I send you a picture of my house, can you possibly identify it as “type” and if it’s a Sears Kit home?
You are not alone! I drove past a house to and from band rehearsal weekly for 3 or 4 months thinking, “Boy that house looks ‘familiar.'”
I ‘know’ that house, boy that house looks ‘familiar.’ I know that house is something but what? It drove me NUTS, I just wanted to turn my head the other way.
The side faces the street and apparently it’s set up so you enter through the back door. Strange set up but considering it was a farm that the city grew up around, it makes sense.
Anyway, looking through a GVT catalog for another house lo and behold! There was a side view of my mystery house at the bottom of the GVT #612! I felt like an idiot.
I have a 1917 Dutch colonial that one of the previous owners, who I met last week, thought was a modified kit home.
Here are the real estate photo’s from when we bought it last year. Can you tell me if it is a kit and if so, what model? It is a stunning home that has been expanded a bit in the kitchen, family room was added beyond the living room and upstairs “fairy tale” bedroom was also expanded.
It also has a “secret staircase” from the kitchen, we are really happy here. Would love to know more if you can help.
OOPs! Here is the correct MLS link not the other one.
The Verona you show being burned was the manse for Wildwood Presbyterian Church, in Wildwood, IL. I grew up in that house.
We were there until 1979. Your site and pictures are best I’ve found of these homes.