Village For Sale. Cheap.

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.”



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.



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


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.)


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.)



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


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!)


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.


This Denver came from Penniman.

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


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.


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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  1. Anne

    Are you still looking for these Salvage Board catalogs? They may be in this series in the National Archives.

    156.4.2 Records of ordnance boards, World War I and later.

    Textual Records: Records, including minutes, correspondence, reports, case files, and issuances, of the following boards: Artillery Ammunition Board, July-October 1918; Ordnance Department Claims Board and the Ordnance Section of the War Department Claims Board, 1918-25 (380 ft.); Gillespie Explosion Investigation and Claims Boards, 1918-21; Board of Contract Adjustment, 1919-21; Ordnance Salvage Board, 1918-23; Interdepartmental Board of Contracts and Adjustments, 1922-25; and Joint Board of Survey, War and Justice Departments, 1923-25.

  2. Sears Homes

    Hi Anne,

    I am still looking for them. As of March 24, I have sent an inquiry to the National Archives. The person with whom I spoke said it takes 10 days to get a response.

    Oh well.

    I’ll wait!

  3. Colbee

    Me and my husband live in one of the DuPont homes in Old Hickory.

    I have been diligently searching for my home and have gotten very close, but not exact.

    It is much like the six room bungalow, but there is an extended part of the kitchen extended out the back instead of a porch on the side.

    I’ve heard there is one called the “Old Hickory House” that they made especially for the village, and that my house is that one.

    Do you have any other images of the old Hickory catalog? I’d like to see them all together so I may be able to find my home.