It’s been known by different names: “Peacock Plantation” (in the 1960s) and more recently, “Bishop Manor Estate.”
I like to think of it as, “The Eskimo Pie House.”
The home’s builder and first owner was Fred Bishop. A transplanted Chicagoan, Fred built this house and estate in St. Elmo, Alabama, in the hopes of building a first-class dairy operation in the South. It was his hope to make and market high-quality ice cream.
As a natural consequence of this, he produced one of the greatest inventions the world has ever known: The Eskimo Pie. According to local legend, people came from far and wide to sample the tasty concoction.
Now that’s a house with a good heritage.
When the Great Depression hit, people stopped buying ice cream and Eskimo Pies and Fred lost his estate in foreclosure. The house passed through many hands and in 1985, it ended up on the National Registry of Historic Places.
At first glance, Fred’s house looks a like an Aladdin Villa, but the Villa didn’t appear until the 1916 catalog. According to the 1960s brochure (see below), Fred Bishop started construction on his home in 1915. If that’s a good build date (and that’s a big “if”), that raises a whole bunch of questions. However, the National Registry Application gives a build date of 1925. Was that a completion date, or a build date?
If this is an Aladdin Villa, it’s been fancied up quite a bit, with a curved interior staircase, basswood paneling, cherry balustrade and marble fireplace mantle. Plus, the floorplan is not a good match to the Aladdin Villa, but “customization” was common in these grand old kit homes.
And there’s this: Fred and his family were from Chicago. They would have been well familiar with kit homes.
The only photos I’ve been able to find of this house are from the 1985 National Registry application, and studying those photos leave me scratching my head. Is this a Villa? More likely, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.
It’d be fun to find out more about this interesting old house!
If you know anything about The Bishop Manor, please leave a comment below.
To learn more about the Aladdin Villa, click here.
In conclusion, I suspect there’s a pattern book version of the Aladdin Villa, running around out there and that Fred’s house was probably based on that plan book version.
If you’ve got a notion, please leave me a comment!
To see the rest of the photos of this beautiful old estate in Alabama, click here.
When this house was posted some time ago in the Sears Homes group the first thing I noticed was the overall “construction” just didn’t match every other Aladdin Villa.
I suspect the Aladdin Villa was the design of someone else and used by the company.
The original Villa in Bay City Michigan was built in 1914, two years before it appeared in Aladdin’s catalog. (Other kit homes from the Bay City companies models were built a few years prior to them being offered in catalogs as well, the Sterling Vernon for one.)
I’m thinking there is a pattern or blueprints from another architect out there somewhere that we haven’t seen.
Of course, you know me, that’s always my “knee jerk reaction ” to everything. 😉 And there are detractors out there who will say I’m really no expert and only your “bulldog.” LOL.
Those are my thoughts.
Maybe Dale Wolicki, the Aladdin expert, will tell us!
I’m surprised the architect isn’t listed on the application.
I didn’t know that the original Villa was built up in Bay City, two years before it landed in the catalog! What a great bit of info!
And I agree – there’s a “Villa-nesque” house out there (probably pattern book) that we just haven’t found yet.
These houses are too much alike to NOT have some connection – somewhere.
It’s like that “Fake Magnolia” I found in South Carolina. So close – but not quite right.
They might have called him “Mr. Eskimo Pie,” but he was only a franchisee.
Eskimo Pies were invented in Iowa by a man named Christian Nelson, and he sold the company to United States Foil Company, who made the Eskimo Pie wrapper, in 1924.
United States Foil later became Reynolds Metals Company, headquartered at the time in Richmond, Virginia. http://amhistory.si.edu/archives/d8553.htm
Well, whoever invented the Eskimo Pie was a genius. Way more important than anything that slacker Edison invented. I can eat Eskimo Pies all day but I only need electric lights at night.
The house in Alabama might be the Aladdin “Milan”, the predecessor to the Villa offered in the 1914 and 1915 catalogs.
They are essentially the same model. When I get back to Michigan I’ll have to find the illustration.
It is also possible that the house in Alabama was the model for the Milan/Villa.
The Aladdin Company subscribed to many popular architecture and building magazines and had a large design library.
If the Alabama house was published, it is possible that the original Aladdin Villa in Bay City, Michigan in 1914 (I have a newspaper reference to the building permit) might have been based on its design.
My parents lived at Bishop Manor when I was born in 1975, Joel and Margaret Miller. They rented the property and my family has lots of great memories of Bishop Manor. We had a swing set next to the pool and my sisters would jump off the swing into the pool. My father tried to buy the property when it came up for sell in the late 80’s-early 90’s. Both of my parents loved the estate. I do have some aerial drone footage of the property from last year and I live 1 mile from the estate if you need current photos.
My grandparents have lived here for the past 23 years, since 1996. We grew up here, now I have kids that run around here.
My grandfather knows all about this property and has quite a few original photographs. They have documents that say construction started around 1910 and some documents that mention 1920, but my grandmother said she’s not sure when construction actually started and finished.
It’s my favorite home in the world. I just did a virtual tour of the house on my Instagram stories @chelseateresak.
Bishop also started one of the first telephone services in basement (which is bricked up now). There was an entire switchboard operation down there.
It’s been bricked up for decades now, it was bricked up when my grandparents bought the house so we have no idea what’s even down there anymore.
My family lived here in the early nineties. My mother and my aunts said this home was morbidly haunted.