Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Aladdin Pomona in Wheatland, Wyoming

Before this month, the national database of Aladdin houses didn't include any houses in Wyoming. We knew that houses (and garages and a barn!) had been sold to customers in Wyoming from the years of the sales index that we've reviewed. But no specific houses had been located either from searches based on the sales index or in searches we've done looking for houses from other kit house companies (it's not unusual to run across houses from one company while you're looking for houses from another). But that changed when I started looking specifically for houses in Wyoming that were listed on the sales index. While I didn't find all the houses on the list, I found several including an Aladdin Pomona in Wheatland, Wyoming. Let's take a look! 

Wyoming today is a very rural state of under 600,000 residents, making it the least populated of all the United States. Wyoming's most populous city, Cheyenne, has less than 64,000 residents. In 1920, a period when kit houses were gaining in popularity, Wyoming had fewer than 200,000 residents. Low population and low density typically means we don't expect to find a lot of kit houses. The ones that were sold likely ended up in small, rural towns or on farms and ranches in proximity to rail lines that would have been in existence at the time (and may or may not still be in operation). 

Even when homes were built in developed areas, the Census records at the time, which is one of our primary ways of locating houses sold by Aladdin, may not provide the level of detail necessary to pin down owners to a specific address. I sometimes have to resort to searching a town street-by-street (if the Google Streetview camera has been through town), looking for a specific model house. It all can make for a challenging search and often times, we end up empty handed. 

In the case of sales order #15038 for a Pomona #1 in Wheatland, Wyoming, I was looking for the home sold to J. R. Mason in 1919. 

I started my search at Ancestry.com with a general search for J.R. Mason in Wheatland, Wyoming. In the 1920 Census, I found a John R. Mason in Wheatland but he was renting a house on Spruce St. Next up was the 1930 Census and he was now living in a house on 10th Street in Wheatland valued at $10,000. The next entry on my search results in Ancestry.com showed an obituary for J. R. Mason in 1935 so I knew he wouldn't show up in the 1940 Census. But his widow, Martha did, still on 10th Street but without an address. I also checked for any local city directories but didn't find any. I wasn't surprised by that as many small communities didn't have directories and even when they did, they often just listed a street name for residents and not specific addresses. 

I at least had a starting point - 10th Street - for a potential owner. I didn't know that the J. R. Mason I found was the J. R. Mason that had purchased the Aladdin house but being in a small town (Wheatland had a population of 1,336 residents in 1920), the odds were with me that they were one and the same. 

Another perk of searching a small town like Wheatland is its small size. When I jumped over to Google Streetview, I found I was in luck. The entire town had been photographed in Streetview. And, 10th Street was only about 13 blocks long, running north-south through Wheatland. 

I started my survey of 10th Street at the south end of town and headed north. A little over halfway through town, I spotted what I was looking for - an Aladdin Pomona at 1000 10th Street!

Of course, I had to finish my route up 10th Street just in case there was another one (yes, it happens!) Once I finished my survey of 10th Street, I circled back to check out the Pomona. 

The views in Google Streetview were pretty good but I always check to see if there's a real estate listing with photos of the house and in fact, there was one from 2020 for this house. It provides better views of the house than we can get from Streetview so I'm using a few of those photos here. From the front of the house, we can see that the house hasn't changed much since it was built over 100 years ago. We love seeing those brackets that were a detail on several Aladdin models. 

The Pomona has a bay window on each side of the house - this one is for the dining room. 

From the rear of the house, where a small addition has been added, the Pomona very much looks like the Sears "Vallonia". 

The bonus for us that comes with this house is that it still has its original "Peerless" garage! In reviewing the sales index, we see quite a few examples of owners ordering a garage to go with their house. The order for the garage was entered separately from the house and sometimes, they don't appear sequentially in the index, which was the case with this garage, sales order #15078. 

The typical garage ordered from Aladdin (and Sears and others) are tiny little things that you would be lucky to fit a large riding mower inside today. But the Peerless was a larger affair originally designed for 2 cars. 

As you can see, with a modern door, it's still big enough to fit at least some modern vehicles inside. 

If you want to see more photos of the interior of the house, you can view that at this real estate listing on Zillow. While I can't 100% confirm that this is J. R. Mason's Pomona #1 with Peerless garage, all evidence points to that being the case. 

This was the first Aladdin house that I found in Wyoming but it wasn't the last. Thank you for joining me and watch for more examples of Aladdin Homes coming soon!

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