The Daisy Automatic Weather Strip for Doors

The Daisy Automatic Weather Strip for Doors

Antique mechanical contraptions have long intrigued me, and the Daisy Automatic Weather Strip for Doors does not disappoint!  Discovered by Jim while recently exploring a long-vacant farmhouse, the device is still in operating condition after 101 years! A deteriorated...

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From Showplace to Showroom to Concrete

From Showplace to Showroom to Concrete

Recently, while sifting through the contents of a file cabinet, I ran across an article I had written back in 1985 about the long and painful death of an old house in Manhattan, Kansas.  I felt a bit sad reading it because old buildings - and the physical connections...

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Bank Buildings on Pin Trays…

Bank Buildings on Pin Trays…

I started collecting glass advertising pin trays with architecture depicted on them many, many, years ago.  These things were always showing up at yard sales and thrift stores; they were fun and inexpensive.  Eventually, because of the sheer number of such trays, I...

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Issues of Scale and Proportion

Issues of Scale and Proportion

Sometimes a house or building just looks a bit off.  If the problem isn't immediately apparent, such as a glaringly harsh color scheme or over-the-top landscaping, it might be something more subtle like a problem with scale.  The following structures all have scale...

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What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

Sometimes construction projects end up looking somewhat different from what the initial architectural renderings suggest.  A residential development in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has several unusual facades which vary somewhat from the early renderings.  The...

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A Plan Book Rip-Off of the Sears Rodessa

A Plan Book Rip-Off of the Sears Rodessa

Recently I discovered a plan book of houses published by C. L. Bowes of Hinsdale, Illinois, which was copyrighted in 1926.  Within its pages was a dead-ringer for the "Rodessa" by Sears.  Marketed with the nondescript name of Design 14155-A, this copy-cat design...

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The Call of the Siren

The Call of the Siren

An unusual Corinthian column caught my eye from the road and lured me closer.  I was surprised to find an unexpected theme incorporating a diverse array of architectural materials.  I grabbed a few photos and continued on my journey...            ...

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Shutters or Shudders?

Shutters or Shudders?

I never tire of looking at bizarre shutter installations (or shudders - hat tip to Seth!) which is fortunate as there is no shortage of them!  It's been almost two years since I first posted about them -  it's time to share some more! That previous post noted the fact...

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Radford’s Design No. 1509

Radford’s Design No. 1509

Design No. 1509 was a popular plan for the Radford Architectural Company of Chicago judging by the number of surviving examples I've seen.  The most recent I've found is surprisingly intact and appears to be loved by its owners.  While this one in Oakley, Kansas, was...

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100-Year-Old Room… Never Finished!

100-Year-Old Room… Never Finished!

Recently I had the pleasure of touring a vacant farmhouse which has remained in the same family since its construction in 1918.  Although the house has had many of the updates one would expect over the course of a full century, it has had far fewer of them than most...

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Radford’s House Design No. 1508

Radford’s House Design No. 1508

Recently I found this house pictured in a display of old photographs which had been reproduced for a fascinating display of local history at the Fick Fossil and History Museum in Oakley, Kansas (definitely worth a visit when traveling on I-70!).  The house looked...

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The Cabot by Gordon-Van Tine

The Cabot by Gordon-Van Tine

I ran across this house yesterday... it appears to be a Gordon-Van Tine product, but I'm not exactly sure which of the many variations of this design it is.  I think it is the Cabot "A" model.  There is one clue above the door that makes me confident that this is a...

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Tulsa:  Three Early Houses by Bruce Goff

Tulsa: Three Early Houses by Bruce Goff

As is common with many architects, the early work of Bruce Goff was considerably different (much more mainstream) than his later work.  The following three houses were built in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1918, 1919 and 1925 respectively.  The first and third houses show a...

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Looking Back at the Shed Style

Looking Back at the Shed Style

It seemed so hip, so NOW... forty-odd years ago, anyway.  As a kind of a bridge between the Contemporary style of the mid-twentieth century and the Post Modern movement of the late-twentieth century, the Shed style had a brief moment of glory in the early 70's.  Shed...

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More Louis Curtiss!

More Louis Curtiss!

Just one more post about Louis Curtiss and then I promise to move on to other stuff for a while!  Given that virtually all of Curtiss' work is "lesser-known", saying so about some of the following may be redundant!  Still, there are a few places that are more obscure...

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A Door Inspired by Bruce Goff

A Door Inspired by Bruce Goff

One of my favorite movies, a close second to "Mars Attacks!", is the slightly surreal Goff in the Desert by German documentarian Heinz Emigholz.  The video has no narration; it is simply a series of video shots taken around 2002 of various structures designed by Bruce...

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The Mysterious Louis Curtiss

The Mysterious Louis Curtiss

Louis Curtiss, who left his mark on Kansas City and other locations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was one of those incredibly rare architects who was just weird enough to do really, really, interesting work.  While often compared to Frank Lloyd...

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Nebraska House Emulates New England Saltbox

Nebraska House Emulates New England Saltbox

A modest 1 -1/2 story Nebraska house with gable front, built around 1880, was given a stylistic makeover in the mid-twentieth century.  The new look, reminiscent of an eighteenth century saltbox, was created by adding a lean-to addition with fireplace to one side...

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Five Haunting Abandoned Houses

Five Haunting Abandoned Houses

While driving through a sparsely populated area of southwestern Nebraska I encountered a depressing amount of Victorian-era houses (which had once been grand for their locale) in advanced stages of deterioration.  Despite their weathered facades, these houses were...

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The Sudden Loss of Character

The Sudden Loss of Character

I drove by a house today which is undergoing an unfortunate and all-too-common procedure: it is losing its architectural integrity and will be gaining lots of vinyl and other synthetic products.  I caught the house mid-way though the process... replacement windows...

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Auction Action – Part 2

Auction Action – Part 2

Today it was time once again for the Lions Clubs' annual consignment auction... an event generally I think of as marking the near arrival of Spring.  It was breezy outside, but at least it wasn't snowing as it had last year.  As there wasn't anything that I couldn't...

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Fun With Nit-picking

Fun With Nit-picking

I love looking at houses on Zillow.com - you never know what will turn up.  I used to look only at old houses there (those built in the early twentieth century or earlier).  But lately I find myself drawn to the clumsy and distorted newer houses which are increasingly...

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A Sears Langston – A Century Later…

A Sears Langston – A Century Later…

This Sears Langston caught my eye while searching for an entirely different house on Zillow.  The distinctive and memorable porch posts remain to proclaim their Sears heritage despite a rather clumsy addition on the side of the house.  Images from the 1918 Sears...

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A Century-Old Tiny House

A Century-Old Tiny House

Long before it became fashionable and trendy, living on a small scale was quite common.  In most towns and cities, the earliest houses were built on a modest and utilitarian scale.  Many such structures, particularly those of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,...

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Radford’s Design No. 1517

Radford’s Design No. 1517

Of the hundreds of house plans offered by the William A. Radford Company of Chicago, their design number 1517 appears to have been one of their most popular - at least in the nation's mid-section.  Numerous examples of this house survive today.  The design was so...

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A Sears Osborn Look-Alike

A Sears Osborn Look-Alike

I recently ran across this house on Zillow.  It looks a lot like a kit house sold by Sears called the Osborn.  The house was offered from 1916 to 1929 and seems to have been a popular model for them.  I'm not sure if the house below is an Osborn, but if not it was...

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The Colonnade: A Craftsman Bungalow Icon

The Colonnade: A Craftsman Bungalow Icon

Often the most dominant interior feature of Craftsman-style bungalows, the colonnade has lately been enjoying something of a revival - even showing up in new construction. Long before the term "open concept" forced its way into the world's homes via television,...

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Replacement Windows Scar Row House

Replacement Windows Scar Row House

There are replacement window installations and then there are really strange replacement window installations.  The center house of three contiguous row houses has had some rather uncommon surgery on its two primary windows in order to accommodate the installation of...

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Neo-Victorian Houses

Neo-Victorian Houses

Americans have long been noted for their eagerness to embrace whatever is new - even when it's a revival of something old!  This has been especially true of architectural styles.  In the 18th century we were embracing Classical details in new construction;  the 19th...

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Inside a Monolithic Dome

Inside a Monolithic Dome

While not exactly a house, this 1970's domed structure could easily be one.  It certainly has potential!  This popped up today on Zillow and got my immediate attention.  I became intrigued as I looked at the images - all are from zillow.com:                          ...

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Vinyl Siding Revisited

Vinyl Siding Revisited

It's been over a year since I first posted about vinyl siding, so I thought it was high time to take a look at some more houses which are shrouded in it.   Vinyl is often used to conceal the scars that result when window openings are unfortunately reduced or porches...

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Demolition by Neglect

Demolition by Neglect

An astounding number of historic structures disappear each year simply because the owners have stopped caring for them.  Known as "demolition by neglect", the phenomenon is on the rise.  Recognizing that old buildings are instrumental in giving shape and character to...

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Just for Fun…

Just for Fun…

Don't be alarmed; I won't be doing McMansions on a regular basis as there is already an excellent site doing just that.  But I saw this on Zillow.com and couldn't resist.  I've taken the following nine photos from the listing there which really don't need any captions...

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The Architectural Observer rarely looks at “important” buildings; the focus is upon overlooked ones.  Some will be antique survivors which have come through time surprisingly intact.  Many will be old buildings which have been altered without regard to their stylistic integrity while others will be new construction which never had any stylistic integrity to begin with.

The decline of architectural integrity is just one more facet of the prolific and ongoing devolution of our culture.  The Architectural Observer calls it like it is!  Are there more important and pressing issues facing us now?  Yes, but everyone needs a distraction from those other issues once in a while.  And besides, this is relevant and much more fun!

There are four kinds of distractions here:

OBSERVATIONS  highlights the lowlights of our built environment – and observes occasional architectural details which might otherwise be overlooked.

PLAN BOOK AND KIT HOUSES examines structures built from mail order plans or actual kits.

PROJECTS follows the progress on a variety of design-related endeavors.

DRAG QUEEN ARCHITECTURE showcases buildings built in one style but which are trying to pass themselves off as a different style.

Let’s face it; we built better buildings in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than we do now.  Let’s take a cue from the past and start to remember how buildings are supposed to look and function.  Thanks for joining me – please use the contact form for polite inquiry or to gripe at me.