Remnants of a Sod House

Remnants of a Sod House

Houses built of sod were once plentiful across the Great Plains where trees were scarce.  Built of blocks of earth cut from the ground, the later and more refined versions also incorporated many purchased materials such as windows, doors and dimensioned lumber for the...

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Warehousing People – The Sequel

Warehousing People – The Sequel

Last September I posted about a senior storage facility er, "senior apartments" which I found to be disturbing for several reasons.   I recently ran across a similar project which gives the bleak and utilitarian exterior an additional synthetic twist:              ...

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A Look at Two House Flips

A Look at Two House Flips

House-flipping has been popular for a long while - and the trend has been made even more popular by television.  Not all flips are created equal, however!  Since I haven't been able to take any road trips lately, I decided to sift through Zillow and find some flips to...

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Replacing Window Sash Cord – Part One

Replacing Window Sash Cord – Part One

Old houses which retain their original wood windows are fortunate; with a little TLC these windows can stay functional and outlast any vinyl product on the market today.   Replacing frayed or broken window sash cord is not very difficult, but it does sometimes require...

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Mary Rockwell Hook: Ahead of Her Time

Mary Rockwell Hook: Ahead of Her Time

Among the numerous imaginative architects who practiced in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early twentieth century was Mary Rockwell Hook.  Her style was reflective of her travels and education; the substantial houses she designed have contributed to the enduring...

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Concrete on the Farm c. 1920

Concrete on the Farm c. 1920

In the previous post, we looked at the remains of an early twentieth century farm house.  Today we'll take a look at the role that concrete played on this farm: a barn, stock tank and cistern - all made from it.   Bonus feature: a windmill tower made of scrap metal!  ...

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Ruins of An Early 20th Century Farm

Ruins of An Early 20th Century Farm

Ruined structures have long been a favorite subject for artists because of their frequent poignant beauty.  While the term "ruin" typically conjures up images of ancient stone structures crumbling in lush landscapes beneath invasive trees and vines, a similar - but...

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Removing Wall Paneling and Ceiling Tiles

Removing Wall Paneling and Ceiling Tiles

The first step in renovation of the project house has been cleaning out a century of accumulation and unwanted "updates".  Among the updates to be forever banished were cellulose ceiling tiles and fibrous "wood grained" wall paneling.  For whatever reason, the...

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Architectural Integrity and the Row House

Architectural Integrity and the Row House

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the value of architectural integrity - especially where historic buildings are concerned.  In a neighborhood of stylistically varied houses it is possible for a few of them to be compromised without visually ruining an...

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Anatomy of a Plastered Archway

Anatomy of a Plastered Archway

Archways in plaster walls - without a traditional wood casing surrounding them - became highly fashionable in the 1920's and remained popular with builders into the 1950's.  They are most likely to be found in Tudor Revivals and Spanish Eclectic houses of the period,...

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A New Old House Project

A New Old House Project

As if there weren't enough things around here that need attention, I unexpectedly found myself involved in a new project:  the renovation of someone else's house.  It's an early twentieth-century house which has been empty for a long time.  It will be a sensitive...

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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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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.