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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Radford’s Prairie House Plans

Radford’s Prairie House Plans

The William A. Radford Company of Chicago was one of the most recognized names in the plans-by-mail business in the early 20th century.  Homes built from their plans can still be found in surprising numbers throughout the country.  While perusing their Portfolio of...

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Multiple Personalities

Multiple Personalities

If dissociative identity disorders can afflict structures, this former Folk Victorian house appears to be symptomatic.  The wood-framed structure has had several changes to its exterior since first constructed, likely in the 1890's.  Portions of the house were clad...

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1960’s Redesign of 1890’s Building

1960’s Redesign of 1890’s Building

  Probably built in the 1890's, the Merit Building in downtown McCook, Nebraska, went through a radical interior remodeling in the 1960's.  The redesign converted the basement level into a mini-mall with numerous aluminum and glass storefronts.  The ground floor...

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Multi-Tasking with Concrete Block c. 1920

Multi-Tasking with Concrete Block c. 1920

Taking advantage of a sloping lot, the builder of a c. 1920 bungalow achieved 3 goals simultaneously with concrete block:  A garage  A retaining wall  A level lot There is a door at the back of the garage which opens to the adjacent sidewalk.  A set of steps leads to...

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Joined at the Hip

Joined at the Hip

At first glance, this house appears to be a rather ordinary Craftsman style bungalow (aside from the 1960's iron porch supports, vinyl siding and plastic shutters, that is).  However, appearances can be deceiving.  This "bungalow" is actually an addition to  a much...

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Inside a Craftsman Bungalow

Inside a Craftsman Bungalow

I happened upon this Craftsman-style bungalow a few days ago; the bright yellow facade initially caught my eye.  The sides still display an earlier, less vibrant, color scheme.  The new look, with its dark brown shingled gable, does a better job of emulating a period...

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High Plains Modern

High Plains Modern

Modern design - as expressed in the mid-20th century - was never enthusiastically embraced in flyover country.  Much of what little was built here has since been altered or destroyed.  However, there are a few examples here and there which have managed to survive....

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Architectural Trauma

Architectural Trauma

Structures which read as disorderly or awkward compositions are often victims of remodeling projects in which the maintenance of architectural integrity was not a top priority.  Exhibiting a form of architectural psychosis, such structures are increasingly...

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A Late Example of Gothic Revival

A Late Example of Gothic Revival

Not platted until 1886, the town of Haigler, Nebraska, is an unlikely spot to find a house built in the Gothic Revival style.  Most popular in the mid-19th century, the romantic style was never commonplace anywhere in Nebraska for houses; it is especially surprising...

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Synthetic Stucco McMakeover

Synthetic Stucco McMakeover

It has finally warmed up a bit so I took the camera out for a spin today.  I was surprised to see that an old house I had noticed on a previous journey had changed, umm... dramatically.  Unfortunately, I had not photographed the house earlier.  However, Google did in...

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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 three 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.

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.