Extensive Porch Decay Revealed and Tackled!

Extensive Porch Decay Revealed and Tackled!

We knew that the vinyl siding was hiding lots of problems, but didn't know just how bad the damage would be. Yesterday we found out. While not attractive, the damage is absolutely repairable. It's unfortunate, but not a death sentence for the porch. Jim has been hard...

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More Clues, More Details

More Clues, More Details

I got an unexpected break yesterday when my chiropractor, after adjusting my back, forbade me from doing any ladder work right away. So, instead of working on the bay window, I explored the house a little bit more. The flash on my camera is working again (finally!)...

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Porch and Bay Window Restoration Begin

Porch and Bay Window Restoration Begin

With the days getting shorter and the exterior trim on the house getting more weathered, we decided to tackle the most vulnerable features of the exterior before the weather changes. Jim is working primarily on the porch and I'm working primarily on the bay window. In...

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Anomalous Details and a New Project…

Anomalous Details and a New Project…

The goal of finding a house to restore which was both architecturally and historically interesting has been simmering in the background for some time now. Life has a way of distracting us from our goals (most recently getting involved with the renovation of someone...

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Modernist House Muted with Color

Modernist House Muted with Color

One of the most popular -- and easiest -- ways to "re-style" a house is through the use of paint. Countless Victorian-era houses, for example (formerly sporting multi-hued exteriors), were painted white beginning in the 1920's in an effort to make them appear more...

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More Finishes at the Project House!

More Finishes at the Project House!

We've been busy at the job site and almost all of the electrical and plumbing issues have been dealt with. Almost all of them. Despite having countless receptacles, however, we're still using extension cords everywhere for power. Even though we've had air conditioning...

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The Odd Blue Doors Explained…

The Odd Blue Doors Explained…

Much like porch alterations, replacement doors have the ability to change the way a house looks or is perceived. Unfortunately, most people just buy what they like and give little thought to maintaining the architectural integrity of the exterior when purchasing a new...

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A Visit to the Cottonwood Ranch

A Visit to the Cottonwood Ranch

Built in three stages beginning in 1885, the house at Cottonwood Ranch in Studley, Kansas, reflects not only the place and time in which it was built, but incorporates some traditions of builder John Fenton Pratt's native Yorkshire, England, as well. The center...

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A 1970’s BH&G Plan Book House

A 1970’s BH&G Plan Book House

Print media, while not as influential as it was in decades past, remains a popular platform for the sale of house plans. When readers of Better Homes and Gardens magazine selected House Plan No. 3709-A as their favorite of those presented by the magazine in 1972, the...

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A Gothic Revival with a Jerkinhead Roof!

A Gothic Revival with a Jerkinhead Roof!

Now that's something you don't see every day... especially on the High Plains of northwestern Kansas! Both the architectural style and the roof type are atypical of the region. The Jerkinhead roof, a compromise between a gabled roof and a hipped roof, is used with...

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The War On Old Buildings – Part 2

The War On Old Buildings – Part 2

The ongoing war against the remnants of our historic built environment continues unabated. Our previous examination of this topic (Part 1) dealt with elementary school textbooks which propagandized children and instilled a bias against historic buildings in the...

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Finishes Begin at the Project House…

Finishes Begin at the Project House…

...with an emphasis on the word "begin". We're still a long way away from being done, but the first floor is coming along nicely and plaster repair is progressing on the second floor. Let's drop in for a bit... Outside, the lawn needs mowing and the roses are out in...

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“Reading” an Old House

“Reading” an Old House

Most old houses have had alterations over the years -- very few come down through time just as they were built. Unless a house was altered with an extreme attention to maintaining details, it is usually possible to get a fairly good idea as to what the house looked...

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Pop Quiz:  What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Pop Quiz: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Each house or building in the following six photos has at least one thing wrong with it -- from the viewpoint of architectural or physical integrity, that is! Some are quite obvious while others are a bit more subtle; some will have multiple offenses while others may...

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Salvaging a Farmhouse

Salvaging a Farmhouse

The 1880's farmhouse we looked at last month is scheduled for demolition this week. Jim and I got there first to save what we were able to. If you don't want to see sad images, just skip this post. I understand. We salvaged all of the doors and their surrounding...

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Exploring a Doomed 1950’s Ranch House

Exploring a Doomed 1950’s Ranch House

It's déjà vu all over again! Remember the empty 1880's farmhouse we recently looked at? Well... this ranch house was built a stone's throw away by its former inhabitants -- quite a change of pace! Unfortunately, both houses have extensive termite damage and the new...

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The Project House Slowly Progresses…

The Project House Slowly Progresses…

For no very good reason, I had assumed that once winter went away we would have massive amounts of time to spend, uninterupted, working on the Project House. Snow, impassable roads, melting snow, muddy roads and issues with getting subcontractors to complete the...

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Door Hardware, Part Two: 1850 to 1900

Door Hardware, Part Two: 1850 to 1900

In Part One we looked at some types of door hardware which were common prior to the mid-nineteenth century -- latches and rim locks made of iron. While mortise locks were in use, they were not common. Surface-mounted rim locks remained popular in the latter half of...

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A Sears Maytown – Largely Intact!

A Sears Maytown – Largely Intact!

After a century of use, many old houses have been updated, remodeled or otherwise altered to the extent that they are scarcely recognizable. Others, like this Sears Maytown in Struthers, Ohio, are able to transcend time with only slight changes. Owner Dawn Hartzell...

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Auction Action – Part 3

Auction Action – Part 3

This past weekend I attended an annual consignment auction hosted by the Lions Clubs. As usual, there were a few things of architectural or design interest. I didn't buy anything this year because the few things I wanted to bid on were not going to be offered until...

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A Customized Sears Hawthorne

A Customized Sears Hawthorne

Offered between 1913 and 1918, the Sears Hawthorne was a somewhat ungainly-looking Craftsman style bungalow which was not a huge seller. It was essentially the one-and-a-half story version of the Sears Avondale which was far more popular with kit house buyers and...

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Radford Design No. 1131

Radford Design No. 1131

One of hundreds of house designs published by the Radford Architectural Company of Chicago in the early twentieth century, Design No. 1131 is an eclectic composition in that it combines Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Shingle style influences. This example in...

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Awkward Alterations, Part Two

Awkward Alterations, Part Two

Today we'll look at two different types of alterations which can negatively impact how we perceive a structure. Sadly, the following examples are fairly tame... there are countless others which are far worse. The first category, Indifference, will highlight houses...

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The Piano Nobile

The Piano Nobile

Have you ever thought that some older buildings seem to be oddly proportioned -- perhaps a bit top-heavy? Often there is nothing wrong with their proportions; the problem may instead be with our modern perception of what a building's exterior should look like (and how...

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Door Hardware, Part One:  1800 to 1850

Door Hardware, Part One: 1800 to 1850

Door hardware, like other architectural details, can often help to guestimate the age of the house when its history is unknown. However, this method is only reliable when it is known with certainty that the hardware in question is original to the house. Hardware, like...

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The Johnson House by Charles Haertling

The Johnson House by Charles Haertling

One of architect Charles Haertling's many fascinating contributions to the city of Boulder, Colorado, is currently on the market allowing a peek inside this interesting house. Known for their frequent mix of modernism and organic architecture, his designs are highly...

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More from the Project House

More from the Project House

Winter weather has not helped one bit in getting things done at the project house. Accessed by a mile-long dirt drive which turns to impassable muck when wet, the house has been getting sporadic attention lately. Melting snow has created some ugly messes. While the...

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Queen Anne Window Sash

Queen Anne Window Sash

The impact original window sash can have in an historic building in terms of enhancing and maintaining architectural integrity is enormous yet frequently undervalued.  In addition to the shape and size of the window openings themselves,...

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Off the Beaten Path in Abilene, Kansas

Off the Beaten Path in Abilene, Kansas

While Abilene, Kansas, has long been noted for its many fine Victorian-era houses and colorful early cow-town history, not much (if any) attention has been given to the plan book and manufactured kit origins of some of the town's houses.  The town is primarily known,...

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Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 3

Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 3

Double Feature!  Today we'll look at two structures which are recent recipients of altered fenestration... Recipient # 1 After a period of stagnation, work appears to have restarted on the second re-interpretation of a former church building in a nearby town.   The...

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An Update from the Project House

An Update from the Project House

There are pros and cons to just about everything in life.  Like living in the middle of nowhere, for example.  For the most part it's great; it's beautiful, one has lots of elbow room, the crime rate is low, etc.  On the other hand, there is a downside.  Isolation...

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Inside a 1952 Time Capsule House

Inside a 1952 Time Capsule House

Who doesn't love a good time capsule?  This one, built in 1952 in Gladewater, Texas, has been on Zillow for about 10 days and is already generating lots of interest online; I ran across it when a reader shared it on the always mesmerizing Old House Dreams.  While not...

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An Art Deco Facade by S. S. Voigt

An Art Deco Facade by S. S. Voigt

Dominated by large steel windows filled with green slag glass, this Masonic Temple in Oberlin, Kansas, was built in 1931.  The buff brick facade is elaborated with glazed terra cotta ornament which enhances the Art Deco styling of the building.  Although the ground...

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Rescuing a Leaning Barn From Future Collapse

Rescuing a Leaning Barn From Future Collapse

It had been at least seven years since Jim first told friends of ours that he would straighten up their leaning barn.  Unusual for its "T" shape, the antique barn was showing its age.  Every passing year made the already obvious lean all the more evident.  Every storm...

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Revealing a Hidden Bay Window

Revealing a Hidden Bay Window

It's been over two weeks since I posted about a big old abandoned farmhouse that is destined to be demolished.  Jim and I have been salvaging interior woodwork, doors and windows for use in a future project.  The first floor has been salvaged, and we're working on the...

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The Frank Brumback House by Louis Curtiss

The Frank Brumback House by Louis Curtiss

Admirers of the work of Louis Curtiss don't normally associate the architect with the Colonial Revival, yet this house in Kansas City is an interesting example of the style and it demonstrates the architect's versatility.  Despite the outwardly staid impression of the...

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Exploring a Big Old Abandoned Farmhouse

Exploring a Big Old Abandoned Farmhouse

Long abandoned, this c. 1905 Folk Victorian farmhouse has unusually nice detailing for its geographic location, even if those details aren't all stylistically consistent!  Though re-sided in the mid-twentieth century, enough of the siding has fallen off to reveal the...

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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.