Category Archives: Observations

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 Plans from 1909, I was struck by the number of designs that seemed a bit avant-garde for the day.

Mixed in with the expected Foursquares, Queen Anne Free Classics, and Craftsman bungalows were a handful of designs which were more overtly inspired by the Prairie School.  Several of these just seem a bit odd.

I don’t know how many of these more unusual designs were actually ever built and I don’t recall having seen any in person before.  I have seen plenty of their more conventional designs, however. Let’s take a look at some of their designs which might make you briefly feel as though you were living in a parallel universe.  All images are courtesy of the fantastic Internet Archive:


A bold pattern distinguishes the capitals of these boxy porch supports.  The corner fireplaces seem to be a Victorian-era holdout.


Diamond paned sash, a favorite in the Arts and Crafts movement, offers interesting contrast to the banded walls.  I love the dining room design and its position at the center of the plan.


Delightfully different!


This eclectic design incorporates shaped parapet walls, half-timbering and a Prairie style porch.


I just can’t imagine this house surviving without being heavily altered.  Not many small houses have such large living rooms – I like it!


Another very eclectic design – the tapered eaves foreshadow rooflines of the 50’s and 60’s.


Everything about his house is odd.  While the form is somewhat modern, the detailing is not.  Something for everyone, I guess.  The roof looks like it would be very prone to leaks.


This one looks a bit like a mausoleum, but I like the plan.  It’s odd to see a one-bedroom house with a huge pantry!



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 with a brick veneer c. 1950.  More recently, synthetic stucco has been used to cover the… Continue Reading

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 remained retail and the second floor remained as office space – but each was updated… Continue Reading

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 older house.   The older house, also wrapped in vinyl, appears to be… Continue Reading