Welcome to the Architectural Observer!

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 3 kinds of distractions here:

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

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

MAIL ORDER AND KIT HOUSES pairs historic images with surviving structures built from mail order plans or actual kits.

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.

Frederick L. Ackerman’s Plan No. 198

Frederick L. Ackerman’s Plan No. 198

I’ve been fascinated by house plan books and catalogs for as long as I can remember and “The Books of a Thousand Homes” is particularly riveting.  Published in 1923 by an entity calling itself The Home Owners Service Institute, the book contained five hundred house plans.  Working blueprints for each design could be ordered through… Continue Reading

Harris Home No. N-1026, “The Plaza” by Aladdin or ???

Harris Home No. N-1026, “The Plaza” by Aladdin or ???

A 1923 Harris Brothers Company catalog includes an attractive Craftsman style house with a rather lackluster name:   No. N-1026.  The house was offered with clapboard or shingled siding, and a reversed floor plan as an option.   The Aladdin Company sold a nearly identical kit house called “The Plaza” as early as 1917… does anyone… Continue Reading

A Garlinghouse Design Plus the Sears Argyle and Hollywood

A Garlinghouse Design Plus the Sears Argyle and Hollywood

For well over a century, the Garlinghouse Company has been publishing house plans. While I’m especially partial to their mid-20th century designs, the older ones also have merit.  Below is plan number 1067 from the 1920’s… the house shown in the second photo was built in 1927 and remains largely intact today:     The… Continue Reading

Radford Designs and a Gordon-Van Tine Kit House

Radford Designs and a Gordon-Van Tine Kit House

Most people have heard of Sears catalog and kit houses, which were popular in the early 20th century, but many are unaware of the numerous other businesses which sold essentially the same product.   These competing businesses routinely adapted each other’s work or simply flat out stole from each other.  Many designs were reversed, perhaps in an… Continue Reading