Inspired Design:  A Vision Takes Form

Inspired Design: A Vision Takes Form

Recently I attended a birthday party for a retired friend -- the location of which was his outdoor entertaining area. A multi-year construction project, the site is now nearing completion. Built entirely from scrap or otherwise salvaged items, the structures there...

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...

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...

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...

“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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

A Weekend of “Treasure Hunting”

A Weekend of “Treasure Hunting”

Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking in the 12th annual Highway 36 "Treasure Hunt", a three-day flea market which stretches across the northernmost tier of Kansas counties.  While I didn't traverse the entire state, I did tackle much of the western half, and...

WPA Rustic:  Let’s Go to the Park!

WPA Rustic: Let’s Go to the Park!

A product of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the city park of Hill City, Kansas, remains as a beautiful and functional example of numerous similar projects scattered around the country.   Built in the WPA Rustic style, the structures found here incorporate...

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...

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:    ...

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...

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!...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...        ...

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...