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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Three Random Old Houses – Then and Now

Three Random Old Houses – Then and Now

The recent cold weather has made it more appealing to stay home and look through old photos than to go out and take new ones!  Here are three old houses which have survived to the present day.   The historic photos were found at estate sales or flea markets; I decided...

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The War On Old Buildings – Part 1

The War On Old Buildings – Part 1

Those who are passionate about old buildings have often wondered why there has long been such a bias toward them.  Those of us who value old buildings and houses understand that these places typically have numerous attributes; they are frequently built of superior...

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Wasted Potential

Wasted Potential

It's the exceedingly rare house-in-distress which is treated to a truly historically-correct restoration.  And it's almost as uncommon to find a neglected house which receives a merely architecturally respectful renovation.  Most dilapidated houses which get a new...

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Your Future Home… 61 Years Later!

Your Future Home… 61 Years Later!

Welcome to the 1956 "Parade of Homes" sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City!  We'll take a look at ten of the fifty-five houses featured in the ninety-six page  "plan and guide book" published in conjunction with the house tour.  While...

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The Nail That Sticks Up…

The Nail That Sticks Up…

There is much truth to the old Japanese proverb "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down".  However, the phrase is far more descriptive of rural America than it is of Japan - especially when it comes to assertive examples of styled architecture.  Victorian-era...

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Before and…………..After!

Before and…………..After!

When houses in a neighborhood are built by the same developer (and at roughly the same time), they tend to look a lot alike.  Some developers will make an effort to introduce a little variety, either by changing exterior colors or materials, or sometimes by using...

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Brick Queen Anne Transformed into Mock Tudor

Brick Queen Anne Transformed into Mock Tudor

  At first glance this house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, appears to be a Tudor Revival from the 1920's or 30's   Closer inspection reveals that the house began as an 1880's Queen Anne.  Sorry about the photo quality... these images were taken from a real estate listing...

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Architectural Integrity and the Lustron

Architectural Integrity and the Lustron

A building which retains its architectural integrity is one which has been maintained as it was built and intended to be.  When buildings are altered through remodeling or the installation of "maintenance -free" windows or siding, integrity is compromised.  Such...

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Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 2

Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 2

It's always exciting to discover a new type of architectural depravity (hat tip to Seth!) which I had not previously encountered.  Such discoveries typically involve the loss of architectural integrity which is not exciting, but I'm getting used to it... it's now the...

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Backdating Wall Cabinets

Backdating Wall Cabinets

Why would anyone update when it's just as easy to backdate?  After all, there's not much appealing design out there these days; design from the early 20th century is almost always a sure bet to be more interesting than whatever has been marketed for the past 40 years....

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The “Rodessa” by Sears?

The “Rodessa” by Sears?

I recently ran across a house in McDonald, Kansas, which looked oddly familiar.  Pretty sure I'd seen this facade before... maybe a Sears kit house?  So I took a photo.  After some digging, I found what I was looking for.  To me, the house at first appeared to be an...

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Update!

Update!

Despite the handsome Queene Anne window sash depicted, this post is not about windows.  I just wanted to let everyone know that my internet access will be sporadic over the next few weeks as I am finally able to get an ISP for the new house (finding a reliable...

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Fun with Tile

Fun with Tile

The tile work enlivening the entry of a telephone company office built in the 1960's is just as energetic now as it was then... and right back in style, too!              

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A Stylectomy in Progress

A Stylectomy in Progress

No, stylectomy  is not a word, but it should be, because this house has had its style excised from it. More frequently than I would like, I run across houses which have been brutalized from the perspective of architectural integrity.  Today I ran across this house and...

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Carved in Stone:  Halloween Edition

Carved in Stone: Halloween Edition

Beautiful masonry is not restricted just to buildings; our cemeteries are filled with it.  Due to my geographic location, we can only travel back in time as far as the 1870's today.  It was very cold and windy this morning on the High Plains; the atmosphere was...

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Random Observations – Part 11

Random Observations – Part 11

Central Kansas is actually quite interesting if you are willing to stray from Interstate 70 for a few miles.  Most people don't, so I'll show you a little bit of what they're missing.  A few more scenes from the road less traveled!                        ...

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Abandoned Rural Structures

Abandoned Rural Structures

The formerly common structures which once characterized the Great Plains and other rural areas have been disappearing for decades.  The erosion is now accelerating at a mind-boggling pace.  Take a look before they're gone forever:                      ...

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Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 1

Unconventional Window Alterations – Part 1

An early 20th century commercial building, though modest, still retained its original wood double-hung windows until recently.  Built in 1917, the Commercial Style structure is typical of many storefronts of its era.  The large double-hung windows, an integral part of...

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Stabilization w/ Passive Solar Bonus

Stabilization w/ Passive Solar Bonus

Historic preservationists understand the term "stabilization" to mean putting the brakes on further decay of historic structures by making them watertight, structurally braced, and resistant to animals, vegetation and vandals.  Also known as "mothballing",...

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Restored Balustrades on a Sears Westly

Restored Balustrades on a Sears Westly

The "Westly", a popular kit house by Sears, was offered throughout the 'teens and 1920's.  Its overtly Craftsman porch supports and balustrade make it memorable and easily recognizable.  The following Westly, built in Holdrege, Nebraska, had lost its original...

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The Backside of the J-6!

The Backside of the J-6!

Last weekend I happened by a J-6 house by the Harris Brothers and it occurred to me that we previously had only see the front and side of the house in period  material and contemporary photos. What does the back of one of these look like?  Will the back match the...

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Warehousing People

Warehousing People

When Louis Sullivan coined the term "form follows function" in 1896 he could not have been thinking of these recently constructed "senior apartments" - though the structure aptly illustrates his observation. The form of this building makes abundantly clear its...

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Late Italianate False Front

Late Italianate False Front

This wood structure probably dates to around 1900 - making it a late example of both the Italianate style and false-front buildings.  Located in Lebanon, Kansas, a town at the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states, the original and present uses of the building...

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Bungalow Poses as Log Cabin

Bungalow Poses as Log Cabin

What obviously started out as a Craftsman style bungalow in the 'teens or 1920's now has now donned the apparel of a log cabin.  Or something meant to convey the impression of a log cabin. Rounded wood siding is presumably intended to look like logs.  The masonry...

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An Interesting Craftsman Bungalow

An Interesting Craftsman Bungalow

This house captured my attention for several reasons.  First, it bears a striking resemblance (in reverse) to the Aladdin "Plaza" and Harris Homes' plan No. N-1026.  Secondly, its elaborate mortise-and-tenon porch supports are both fun and chamfered.  The balustrade...

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The Evolution of the Winona by Sears

The Evolution of the Winona by Sears

There are numerous frustrating obstacles to those who research houses with kit or plan book origins.  One is that on occasion the various competitors would not only rename or renumber their assorted offerings over the years, but redesign the floor plans as well.  And...

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Greek Revival Surprise

Greek Revival Surprise

Kansas was not heavily populated when it achieved statehood in 1861 - at roughly the same that the Greek Revival style fell from favor in all but the most rural areas of the nation.  So it's not a surprise that the few examples of the style found in the state tend to...

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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...

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A Garlinghouse Dutch Colonial

A Garlinghouse Dutch Colonial

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...

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Radical Excision of the Soul

Radical Excision of the Soul

  Today I cried.  On the floor.  Gut-wrenching sobs.  Fifty-six years old and I'm crying like a baby. No words can begin to describe the cutting pain felt.  No words exist to describe the sense of loss.  My partner and I feel bewildered and our efforts discarded. We...

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Mid-Century Church Buildings

Mid-Century Church Buildings

Here are a few interesting church buildings from the mid-20th century which have not been completely altered beyond recognition.  They're rather tame for many locations, but here in flyover country they undoubtedly pushed the envelope when first built.                ...

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Unfortunate Porch Enclosures

Unfortunate Porch Enclosures

Some porch enclosures are surprisingly successful, but most are not.  When done in a manner that does not acknowledge the prevailing style of the rest of the house, or in a way that emphasizes mass over void, such enclosures can have not only a deadening effect on the...

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Subtle Changes

Subtle Changes

The following two photos show how very subtle changes to the exterior of a house result in larger perceptual changes. In the first photo, a 1960's-vintage ranch house is shown in near original, though slightly worn, condition. The second photo shows the house 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.