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!



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