Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Field Trip: St. Petersburg, FL

In October, a wrecking crew demolished the former Pheil Hotel (410-424 Central Avenue, 1916-23). Built by an early St. Petersburg mayor and his heirs,  the eleven-story building became a bank when First National acquired it circa 1959. During the 1960s, architects attached an aluminum brise soleil to unify it with an adjacent property, the former Central National Bank (400-406 Central Avenue, 1911-12).

Attempts to save the two structures failed in early 2016.  Read St. Petersburg Preservation, Inc.'s synopsis here.

Image above: 410-424 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida, as photographed 10.26.2016 by K. Rylance.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Goblet Tanks (1917)

100 years ago, the Roger W. Hunt & Company Employees' Bulletin reported on the use of reinforced concrete in the design of water tanks along the Gulf Coast. Featuring an image of the tallest tank, located at Bay Minette, Alabama, the Bulletin drew its report from Modern Building. Measuring 80 feet from ground to tank bottom, the supporting form emulated the stem of a drinking goblet. Tested by a June 29 hurricane, the Bay Minette goblet tower quickly became an engineering marvel. Wealthy coastal property owners sought information from Leonard Henderson White (1882-1962), an engineer who developed the method for his Concrete Steel Construction Company of Birmingham, Alabama.

Some Miami patrons despaired at the goblet tank's austerity, and hired prominent architects to modify White's method with neoclassical ornamentation. August Geiger (1887-1968) developed a 100,000 gallon tank at Alton Beach and Harold Hastings Mundy (1878-1932) utilized reinforced concrete on a combined tank and observatory for the John H. Eastwood Estate.

Dothan, Alabama's Dixie Standpipe (1897) was added to the National Register this month.

Image above:  "Interesting Things in Print." Employees' Bulletin [Roger W. Hunt & Company]. 4:3 (January 1917): p. 12.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Segregation Forms: Redlining

The University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab has developed a fantastic resource that provides access to hundreds of so-called "security maps" created between 1935 and 1940. The product of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation [HOLC], the maps and area descriptions represent the neighborhood risk assessments generated by mortgage lenders, developers and real estate appraisers. HOLC's analyses were the basis for what came to be referred to as redlining, segregationist housing and real estate practices.

Image above: Wichita Mapping & Engineering Company. Wichita, Kansas. 29 May 1937. Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, Nathan Connolly, et al. "Mapping Inequality," American Panorama, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed 20 October 2016,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


The S.P. Dinsmoor Residence located in Lucas, Kansas contains some fine examples of early twentieth-century sheet linoleum. The parlor features a printed woven pattern (above) and the upstairs area has a floral-foliate motif (below). Varnished by successive property owners, the linoleum has darkened and is highly reflective.
By about 1910, American linoleum was frequently being made with linseed oil (derived from flax) and "lumber flour" (pulverized sawdust).(1) The product was considered sanitary, and thus was also used to line pantry shelves and protect kitchen tables.(2)  Blabon's and Cork's were two period manufacturers. Their products were priced by grade and sold in different patterns. To preserve one's flooring, home economists recommended polishing the surface with skim milk and a flannel cloth, then allowing it to dry completely.(3)

(1)Cork flour was a more expensive (and traditional) element. Lumber flour was also utilized in making a less expensive dynamite. See:  "Make Flour From Lumber." Hutchinson Daily News 7 December 1909.

(2)"Of Feminine Interest." Lawrence Journal World 25 December 1907.

(3)"Clever Ways of Doing Things." Belleville Telescope 17 May 1907.

Images above: Flooring, S.P. Dinsmoor Residence, Lucas, Kansas, as photographed 1.10.2016 by K. Rylance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Experimental Silos

In 1909, University of Nebraska graduate Claude Harrison Hinman (1879-1967) began teaching classes for Kansas Agricultural College Farmers' Institute. Traveling along the Santa Fe Railroad and communicating from a boxcar, Hinman lectured to regional farmers as part of the institution's "dairy train."(1) He assisted Professor J. Kendall with an experimental silo comprised of staves and a thin cement wall.(2)

E.H. Webster, then director of the Kansas Experiment Station, heralded cylindrical silos over their rectangular predecessors, claiming that the latter resulted in spoilage.(3) The college promoted silo construction in various extension services.  Hinman wrote a substantial bulletin devoted to the topic and the Extension Department mailed it without charge to anyone who was a member of a farmers' institute. In addition, the college offered Hinman's expertise to any farmer willing to cover his railroad ticket and lodging. Thus, Hinman helped to erect silos in Augusta, Herington, Hiattville, Linwood, Mulvane, Tonganoxie and Wellington. These were chiefly comprised of plastered cement or concrete on metal lath, a type that had first been developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (below).(4)

During the 19-teens, Hinman moved to Colorado and established a commercial silo operation. The Hinman Silo Company had its earliest offices on Champa Street in downtown Denver. Catering to wealthier farmers, Hinman sold vitrified hollow tile and salt-glazed tile silos. He also offered barn plans. The business seems to have flourished until the Great Depression, when the Hinmans relocated to Mesa.

One of my favorite experimental silos is the Peavey-Haglin, located in metropolitan Minneapolis, Minnesota and listed on the National Register.

(1)"Now a Dairy Train." Emporia Gazette (15 October 1909).

(2)"Local Notes." The Kansas Industrialist 36:24  (23 April 1910).

(3)"Rectangular Silos Fail." The Kansas Industrialist 37:14 (7 January 1911).

(4)Prof. G.C. Wheeler. "The Concrete-Metal Silo Is Satisfactory to Kansas Farmers." Emporia Gazette (17 March 1911).

Images:  "The Perfect Silo." Western Farm Life XIX:3 (1 February 1917) and C.H. Hinman, photographer. "Plastered Cement on Metal Lath Silo in Process of construction" as it appears in H.E. Dvorachek. "Silos and Silage in Colorado." Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 200 (August 1914).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Missouri-Kansas-Mississippi Architect

Architect Charles Louis Proffer (1925-90) was licensed to practice in Kansas and Mississippi. Born in Sikeston, Missouri, Proffer sought his architectural education at the University of Kansas after serving for three years in the Air Force. He received his B.S. degree in architecture in 1950.

Proffer married another Sikestonian, Margaret Anne Hatfield, whose family had property in Mississippi (Ellisville, Gulfport). By 1953, the young couple relocated to the Gulf Coast. Proffer worked for Dalton B. Shourds and Eugene Mogabgab. Two years later he entered an early partnership with wastewater engineer Roy C. Kuyrkendall, Jr. (U. Miss., 1952). The duo designed a $150,000 commercial outlet in Gulfport, as well as a new marina for Ocean Springs.

For more of Proffer's work, see Preservation in Mississippi.

Image:  "Charles L. Proffer." The Sikeston Daily Standard 21 November 1967.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Goose-Egg Architect

Architect Henry Evert Wichers was born in Dispatch (Smith County), Kansas in March 1898. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Kansas State College,* Wichers joined the faculty as a rural architecture specialist. Within a few years, property owners sought his advice regarding utilities, remodeling and building typologies. His suggestions frequently included analyses of prevailing winds and geographic position.

The State College of Washington (now Washington State) enticed Wichers to depart his full professorship in 1947. Assigned to the college's extension services, Wichers collaborated with Helen Noyes on a guide to making one's farmhouse functional. The publication presented a recontextualized and pared down version of Wichers' earlier "Better Homes for Kansas Farms" (1942).

Over his decades-long career, Wichers contributed many DIY farm and home publications:

Planning a Home in the Country (1961)
Planning Corrals (1956)
Planning Your Dairy Buildings, with Don Lockridge (1953)
Planning Your Farmstead (1952)
Planning Your Poultry Houses (1952)
An Easy Way of Planning a Farm House (1951)
Homes for Washington Farms (1951)--a series with various plans
Minimum Standards for Good Farm Houses Located in the State of Washington (1950)
Choose a Farm House to Fit Your Farm (1949)
Farmhouse Planning Is Easy (1948)
Floors and Pavements for House and Garden (1948)
Successful Farming Building Book (1947)
Your Farmhouse: Make It Work, with Helen Noyes (1947)
House Framing (1946)
Better Homes for Kansas Farms (1942)
Low Cost Homes (1939)
"The Farm House" in Rural Life 16 (March 1938)
How to Modernize Your Farm House, with Ellen L. Pennell (1935)
Modernizing the Kansas Home (1934)
"The Building Site Dictates the Architectural Style" and "Considerations in Farmhouse Planning," chapters in The Better Homes Manual, ed. by Blanche Halbert (1931)
"Designs for Kansas Farm Houses," M.A. Thesis, 1930
Designs for Kansas Farm Houses (1929)
"Fitting A House to Its Site." American Architect 5 May 1928: pp. 573-580.
The Design of the Kansas Home (1927)

During the Cold War period, he advised regarding inappropriate shelters:


     "A rural architecture specialist advises that when a bomb comes your way, 'stay out of the basement.' Too often, H.E. Wichers said, one hears advice from 'so-called experts' that [it] is the place to hide from bombs. 'It is just not so,' he contended. 'Even in small houses with concrete block basement walls, an A-bomb explosion will prove about as comfortable as the wrong end of a bowling alley.'"

The Times Record (Troy, New York) 15 March 1951

Wichers became known as the "Goose-Egg Architect" because of his use of quickly articulated ovoids to help property owners determine their architectural needs. He stressed that the automatic drawing technique was an effective means to sort out patterns prior to hiring a professional architect.

Image above: H.E. Wichers, O.S. Ekdahl, & N.F. Resch. "Plan 6519, For the Southwest." In Wallace Ashby. Farmhouse Plans, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer's Bulletin No. 1738. Washington, D.C., 1934.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas III

In 1924, landscape architect William S. Wiedorn published an article intended for Kansas property owners desirous of improving their yards. "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas" included general advice and a comprehensive planting list. For those struggling to design their gardens, Wiedorn offered the advice of K-State Agricultural College's horticultural department provided inquiring parties supplied a plat.



White elm
Pin Oak
Silver maple
Honey locust


Tulip tree
Green ash
Osage orange
Russian mulberry


Japanese barberry
Van Houtes spires
Common privet
Armur river privet
Bush hydrangea
Butterfly bush
Fragrant sumac
Staghorn sumac
Indian currant
Japanese quince
Golden bell
Morrow's honeysuckle
Red-twigged dogwood
Common lilac
Rose of Sharon
Mock orange


Japanese clematis
Jackman's clematis
Five-leaved ivy
Climbing roses: Dorothy Perkins, Crimson rambler, Climbing American Beauty, Tausenschon



Scotch pine
Austrian pine
Jack pine
Bull pine
Red cedar (best evergreen for Kansas)
Douglas spruce


Fragrant honeysuckle
Low juniper


Memorial rose
Hall's honeysuckle


Prairie Rose


Bulbs (Spring)


Bulbs (Summer)

Tiger lilies


English daisy
Bleeding heart
Goat's beard
Sweet William
Oriental poppy
Garden pinks
Oriental larkspur
Carpathian harebells
Hardy phlox
Evening primroses
Shasta daisies
Yucca filamentosa

From:  W.S. Wiedorn. "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas." The Biennial Report of the Kansas State Horticultural Society. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1924, pp. 150-156.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas II

A previous post introduced William S. Wiedorn's work while employed as an assistant professor of landscape gardening at the Kansas State Agricultural College. During this period, he published "A Brief History of Gardening" and "Beautifying the Home Grounds of Kansas" for the state's horticultural society.

He began his historical essay with Sir Francis Bacon's On Gardens:

"Men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection."

His survey introduced ancient gardens and exalted the urban ones that had been discovered at Pompeii (Plate I, above). He equally favored the Islamic gardens of southern Spain and those of Louis XIV (Plate II, below).
For early American architecture, his essay highlighted "Spanish" gardens in the South, "High English" gardens in Virginia, "Catholic" ones in Maryland, "Quaker" and "German" in Pennsylvania, "Swedish" in New Jersey, "Dutch" in New York, "Puritan" in New England and "French" in Canada. He included his 1922 sketch of the Patio Royal in New Orleans (Plate III, below) to illustrate the southern garden, which he equated with violets, heliotropes, carnations, lobelia, iris, lilies, tulips, hyacinths, roses, oleanders, rose bay, myrtle and jasmine.
Reflecting on the modern American garden of his day, Wiedorn emphasized an increased formality in design and a growing attention to urban parks:

"The American is becoming more and more a city man, and his civic pride runs high. Evidences of this are seen in our new parks, cemeteries and garden cities. The American thinks and works in larger areas than flower gardens; he is more interested in open lawns, lakes, trees and shrubs. Flower gardening, unlike the European practice, is the last phase to be developed. The American excels in developing parks and is laying the foundations for the finest natural park scenery in the world. Our cemeteries are being treated as natural parks. Garden cities or land subdivisions, in which every house and garden is part of a large unit, are being built everywhere. Such divisions as Forest Hills (Queens), New York; the Country Club District, Kansas City; and Roland Park, Baltimore, have set standards which others are adopting."

Johns Hopkins doctoral candidate Paige Glotzer has been documenting Kansas City financial connections to Roland Park and the subdivision's influence on other real estate developments and federal housing policies. 

More on Wiedorn's Kansas planting recommendations later.

Images and quoted matter (unless otherwise indicated) from:  W.S. Wiedorn. “A Brief History of Gardening.” The Biennial Report of the Kansas State Horticultural Society XXXVII. Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1924, pp. 127-137. University Archives, Kansas State University Libraries.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Square House

A previous post mentioned the preponderance of flat-topped hipped roof structures in Kansas. They could be found on farms, in rural towns and urban centers. By the 1930s, property owners hoping to modernize these simple frame buildings sought advice from Kansas State College's Engineering Experiment Station.

Architecture professor Henry Evert Wichers (1898-1963) gathered data pertaining to regional house typologies and then proposed economical solutions aimed at thoughtful modification. Using perspective drawings by Luis Cortés Silva (a Spanish exile and 1932 K-State graduate who later established a career in Bogota, Colombia*), Wichers developed six modernization schemes for what he referred to as the "one-story square house."
Henry Evert Wichers (1923)
Luis A. Cortes Silva (1932)

Wichers cautioned would-be-renovators that the one-story square type was especially difficult to modify. He stressed that such buildings were typically poorly built, provided little illumination and hunkered too close to the ground. The four-room configuration allowed minimal flexibility for storage and water closets and the built-up eaves trough resulted in leaks.
Conservative interventions left the exterior walls intact, increased the fenestration, replaced foundations and chimneys, but  reduced the number of sleeping rooms for the sake of kitchen and bath. More dramatic solutions required lengthening the house towards the rear or sides, adding porches and possibly changing the roof. The square type could thus be reconfigured as a bungalow or as a colonial revival house. 

Wichers also advocated site-specific design:

"We should remember that Kansas is a large state, and within its borders there are considerable variations in rainfall and quality of soil. Kansas has swamp land and extremely dry areas, fertile land and poor land, in all degrees and combinations."(1)

He cautioned the state's farmers against adopting catalog home plans geared towards city dwellers:

"The chief difference between the farmhouse and the city house is that the former is a more independent and self-sufficient unit than the city house. . . The farmhouse must, therefore, be proportionately larger than the city house."(2)

Although his modifications of the square house varied considerably, he encouraged farmers to consider more rambling forms suited to the needs of the family home and business.

*Beatriz García Moreno. Arturo Robledo: La arquitectura como moda de vida. Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2010, p. 42.

(1-2)H.E. Wichers. "Better Homes for Kansas Farms." Kansas State College Bulletin No. 43.  Engineering Experiment Station. Volume XXVI: Number 5. Manhattan, KS: The College, 1 June 1942.

Images above:  One-Story Square House, plan and photograph from: H.E. Wichers. "Modernizing the Kansas Home." Kansas State College Bulletin No. 32.  Engineering Experiment Station. Volume XVIII: Number 5. Manhattan, KS: The College, 1 June 1934.

Wichers (1923) from the K-State Royal Purple; Cortes (1932) from the K-State Royal Purple. All available through K-State Libraries.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Paving Paradise

In the summer of 1926, Coffeyville, Kansas was supplying massive quantities of its vitrified brick to Florida cities. Getting the pavers to Tampa was no easy feat due to a railroad embargo:

"Coffeyville bricks were shipped by the train-loads to Florida, to be used in paving the streets that are enjoying a rapid growth. The bricks, 3,250 tons, or 811,500, were manufactured in the plant of the Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Tile Company here, [and] left Coffeyville by two trains, bound for Texas City, Texas, where the material was transferred to a boat leased by the Company, and was transported by water to Tampa, Florida. The first train contained twenty-nine cars; and were routed over the Missouri Pacific."(1)

Vitrified bricks were touted by their manufacturers as being impervious to freeze-thaw cycles, heat and humidity, excessive weight and tire chains. Beginning in 1927, the National Paving Brick Manufacturers' Association in Chicago advertised heavily in regional newspapers (below) and published The A.B.C.s of Good Paving in order to promote the product's assets. Frugal municipalities envisioned the cost savings.

Hattiesburg and Wiggins, Mississippi implemented vitrified brick pavers on their streets. Brownwood, Texas paved some 42 miles with it in 1928.(2)

The Florida Land Boom brought large quantities of the product into the state. In 1924, Kansas State Agricultural College landscape gardening professor William S. Wiedorn relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida. The street where he lived is still paved in vitrified brick.

(1)"From the Sunflower State." Anita Record 1 July 1926.

(2)"Hitting a New Peak." Brownwood Bulletin 5 October 1928.

Images above:  Ebay; Advertisement. New Castle News 16 November 1927; Advertisement The Charleston Gazette 11 April 1928.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wiedorn in Kansas

New Orleans landscape architect William Wiedorn (1896-1990) taught landscape gardening at Kansas State Agricultural College from 1920-1924. During part of that time, the college advised on more than 201 landscape gardening efforts in 32 counties. While some 18% were public parks, the vast majority were private residential beautification projects.(1)
Wiedorn worked with horticulture professor Albert Dickens to supervise the improvement of the state capitol grounds in Topeka. They installed an underground irrigation system and recommended turning under an expanse of Sudan grass followed by a blue grass sowing. (2)

Dodge City hired the young landscape designer to superintend the planting of nearly 800 trees and shrubs in its Wright Park.(3) Other projects included the Augusta High School, Kansas State Penitentiary (Lansing), the Osawatomie Hospital and the Kansas State Tubercular Sanitarium (Norton). The latter is shown below.

The former tuberculosis hospital is now home to the Norton Correctional Facility.

(1)"College Lends Aid in Kansas Landscaping." Industrialist 18 October 1922.

(2)"Dickens and Wiedorn Help Beautify Capitol Grounds." Industrialist 28 September 1921.

(3)"Farmers as Guests." The Hutchinson News 13 April 1922.

Images above:  "William S. Wiedorn" in The Royal Purple. Detail enhanced. 1922; The Royal Purple. Detail enhanced. 1924. "Landscape Gardening" in Sixth Biennial Report of the State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis, Norton, Kansas for the Two Years Ending June 30, 1924. Topeka, 1924.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Food Moderne

In 1948, the Carnation Company hired Beaux-Arts educated architect Stiles O. Clements (1883-1966) to design its new corporate headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The company decided to maximize on the high percentage (30%) of its employees living in California. Staff in Seattle, Milwaukee and New York were relocated and former branch operations such as accounting, advertising and purchasing were centralized.

The new reinforced concrete structure was built on 645 tapered steel piles, each extending thirty feet below grade. Most building materials were acquired in California. The color scheme reflected the corporate identity:  the elevator penthouse's mammoth (17 x 57') "Carnation Milk" sign appeared in solid red letters during the day, and as flashing red and white neon at night. The red granite facing stone on the lower facade could not be acquired locally and was shipped from Sweden on the maiden voyage of the Grace Line Motorship named Los Angeles.(1)
The Frito Company similarly established a stronghold in Los Angeles, building its largest plant at 8734 Bellanca Avenue. The company's general and district sales managers moved into the new location in the spring of 1950. Over 4,000 people attended the grand opening celebration. Executives demonstrated the original hand press that was used to make the first fritos in San Antonio in 1932.
The company also built a new plant at 1420 Roosevelt Street in its hometown. Assistant Plant Manager Ruth Ragsdale touted the operation:

"The most modern and up-to-date equipment was installed. The sacking rooms are a network of conveyors carrying the finished merchandise to the automatic weighing machines --unlike the old days when every bag had to be weighed and stapled by hand. Our continuous Frito press, enormous potato chip machine, the overhead conveyors carrying the boxes of finished merchandise from sacking rooms to the Shipping Department, electric taping and tying machines--all these things have been added to the San Antonio operation since my arrival in 1932. Another really fine addition is the modern lunch room, where employees 'take a break' and enjoy coffee and tea furnished by the company."(2)

The building is still standing.

In fact, all three buildings are at least partially standing.

(1) Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

(2) The Frito Company. Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Images above: Clement O. Stiles, architect. Carnation Company Headquarters, 5045 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 1949. Detail. From Carnation Company. Fifty Years of Progress. [Los Angeles?]: The company, 1949.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company Western Division Plant, 8734 Bellanca Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. 1950. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

Unknown architect. The Frito Company San Antonio Plant, 1420 Roosevelt Avenue, San Antonio, TX. 1949. Detail. From Fritos Band Wagon: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.  Dallas: The company, October 1952.

All publications from Clementine Paddleford Papers, Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, K-State Libraries.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Frank Herbert's Windmill (1977)

In March 1977, the Associated Press reported that Dune author Frank Herbert (1920-1986) had chosen to live a self-reliant life of "techno-peasantry." From his six-acre homestead on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Herbert occupied a solar-paneled residence with his family. They grew their own vegetables in a lean-to greenhouse that supplied radiant heat to their adjacent home. They raised chickens and gathered droppings to fertilize their garden.

Herbert also collaborated with Taliesin-trained architect John Underhill Ottenheimer to design a panemone windmill. The duo patented their turbine and sought to market it for Sears or Wards company catalog sales.

Drawings and research notes pertaining to their windmill are housed with the author's manuscripts at California State University, Fullerton University Archives and Special Collections.

Like Albert Ledner, John Ottenheimer continues to practice architecture. He is assisting with the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright's Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Read more:  "Writers sees self-reliance as key to survival." The Manhattan Mercury 25 March 1977.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Joker (1884)

In 1884, P.W. Zeigler advertised his stoves, tinware, pumps and drive wells. He also sold Joker solid-wheel wooden windmills, an unusual type manufactured in Peabody, Kansas and known for its back-gearing. This made for a more efficient and uniform pump stroke per wheel rotation.

Image above:  P.W. Zeigler advertisement. Riley County Blue Book and Directory. Manhattan, KS: 1884.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Kansas Module (1887)

William H. Sadlier Company published the first two volumes of its Excelsior Geography in 1875. An additional volume appeared the following year. The works were part of a series that the Sadlier family developed to serve parochial school educators who lamented the anti-Catholic sentiment they discerned in American textbooks.

Sadlier's secondary school publications became quite popular, and garnered attention at the 1878 Paris Exhibition. Many went through multiple editions, as did its three-volume geography primer.

The plate reproduced above, "Map Drawing on a Uniform Scale, Combined with Comparative Size," provides general instructions based on a uniform scale. The anonymous author set Kansas as the basis for mapping out the other states, the rectangular module for the United States. Its proportional relationship of 1:2 (200 miles x 400 miles) made it particularly easy to scale. For those states with more irregular borders, the author recommended employing comparative size.

See more geography instruction manuals here.

Image above:  "Map Drawing on a Uniform Scale, Combined with Comparative Size." As it appears in Anonymous ["A Catholic Teacher"]. Sadlier's Excelsior Geography, 2nd ed. New York: William H. Sadlier, 1887. Ben A. & Sylvia S. Smith American Geography and Social Studies Education Collection, Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

States on Stage (1884)

Chicago designers Trowbridge and Petford developed this advertising map for H.W. Hill & Company, the nation's largest manufacturer of hog rings. Hill had utilized the cartographic format for a previous promotional effort, his Map of the United States, Showing the Farm Animals in Each State (1878).

While the earlier ad incorporated Department of Agriculture data, the 1884 map employed cartoonish pigs to represent each state's common nickname. William Eugene Sutphin Trowbridge, a designer, and Charles E. Petford, the Haverly Theatre's scenic artist, combined forces for Hill's Advertising Department.  They created a colorful map revealed through stage curtains by a porcine clown and an impresario.

Dakota Territory and Louisiana are the only regions that feature architectural elements, with a Native American tepee representing "In the Land of the Dakotas" and an ornamental balustrade suggesting the Creole state. Iowa's Hawkeye has a bird's eye view of a railroad bridge, a steamboat and a distant town. Vermont's "Granite State Boys" features a monumental pig statue.

Potential customers could purchase the map for merely 5¢.

Image above:  Nicknames of the States. Decatur, IL: H.W. Hill & Co., 1884. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division. URL:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Boom & Bust Syndicates

During the 1880s and early 1890s big real estate development "syndicates" proliferated. Platting activities simultaneously peaked in such cities as Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and San Francisco.(1)

The previous post introduced one such enterprise in San Antonio, Texas. In New York, Maximilian Morgenthau's syndicate was especially powerful, known for its lucrative ventures on Amsterdam Avenue, 179th, 180th and 182nd Streets.

In Kansas, the so-called "Big Syndicate" formed in the spring of 1887. Organized as the Atchison Land, Improvement & Investment Company, its investors planned to develop a street railway and dummy line.  Missouri architect Max J. Scholer surveyed the proposed transportation corridor and also designed the syndicate's two-story Commercial Street property. He independently acquired properties along the proposed dummy line in the city's Highland Park subdivision.(2)

Later that year, the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church responded to the boom by establishing Midland College in the Big Syndicate's subdivision. Other municipalities that had vied for the foundation included Beloit, Minneapolis and Topeka, Kansas and Beatrice, Grand Island and Lincoln, Nebraska. But Atchison and its syndicates offered the Synod $50,000 for buildings, 25 acres of land, and net profits from land sales. By January 1889 the college had completed an ambitious new brick and grey stone building.

The 1887 Kansas Boom was short-lived & Highland Park sales were especially lackluster. Within its first two years, Midland College enrollments dwindled by over 25%.

(1) Fisher, Ernest M. "Session of Real Estate Speculation: Speculation in Suburban Lands." American Economic Review 23:1, Supplement, Papers and Proceedings of the Forty-fifth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (March 1933), p. 153.

(2) The Atchison Globe (2 June 1887).

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Affordable Housing & The Argonauts (1880)

In 1880 The Galveston Daily News reported on the establishment of a new architecture /planning syndicate in San Antonio, Texas. The secret society --- led by Confederate brigadier general Hamilton Prioleau Bee (1822-97) -- formed to develop new suburban oases:

"Each subordinate body, which is termed a syndicate, procures a tract of land in a suitable locality, and subdividing it into town lots, streets, squares, parks, etc., proceeds to sell the building lots to such persons as may desire them. Thus far the society is identical with a city company, like the Galveston city company, but by the combination of all these companies into an alliance, and by the publication of an official journal, it affords a means of advertising each of these speculations more fully than could be done by any other manner. While this new order is without limit in its jurisdiction, it will be of the greatest benefit to Texas in providing new-comers with cheap homes in desirable localities, as well as enabling those possessed of large tracts of lands, to dispose of them at an advantage. Throughout our entire state there are localities that would become popular health resorts, on account of mineral springs, salubrious climate, providing persons seeking those homes could obtain a cheap home there. By starting a syndicate in these localities this benefit will be secured. The alliance is fully organized, and will secure a charter from the state of Texas. The first syndicate, called [?] Jason No. 1, was organized here Friday, and already a move is on foot to translate the laws and rituals into German and French, and starting other syndicates composed of persons of those nationalities. One feature of this society is that there is no restriction as to sex or physical infirmity, except what each syndicate may specially provide in its bylaws."(1)

The San Antonio Herald reported that the secret society -- the Alliance of the Golden Fleece -- lacked the features that made such organizations "so objectionable to a large portion of citizens."(2) Louis Giraud was its surveyor and Alfred Giles (1853-1920) was named its architect.

(1)"The Alliance of the Golden Fleece." Galveston Daily News 1 September 1880, Issue 139.

(2) Cited in Galveston Daily News 23 June 1880, Issue 79.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Architect Otho McCrackin

Hutchinson, Kansas architect Otho McCrackin (1893-1962) attended Washington University before serving as a pilot in the balloon division during the First World War. His drawing skills were utilized in the creation of strategic bird's eye views.(1)

After the war, he was associated first with the short-lived Curtis & McCrackin firm in Paris, Texas, and then joined the Hutchinson-based Mann & Company as a draftsman. In 1927, with encouragement from A.R. Mann, McCrackin submitted drawings to the West Coast Woods Architectural Competition. The jury awarded him $2,000 for his frame residence incorporating four Pacific Northwest woods: Douglas fir, West Coast hemlock, Sitka spruce and Western red cedar.
Unusual for a trade competition, McCrackin's West Coast Woods House was actually constructed in Portland, Oregon. In 1928, The American Lumberman reported that 10,000 prospective visitors were turned away the first week it opened due to the high demand.(2)  Photographs of the award-winning design graced such publications as Pencil Points, American Architect and Better Homes and Gardens. It is now a private residence.
Later in life, McCrackin partnered with Russell H. Heit and became a mentor to Kansas State University architecture graduate Leon Quincy Jackson (B.S. Arch. 1950).

(1)"Awards in West Coast Woods Architectural Competition." Pencil Points VIII:10 (October 1927): 635.

(2)"Prize Home Built at Portland, Ore." The American Lumberman (1928).

Images Above:  Otho McCrackin. Pencil Points VIII:10 (October 1927): 635.

Otho McCrackin, architect. "First Prize Design for A Residence and Garage." Pencil Points VIII:10 (October 1927): 634.

Otho McCrackin, architect. "House in Portland, Oregon, Built from Plans Submitted in the 1927 Competition Sponsored by the West Coast Lumber Bureau." The American Architect CXXXIV (20 July 1928): 131.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moulins à Vents

Since moving to Kansas, I've become fascinated with historic windmills. They still populate the landscape, some remarkably intact and others denuded of every moving part. T. Lindsay Baker's American Windmills: An Album of Historic Photographs (2007) and A Field Guide to American Windmills (1985) are handy resources. The former was developed out of the author's personal collection of windmill photographs, which he began to acquire sometime before 1974.

Some amazing windmill images were drawn from world's fairs, where the mechanistic towers were clustered together as entertainment venues. The Columbian Exposition (Chicago 1893; below), the Exposition Universelle (Paris 1900) and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis 1904) all featured prominent windmill displays.

K-State Libraries' Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections retains a copy of agronomy professor Max Ringelmann's Matériel Agricole à l'Exposition de 1900 (Paris, 1901). The author -- reporting on the fifth Parisian fair -- was particularly enamored of American improvements over the Eclipse model, which had been introduced at the nation's third fair (1878), namely that the new models could work under less windy conditions. He also acknowledged French models by Plissonier, Bompard et Grégoire (above, left), Vidal-Beaume (top; below, right) and Édouard-Émile Lebert's ÉolienneBollée (below, left).
For the North American models, he featured Stover Manufacturing Company's Ideal (center, right). The windmill had curved wings comprised of fabricated steel and its galvanized supporting pylon could be erected without any scaffolding. He perceived -- accurately -- that the Ideal would be of great service on French farms. It and other American models proliferated in the countryside prior to the First World War.(1)

Today there are windmill museums that display multiple models in a single setting:

Dalley Windmill Collection, Fairgrounds, Portales, NM

Windmills of the Riverwalk, Batavia Historical Society, Batavia, IL

Mid-American Windmill Museum, Kendallville, IN

Shattuck Windmill Museum, Shattuck, OK

Windmill Museum, Wind Experience Center, Lubbock, TX

(1)See John Walter & Régis Gerard. A History of the Éolienne Bollée. N.p.: By the authors, 2002-2015. As viewed 15 March 2016. URL:

Images above:  1, 3, 4 from Max Ringelmann. "Moulins à Vents." Section in Matériel Agricole à l'Exposition de 1900. Paris: Librairie Agricole, 1901, pp. 9-13. Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, K-State Libraries.

2 from "Vue d'ensemble de l'expositions de moulins à vents et turbines atmosphériques a l'Exposition universelle de Chicago." Le Génie civil XXIII: 9 (1 July 1893): p. 133.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Builded by the People (1906)

In 1906, Graham County, Kansas reported on its progress. The Reveille Souvenir (Hill City) promoted the western county's alfalfa and hay production, and its 2200 quarter sections of land available for $10-25 per acre. Referring to its governmental seat, the Reveille boasted:

"Hill City, like Kansas, was builded by great effort and hard struggles and the future for her is full of promise. Her history reads like fiction--it is a living poem, the best illustration of the motto of our great state that can be found within her borders.A great heroic stormy epic of more than Homeric grandeur is the story of her growth. She has come up through many difficulties,--drouths [sic], hot winds, cyclones, county seat fights, prairie fires, but she has ever kept her face towards the Sun of Progress, and these difficulties are as 'a tale that is told.' Today the air is full of prosperity. The rumble of the locomotives, the shrieks of the whistles, the whirl of the wheels of industry are born to the ear of the prosperous happy citizen. The strike of the carpenter's hammers is incessant and homes, for which there is a constant demand, are growing rapidly under the hands of the mechanics.

"Hill City is not a one-man's-town--it was builded by the people. She has the confidence of the entire county as is demonstrated by the hundreds of her farmer friends who crowd her streets on Saturday. To these friends she is indebted by her marvelous growth and phenomenal business prosperity. Hill City, unlike most western towns, has grown rich with the producers and not off of them. Competition is close, --merchants buy and sell to one advantage, but prices are reasonable and the country folk do not feel that out of the exorbitant prices paid to them the town is afforded luxuries and advantages of which they are deprived. We have borne the trials of adversity, and shared the joys of prosperity together. Hill City, the peerless gem of the prairies, lies in the central part of the county, on the Solomon River. It was surveyed in 1880 and incorporated in 1882. The surveying for the railroad precipitated one of the fiercest county seat contests that was ever waged with five towns contesting. In 1888, the year that the railroad was completed, Hill City was made the county seat. It bears the name of it's [sic] founder and first mayor, W.R. Hill.


"Hill City boasts of a strong and active W.C.T.U. Literary and social clubs are found throughout the city. In short Hill City furnishes ideal opportuunities [sic] for activity in business and social life. It is a good place to live; a good place to own a home; a good place in which to become prosperous; a good place to rear a family. We think we have a future of unlimited opportunities. We aspire to be the grain and stock market of the west. The Chicago of the prairies."

Image above: Frank Lee, photographer. "A.W. McVey Residence." Graham County, Kansas. 1906. This and excerpts above from Miss Chance.  Writer and Engraver's Picture of Graham County's Progress Since Its Organization. Hill City, Kansas: The Reveille Publishing Company, 1906. Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

There are a lot of these flat-topped hipped roofs around Kansas. I guess it's a lopped off pyramidal folk house type.

Image above: A.W. McVey Properties. Township 12 S Range 23 W. Sections 1 & 12. Graham County, Kansas. Detail from Standard Atlas of Graham County, Kansas: Including a Plat Book of Villages, Cities and Townships of the County. Chicago: George A. Ogle & Co., 1906. Available via Kansas Memory. The atlas includes a portrait of Mr. McVey.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

DIY Architecture (1885)

In 1885, The Weekly Kansas Chief reported on the availability of plans and specification forms that could be easily adapted for frame or masonry construction. Bridgeport, Connecticut architects Palliser, Palliser & Co. circulated advertisements of their pattern books to American states and territories; their designs eventually impacted architecture nationwide.

"Messrs. Pilliser, Pilliser [sic] & Co., of Bridgeport, Ct., the well-known Architects and Publishers of standard works on architecture, have lately issued a sheet containing plans and specifications of a very tasteful modern eight-room cottage with tower, and also with the necessary modifications for building it without the tower, and with but six rooms if desired. In its most costly form, the outlay is estimated at $3,000: without the tower, it has been built for $2,500; and if only six rooms are included, the cost may be reduced to $1,700 or $2,000. Details are given of mantels, stairs, doors and casings, cornices, etc. The publishers have found it the most popular plan they have ever issued, and state that it has been adopted in more than five hundred instances within their knowledge. The same firm issues Specifications in blank, adapted for frame or brick buildings of any cost; also forms of building contract, and several books on modern inexpensive, artistic cottage plans, which are of great practical value and convenience to everyone interested."

The Weekly Kansas Chief (17 May 1883). Available through Chronicling America.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Message in a Building (2016)

A mason replacing damaged limestone on Kansas State University's East Memorial Stadium (1922-28) recently discovered a note written by his predecessors in 1928. Lamenting the plight of the working man, five laborers signed the document:

"Dear Folks, Will place a not[e] in wall as it may some day be found and perhaps the men that Built it will be dead and forgotten. We are having nice weather was 18 above zero this morning. Hope when this is opened things will be better for the working man than [now?]. Mason got $10 per day and labor $3.20 there will have to be a change soon or the labor will be out of luck. Please print this if found signed CK Bell, Geo H Bell, W. Sowell, Jim Kelley, Ray [Disney?] Good luck."

For more on the story, see the Associated Press.

Friday, February 12, 2016

NYPL - NEW Digital Resource

Brian Foo with the New York Public Library has developed a great interface for digital content gleaned from NYPL and University of South Carolina resources. With guidance from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the team generated heat and cluster maps based on Victor Green's automobile travel directories.
Consulting the 1947 cluster map, one can then link to the digital Negro Motorists' Green Book of the same year.

At that time, Manhattan, Kansas had two Yuma Street tourist homes that catered to black travellers. Kansas City was a regional epicenter, with beauty parlors, a country club, garage, hotels, night clubs and tourist homes.

Consulting the 1956 cluster map reveals that while Manhattan venues remained virtually the same, options had diminished quite a bit in Kansas City.

Of course, highways have changed and many regions did not provide amenities, so the interface that allows you to map from one location to another based on the 1947 and 1956 guides may yield some wonky results.  Try going from New York City to Grand Forks, ND and see where the pathfinders take you.

Images above:  NYPL Labs. Navigating the Green Book. Screen shots captured 12 February 2016. Main URL:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Everybody Plays Today" 1915

In February 1915, Westfield, New Jersey Methodist Episcopal pastor G. Franklin Ream received a postcard from "F.B.H." The latter remarked that "Mardi Gras" was great, but mentioned that he had difficulties finding a protestant church near his hotel.
Happy Mardi Gras!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

NOLA in Kansas

Listening to WWOZ this weekend, I heard Truckstop Honeymoon's "Mardi Gras in Kansas" for the first time. The duo left Ninth Ward New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and settled in Lawrence, Kansas. They established their 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor, a recording studio in a "barn-style cottage."

Listen to their August 2010 NPR displacement interview here.

Happy Lundi Gras!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


This week is my last at Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive. I have taken a position as head of the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections at Kansas State University.

In sorting through personal and professional files, I've come across a few things I had set aside to investigate later. Photographs of costumed ladies posed against painted backdrops, a flood-devastated western town, bright linens hanging outside a rustic lakeside cabin (above). I acquired all these images by digging through boxes at the Originals Mall of Antiques in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. None of them bore any textual identification, familial or geographic designations.

The Western Town

A series of three photographs documented some natural disaster, possibly a bad storm and/or flood. I had speculated the pictures were from the late 19-teens, but using a Peak Lupe 8x Model 2018, I could make out the following building markers:

Hotel Vail (below,  left)
Santa Fe / The Hub (below, center)
The Hotel Vail is still standing and is on the National Register, so identifying the locale as Pueblo, Colorado was fairly easy.

Not knowing anything about Pueblo's history, I used America's Historic Newspapers database and Denver Public Library's Digital Collections to confirm that the event was the June 3, 1921 flood. The unidentified photographer focused his/her lens on the the vicinity of the high water mark along Union Avenue. At its peak, the flood covered over 300 square miles.

The Photo Postcard Studio

A series of four real-photo postcards presented women dressed in costumes set against painted backdrops or decorative curtains. They seemed to be from the 1940s, and given the subject matter, most likely from the Great Plains. The photographer used EKC paper with undivided backs, but none of the versos bear anything more distinctive.

There is a Cultivator
And a Reaper

And Two Harvesters
And a Geisha
Yes, a geisha. With a cherry blossom kimono and a peacock-feathered fan.

In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in rural studio photography:

The John Michael Kohler Art Center's current exhibit Bringing to Light: The Massengill Family Photo Collection (through 17 January) features portraits produced in an Arkansas mobile studio. Many of the images are hand-colored close-up photographs; some can be viewed via Maxine Payne's 2004 Making Pictures: Three for a Dime.

Luc Sante's Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard (2009) addresses the proliferation of small-town photo postcards during the early twentieth century. Sante's interest in the format stemmed from a random encounter with a New York peddler over thirty years ago.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

NYPL - NEW Digital Resource

The New York Public Library [NYPL] has announced the launch of 180,000 high resolution public domain images through its Digital Collections. The site includes thousands of images of the Gulf South, including this one of a Mississippi Carnegie Library under construction (1910).

In many instances, the versos of photographs are also scanned. These often provide substantive contextual information.  For example, photographer Dick Williams captured the above image circa 1939. Producer Michael Todd and Director Hassard Short are shown inspecting the "Gay Old New Orleans" model for the New York World's Fair.

I've mentioned Todd's production in a previous post.

The Crescent City was prominent at the fair. The New Orleans Village celebrated Mardi Gras week with nightly carnival parades. Eddie Durchin and his orchestra played, and Joe Louis, Fredi Washington and Ann Lewis performed a skit. Mississippi-born "Hammerin' Hank" Armstrong (1912-1988) led a dance number at the Sazerac Restaurant Show.

Names of artists and designers were frequently included in publicity photographs. From the verso of the photograph show above, one can glean that Pilar Fernandez (left) of Havana, Cuba painted murals for "Gay Old New Orleans."  Another reveals that Irene Sharaff (1910-1993) designed Michael Todd's costumes.

Images above:  Aurelius P. Hood. Carnegie Library in Course of Construction at Mound Bayou, MS. 1910. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.  Permalink:
This structure -- demolished in the 1930s -- was on the corner of SW Green Street East and Fisher Avenue.

Dick Williams. Michael Todd and Hassard Short Inspect Old New Orleans Model. Circa 1939. New York Public Library. Permalink:

Leo Casey, Director of Publicity. Pilar Fernandez (Havana, Cuba) and Janice Torre (1928 Carrollton Ave) Sitting on a Fence. Detail.  1940. New York Public Library. Permalink: