Civil and Commercial Architecture
© 2004-2017, Scott D. Murdock

I've always been fascinated by architecture. I recall, at about age 11, studying books of house plans for fun, and writing a report on Frank Lloyd Wright. So, I've had an appreciation of architecture simmering on the back burner for over thirty-five years. I cover plenty of military architecture in my trip reports, but this page will showcase civilian buildings and structures that I notice.

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Carnegie Libraries

I happened to pass by the former Carnegie library in Hinckley, Maine, and paused for a photo from the road. In the years since then, I've added Carnegie libraries to my itineraries when I travel.

    Canon City
    Colorado Springs
    Denver (Park Hill)
    Denver (Smiley)
    Denver (Woodbury)
    Fort Collins
    Idaho Springs
    Monte Vista
    Old Colorado City
    Rocky Ford
    Council Bluffs
    Red Oak

    Sault Ste. Marie
    Jefferson City
    Miles City
    Clay Center
    Grand Island
    North Bend
    North Platte
    Pawnee City
New Hampshire

New Mexico
    Las Vegas
    El Reno
South Dakota
    Hot Springs

And I even found one in Campbellford, Ontario, Canada. For more information, see the web sites Carnegie Libraries in Texas and History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries.

Hotel Views

The incidental view of nearby buildings from hotel windows is sometimes as interesting as the tourist scenes we are "supposed" to see.  Here are scenes from hotels in Madison, Wisconsin; Paris, France; and Portland, Maine.  And although not from a hotel, here is an interesting rooftop view from Dallas, Texas.

Texas County Courthouses

I've driven past many of the county courthouses in Texas. Here are some I've photographed:
    Archer County, Archer City
    Atascosa County, Jourdanton
    Bastrop County, Bastrop
    Bell County, Belton
    Blanco County (retired), Blanco
    Blanco County (current), Johnson City
    Brazos County, Bryan
    Burnet County, Burnet
    Clay County, Henrietta
    Collin County (retired), McKinney
    Cooke County, Gainsville
    Coryell County, Gatesville
    Dallam County, Dalhart
    Dallas County (retired), Dallas
    Denton County (retired), Denton
    Eastland County, Eastland
    Ellis County, Waxahachie
    Frio County, Pearsall
    Guadalupe County, Seguin
    Hamilton County, Hamilton
    Harrison County (former), Marshall
    Harrison County (current), Marshall
    Hill County, Hillsboro
    Hood County, Granbury
    Hopkins County, Sulphur Springs
    Jack County, Jacksboro
    Johnson County, Cleburne
    Jones County, Anson
    Kaufman County, Kaufman
    Lampasas County, Lampasas
    LaSalle County, Cotulla
    Marion County, Jefferson
    McLennan County, Waco
    Medina County (former), Castroville
    Medina County (current), Hondo
    Mills County, Goldthwaite
    Montague County, Montague
    Moore County, Dumas
    Palo Pinto County, Palo Pinto
    Parker County, Weatherford
    Parmer County, Farwell
    Presidio County, Marfa
    Robertson County (former), Calvert
    Robertson County (current),Franklin
    Runnels County, Ballinger
    Shackelford County, Albany
    Somervell County, Glen Rose
    Tarrant County, Fort Worth
    Titus County, Mount Pleasant
    Travis County, Austin (Note the state capitol in the background.)
    Wilbarger County, Vernon
    Williamson County, Georgetown
    Wilson County, Floresville
    Wise County, Decatur
    Yoakum County, Plains
    Young County, Graham

Missions of San Antonio

We spent a day visiting the missions. We skipped the Alamo, since it's so well known (and such a tourist magnet). In order, we saw:
    Mission San Jose
    Mission Concepcion
    Mission San Juan
    Espada Aqueduct
    Mission Espada

Ranch Features

Along the back roads of America, ranch gates and windmills are often the only man-made scenery for miles.
    Windmill near Lamesa in 2002
    Windmill near Marfa in 2003
    Thiswindmill is in the City of Weatherford, seen in 2006
    Windmill nearHoyt, Kansas in 2007.
    And finally, a windmill in either Kansas or Oklahoma, in 2001.


One of my military site visits was Fort Williams, adjacent to the Portland Head Light. It's said to be one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country, and I can understand why.

Movie Theaters

Some of these old theaters sit empty and boarded-up. Some have new lives as stores. Some still function as theaters.
    Paramount Theater, Abilene, Texas
    Alliance Theater, Alliance, Nebraska
    Palace Theater, Anson, Texas
    Royal Theater, Archer City, Texas (of "The Last Picture Show" fame)
    Land of the Sun Theater, Artesia, New Mexico
    State Theater, Austin, Texas
    Texas Theater, Ballinger, Texas
    Rialto Theater, Brownfield, Texas
    Sands Theater, Brush, Colorado
    Queen Theater, Bryan, Texas
    Aron Theater, Campbellford, Ontario, Canada
    Rainbow Theater, Castroville, Texas (circa 1940)
    Lincoln Theater, Cheyenne, Wyoming
    Luna Theatre, Clayton, New Mexico
    Esquire Theater, Cleburne, Texas
    Lyceum Theater, Clovis, New Mexico
    Mesa Theater, Clovis, New Mexico
    State Theater, Clovis, New Mexico
    Twin Peak Theater, Colorado Springs, Colorado (circa 1915, recently remodeled)
    Orpheum Theater, Conrad, Montana
    Fiesta Theater, Cortez, Colorado
    Texas Theater, Dallas, Texas (of Lee Harvey Oswald fame)
    Bluebird Theater, Denver, Colorado
    Esquire Theater, Denver, Colorado
    Fine Arts Theater, Denton, Texas
    Majestic Theater, Eastland, Texas (circa 1920, modified 1946)
    Arcadia Theater, Floresville, Texas
    State Theater, Gainesville, Texas
    Palace Theater, Georgetown, Texas
    Rose Theater, Glendive, Montana
    National Theater, Graham, Texas
    Granbury Live, Granbury, Texas
    Uptown Theater, Grand Prairie, Texas
    Unnamed newly-restored theater, Hondo, Texas (circa 1938)
    Lamar Theater, Lamar, Colorado
    Wyo Theater, Laramie, Wyoming
    State Theater, Larned, Kansas
    Fort Union Drive-In Theater, Las Vegas, New Mexico
    Kiva Theater, Las Vegas, New Mexico
    SERF Theater, Las Vegas, New Mexico (seen in the movie Red Dawn)
    Valley Drive-In, Lompoc, California
    Lea Theater, Lovington, New Mexico
    Fox Theater, McCook, Nebraska (circa 1927)
    Montana Theater, Miles City, Montana
    Rialto Theater, Missouri Valley, Iowa
    Star Drive-In Theater, Monte Vista, Colorado (adjacent to Best Western Movie Manor)
    Dogie Theater, Newcastle, Wyoming
    Plaza Theater, Ottawa, Kansas
    Colonial (Fox) Theater, Pittsburgh, Kansas
    Orpheum Theater, Plentywood, Montana
    American Dream Drive-In, Powell, Wyoming
    Grand Theater, Rocky Ford, Colorado
    Former Theater, Roswell, New Mexico (now the UFO Museum!)
    Starlite Theatre, Schertz, Texas
    Roxy Theater, Shelby, Montana
    Legacy Theater, Shenandoah, Iowa
    The Centre Theater, Sidney, Montana
    Fox Theater, Sidney, Nebraska
    Grand Theater, Stamford, Texas (circa 1936)
    Fox 5 Theater, Sterling, Colorado 
    Tampa Theater, Tampa, Florida
    Howard Theater, Taylor, Texas
    Plaza Theater, Vernon, Texas
    Texas Theater, Waxahachie, Texas

Other Places

I couldn't resist the design of the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. An abandoned cement plant sits in contrast to the Quarry Market, a former cement plant now revitalized as a retail complex (both are in San Antonio, just a few miles apart). A copy of Stonehenge sits in a field near Hunt, Texas. This old style of water tower still stands in many small towns, and this one near Cheyenne, Wyoming, has a decorative touch. This water tower in Dorris, California stands near an old wood burner. The eye-catching guest rooms still stand at the old Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas. The Mission Revival style Santa Fe Depot in Portales, New Mexico, sits unused. The U.S. Custom House in Portland, Maine, looked impressive in the evening light. If you've seen the country music video for Dierks Bentley's song What Was I Thinking?, you might recognize this building in Kingsbury, Texas. This fascinating restaurant is in Arlington, Texas -- although built in the late 1970s, it was designed to look like a mid-century building. Although now in ruins, this former Stuckey's along I-20 in Texas is easy to recognize. This Sinclair gas station in Albany, Texas, has been nicely restored -- compared to the Sinclair station in Palo Pinto, Texas.

The City Coliseum in Denver, Colorado, is a thin-shell concrete arch structure very similar to late-1940s B-36 bomber hangars constructed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and Loring Air Force Base, Maine. The same engineer, Anton Tedesko, is responsible for all three buildings (among others with similar construction).

Austin, Texas, has a network of "moonlight towers," a type of tall streetlight dating back to the late 1800s. They look like guyed radio antenna towers, until you notice the cluster of six lights. The bottom piece of the tower looks much like the pole for a traffic signal, so it's easy to pass by these without noticing them (this one is at Trinity Street and 11th Street).

Austin also has an old Art Deco power plant with a great sign on the side of the building. The front of the building has two entrances, one with the word "LIGHT" and the other with the word "POWER" built in to the decoration. This Art Deco building is the former Texas & Pacific Railroad warehouse in Fort Worth. It looks a bit gloomy from a distance, but as you get closer the great details reveal themselves.

Cool Signage

Here are various cool and interesting signs from motels, liquor stores, restaurants, etc.

    Caravan Motor Hotel, Arlington, Texas
    Fiesta Motor Inn, Arlington, Texas
    Austin Motel, Austin, Texas
    Reed's Motel, Avon Park, Florida
    Flamingo Bar and Grill, Bossier City, Louisiana
    Starlite Motel, Carlsbad, New Mexico
    Red Wood Drive In Liquors, Cheyenne, Wyoming
    Wyoming Motel, Cheyenne, Wyoming
    Aztec Liquor, Clovis, New Mexico
    Westward Ho Motel, Clovis, New Mexico
    Sigels Liquor, Dallas, Texas
    Sonny Bryan's, Dallas, Texas
    Union Station, Denver, Colorado
    Stockmans Bar and Cocktails, Edgemont, South Dakota
    El Dorado Motel, El Dorado, Kansas
    Stardust Motel, El Dorado, Kansas
    Theo's Drive In, Grand Prairie, Texas
    Tradewinds Motel, Grand Prairie, Texas
    Al's Chickenette, Hays, Kansas
    Ranger Motel, Laramie, Wyoming
    Starlite Lanes, McPherson, Kansas
    Stardust Motel, Newcastle, Wyoming
    Satellite Motel, Omaha, Nebraska
    Mr. Lucky's, Phoenix, Arizona
    Liquor, Plumerville, Arkansas
    Donald's Serva-Teria, Pratt, Kansas
    Koch's Motel, Sabetha, Kansas
    Landmark Motel, Saginaw, Texas
    Alibi Lounge, Shelby, Montana
    Mint Club, Shelby, Montana
    O'Haire Manor, Shelby, Montana
    Sports Club, Shelby, Montana
    Dixie Palm Motel, St. George, Utah
    Stardust Motel, Wallace, Idaho
    Andy's, Winter Haven, Florida

In Grand Prairie, Texas, I found this assortment of mid-century Googie-style signs on a cluster of entertainment establishments.

Architectural Styles


This was one of my favorite styles, long before I knew it had a name. Think of the buildings on the cartoon The Jetsons. Also think of the Seattle Space Needle, and the original Holiday Inn signs. Good web sites with lots of information and photos are Googie Architecture Online and Roadside Peek: Googie Architecture.

Second Empire

This is another favorite of mine -- I hope to have more information and photos in the future. Second Empire has become known informally as the "haunted house" style -- think of the houses in the original movie Psycho, or the television program The Addams Family. Illustrator Charles Geer drew Second Empire houses when a "haunted" (or just plain spooky) house was featured in the Brains Bento or Alvin Fernald books. Lots of public buildings, such as some of the Texas county courthouses, were built in Second Empire style.

Art Moderne / Streamline Moderne

Some architecture books list this style as a late phase of Art Deco, popular in the 1930s and very early 1940s; some books don't even rate it as a separate, named style. Some books just call it Streamline. Think white stucco, glass blocks, curved walls, and horizontal lines. The theater in Hondo, Texas, is a good example although the color scheme (I'm told it matches the original paint job) is a departure from the typical white -- note the decorative lines, glass block, and rounded edges. Also, the theater is in a row of stores, and the end wall was not treated in style.

The KPRK radio building, built soon after World War II, is a historic landmark in Livingston, Montana.

The best example of Art Moderne I have seen is the house of a good friend of mine. Note the white stucco, flat roof, rounded front entryway details, glass blocks, and horizontal stripes in this photo, copyright 2004 and courtesy of Paige M. Peyton. The house has since been repainted, as seen in these 2005 photos. Another nice example of residential Art Moderne is this house in Denver, Colorado.

Other Fun Web Sites
    Architectural Styles of America
    Recent Past Preservation Network
    Roadside Peek
    The Architectural Style Guide

Recommended Reading from Scott's Bookshelf (arranged in no particular order!)

Hunter, Christine. Ranches, Rowhouses, and Railroad Flats: American Homes: How They Shape our Landscape and Neighborhoods. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1999. Ms. Hunter explains how housing has evolved over the years, and describes the common types of American homes. Good background reading for anyone interested in the architecture of houses.

Ching, Francis D.K. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1995. Mr. Ching provides a great reference work on the nuts and bolts of architecture. From general styles to specific construction details, you'll find it explained and illustrated here.

McAlester, Virginia & Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2003. A compact and useful guide to keep in the car when you visit historic neighborhoods.

Carley, Rachel. The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture. New York: Henry Holt and Companies, LLC. 1994. Another excellent guide, useful both in the office and in the car.

Blumenson, John J.G. Identifying American Architecture: A Pictorial Guide to Styles and Terms, 1600-1945. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1981. Another good travel companion, this book explains different architectural styles with copious photos.

Ballard, Scott T. How To Be Your Own Architect. White Hall, Virginia: Betterway Publications, Inc. 1987. This is a fun book that offers some insight into how to design a home.

Margolies, John. Home Away from Home: Motels in America. Boston: Bulfinch Press. 1995. The author describes, with lots of great photos, the architecture of motels in America throughout most of the 20th century.

Hess, Alan. Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. 2004. A combination history book and coffee table book -- lots of good information mixed in with lots of great photos.

19 Jun 2011 - added two Carnegie libraries and one cool sign.
2 Aug 2011 - added one Carnegie library.
28 Aug 2011 - added one Carnegie library.
25 Sep 2011 - added one Carnegie library.
10 Oct 2011 - added two Texas county courthouses and one Carnegie library.
24 Nov 2011 - added one Carnegie library.
17 Jun 2012 - added two Carnegie libraries.
7 Jul 2012 - added one Carnegie library and four theaters.
12 Aug 2012 - added seven Carnegie libraries.
1 Dec 2012 - added four Carnegie libraries.
1 Jun 2013 - added seven Carnegie libraries.
30 Jun 2013 - added two Carnegie libraries.
5 Aug 2013 - added one Carnegie library, one cool sign, and one theater.
20 Aug 2013 - added one theater.
20 Sep 2013 - added two Carnegie libraries and four theaters.
21 Oct 2013 - added a group of cool signs in Grand Prairie, Texas.
15 Jan 2014 - added one theater.
17 Jun 2014 - added four cool signs, one streamline moderne building, and two theaters.
16 Aug 2015 - added one Carnegie library.
30 Aug 2015 - added one Carnegie library.
13 May 2016 - added one Carnegie library, a water tower, and a wood burner.
3 Sep 2016 - added two Carnegie libraries.
16 Sep 2016 - added one cool sign and one theater.
4 Jan 2017 - added seven Carnegie libraries.
3 Jun 2017 - added four Carnegie libraries and three theaters.
23 Jul 2017 - added one Carnegie library.




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