Civil and Commercial Architecture
Copyright © 2004-2021, 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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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.
Denver (Park Hill)
Old Colorado City
Sault Ste. Marie
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.
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 San Juan
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
This windmill is in the City of Weatherford, seen in 2006
Windmill near Hoyt, 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.
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
Crown Theater, Price, Utah
Price Theater, Price, Utah
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Benton 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
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.
26 Aug 2017 - added two Carnegie libraries.
2 Jun 2018 - added one Carnegie library.
5 Nov 2018 - added two Carnegie libraries.
27 May 2019 - added one Carnegie library.
16 Jun 2019 - added one Carnegie library.
26 Jun 2020 - added one Carnegie library.
26 Apr 2021 - added one Carnegie library.
4 Jun 2021 - added two theaters.
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