Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Now Available: Mind Your Manors Collectible Country House Card Game

The cards are full color - 54 included
I have always loved trading cards. Collecting baseball cards and football cards is something almost every kid in America has done. When I was growing up in the 60’s, we also collected card decks for our favorite TV shows, like Batman, The Green Hornet, The Man from Uncle and many other popular shows. My own son has collected more modern collectable card games, like Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering.

Surfing the internet, I’ve also seen vintage card games like In Castle Land, and been fascinated by the innumerable series of trading cards that were once offered with cigarettes and tobacco.

With all of these in mind, it seemed only natural to utilize my printing and publishing experience to develop a game and a series of collectable cards that featured famous English houses. Naturally, these would initially focus on examples from the Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

As a result, we are now releasing our first collectible card game, Mind Your Manors, which was designed with our printing partner, American Biblioverken and produced by The Gamecrafter, a US company that specializes in custom, print-on-demand games. The cards are high-quality, printed to the same specifications as most playing cards or popular gaming decks you would find in any hobby or retail store.

As for the game, it is a simple, turn-based game, where the object is to be the first to collect one or more suits of a particular color; the play is somewhat similar to old games like In Castle Land or Happy Family – and you may wish to develop your own rules.

The real star here is the card deck. Each game deck includes 52 full color cards, each of which depicts a country house illustration on the front and a brief history and notes on the reverse side. I’m sure many people would enjoy the decks for their collectible value alone, and we are currently developing supplemental card decks as well, including additional country houses and manors from this period, as well as other periods, including the Victorian and Edwardian Ages. Future plans also include a card deck and a separate board game featuring many classic town and country pubs.

To read more about the game and to order game decks, visit The Mind Your Manors page at The Gamecrafter. The company does ship internationally; check their order page for costs and delivery info. It’s also important to note that since the games are print-on-demand, additional time may be needed for production.

If you are a retailer, a gift shop at a Heritage house (your house may be in the deck!) or other museum shop and desire to purchase in quantity, please contact us and we will help you obtain stock at a lower price. Simply email us at

Here is a list of the houses included in the deck:






20 DORTON    


28 HOWSHAM        








53 Card List & Intro Text
54 Rules


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Buildings Under Threat: But What Will Be The Response?

Back in 1986, I was sitting in the kitchen of Elsie Snyder, a local preservationist, along with a few other people, wondering what we could do to avoid the demolition of an old historic apartment building near Akron’s Grace Park. Those gatherings, and that initial effort—which ultimately proved to be unsuccessful—led to the founding of a local group called Progress Through Preservation, (now known as the Preservation Alliance of Greater Akron) which still operates today. I bring this up for two reasons. One – more of our local historic structures are seriously threatened with demolition. And Two – I am wondering if anyone in Akron will make a concerted effort to stop it.

The buildings in question are two of Akron’s most historic, and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for many years. They include the former St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and adjacent Sunday School Building and Parish House, located at East Market and Forge Streets. These remarkable gothic structures are among the few remaining links to 19th Century Akron, and the Sunday School is one of the better preserved examples of the historic “Akron Plan” that was developed by Lewis Miller and utilized in hundreds of church buildings across the nation up until WWI. They are attractive, generally well-preserved structures, dating from the 1880’s – 1890’s.

I believe the plan is to raze them to help create some sort of “grand entrance” to the University of Akron from East Market Street; I suppose to complement a similar plan they have for a southern entrance off East Exchange Street. Needless to say, the plan—and the building’s demolition—is unnecessary and short-sighted, and wholly representative of the school’s new administration, which has alienated itself from the greater community through a number of recent missteps such as this.

As to my second reason, I am waiting to see how Akron’s “preservation” community responds to this challenge. One reason I never joined the local organization was that—at least during its early years—I saw the organization as being a little too “West-Akron-centric” in its membership and attitude. I lived in a historic neighborhood on the other side of town (Goodyear Heights) and it always seemed to me that there was little interest in anything outside of Highland Square/West Hill or areas near downtown. That may have been an unfair assessment, but it was my impression at the time; also, I began working in Shaker Heights shortly thereafter, and my daily commute made it difficult to get involved in much of anything during those years.

I may resolve to join yet, but I may wait to see what, if anything, the group will do to help stop the demolition of these historic buildings. The fact is, there is so little left of Akron from the pre-Rubber Boom era that we should be making a special effort to preserve buildings like these. Aside from a few church buildings, the only other structures left from this era are the Robinson Mansion at Buchtel Avenue (currently for sale) and an old funeral home. This stretch of East Market used to be lined with large mansions, much like Cleveland’s old Euclid Avenue—another victim of “progress.”

I don’t know if this is true in many other places—somehow, I suspect it is—but it seems that some preservation organizations that were active, militant and vocal about preservation during the years when they were established have devolved into “historic architecture social clubs”. These groups plan neighborhood tours, handout preservation awards and maybe talk about appreciating old houses, but no longer take an active role in promoting, planning and fighting for historic preservation.

Years ago, the founders of these organizations would criticize historic groups who only looked at preservation through the concept of “historic house/building museums” – an approach based on taking a few of the very best old buildings, and preserving them in a glass case for future generations to enjoy. Thirty years ago, “real” preservationists knew that approach alone was not sufficient; they knew that preservation also meant saving neighborhoods, promoting adaptive re-use, promoting education, demanding government support, and weaving preservation into the fabric of our cities.

Just this last summer, the local preservation group I’ve mentioned held a Fir Hill neighborhood tour right where these buildings are currently under threat. I wonder what they were looking at. On that street alone, two of the large houses, an 1870’s era Alumni Center and a large 1890’s era mansion (most recently a fraternity house) had been demolished over the last couple of years, leaving just a handful of buildings on the street. If this pattern continues, there won’t be much to see there in coming years.

Distant tours of Detroit—which have also been on the group’s itinerary—will only have value if lessons learned in those cities are brought back to Akron and put into action. Preservation isn’t about talking to ourselves, or touring old houses with “enthusiasts” – it’s about preserving and protecting an environment, and reconnecting with our heritage.

I’ve written my “Letter to The Editor” regarding the possible demolition of these historic structures—and I would happily protest any effort toward their removal. The question is, will anyone join me?


Friday, October 30, 2015

Video Book Review: Greater Medieval Houses of England & Wales - Vol. 1

Here is the first of our video book reviews - or as I like to call them: New Reviews of Old Books. As regards my reasoning for this, please refer to this recent post. As you will see, while I have nothing but praise for the book's content, the quality of the printing and publication (not the design) leaves something to be desired.

To make things a little clearer, I am including here a couple of photos of the interior of the book. The overall layout and design is fine, but the printing process used (I assume digital, since I feel this was a short-run book) was perhaps not up to the task, as the photographs do not have the requisite contrast and detail one would prefer. Even the stock paper is a little thin; you may be able to see bleed-through text from the other side of the pages.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review - Simple Rules: What the Old Time Builders Knew

Tudor cottage renovation - Shannon Taylor Scarlett, Architect 
Those of us who study, restore or would like to live in an Olde English Home may already have some grasp of their essential design elements. This has not stopped us from often wondering why so many modern homes lack the charm, proportions or design quality of the real thing—or even of well-designed revival houses.

For those who are still wondering, or who may be considering a building or remodeling project, I would recommend architect Shannon Taylor Scarlett’s Simple Rules: What the Old Time Builders Knew, a compact volume of observations, quotes and drawings that help put these design issues in perspective. I was fortunate to download the Kindle version some time ago (it is just $4.99) and was happily rewarded when I recently rediscovered it during a few idle moments on my iPhone.

This brief review of design principles—it is just a little over 100 pages—provides a helpful foundation for those who are interested in traditional approaches to design, or who would simply like to unlock the mystery of “why so many older buildings look better.” Scarlett’s book makes it clear that it’s not just a matter of appropriating a classical door surround, throwing some half-timbers onto an exterior wall, or tarting up a builder tract house with some Victorian trim work.

The book is highly recommended as a handy reference and a helpful guide to understanding some of the basic elements of “curb appeal.” It’s also available in print from Barnes & Noble.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Delightful Self-Built Remodel in Shropshire

Normally, planning authorities don’t look favorably upon building plans when they include significantly remodeling an older structure in order to vastly change its appearance or character. However, if the existing house is unattractive, impractical, or where it does not warrant extensive protection, then allowances can be made.

Such is the example I recently came across on Homebuilding and Renovating—a Tudor Revival remodel in Shropshire that really combines a number of clever tricks and some original thinking to deliver a very convincing and attractive home. Yes, there is some sleight-of-hand going on here; steel beams have been covered in plaster, then grained and finished to look like wood. Stone-like door surrounds are actually made from cast-moulded concrete, and then weathered to look like stone.

Purists may wish for “the real thing” but I cannot argue with the end result. Such is my own experience that the budget of most people—especially where new building projects are concerned—cannot always sustain the use of traditional materials, though they would clearly be our first choice. Creative and available substitutes can often be employed, and this home is a fine example of such an approach.

Looking at the end result, the original, nondescript Georgian home has been flanked with half-timbered Tudor side wings, embellished with a jettied porch over the center section, and topped with a high-pitched timber frame roof. As a self-build project, it is quite impressive; the owners, Mark and Julia Swannell, clearly have an excellent eye—as the proportions and architectural detail are very authentic looking. From a distance (other than the fact that the home’s lines are straight and level) one might briefly mistake it for an original. Well done!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Reviews on Old Architecture Books? Yes, of Course.

Why would you want to review a book that’s been out of print for thirty years? Or fifty? Or eighty, for that matter?

Well, if I was reviewing fiction or computer programming, I agree, it would make no sense at all. The former is a slave to contemporary taste and fashion, which changes almost daily; the latter is subject to the inevitable march of technology—making today’s technical information soon obsolete.

For those of us who are interested in architecture—and specifically—old houses, there is an entirely different set of issues to consider when reading, collecting and referring to older books:

First, old houses are still old. Where they exist, they generally do so undisturbed over the course of many years, and that is the way people like it. For example, observations made about an old house like Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire in 1920 are generally valid unto this day. While new analyses continue to be made and today’s technology may reveal some new understanding, the scholars of the past continue to provide keen insights on the character, history and appreciation of old houses.

Likewise, many of the photographic and illustrative examples provided in old books offer an unsurpassed visual record of many old houses, some of which no longer exist. Whether it is the beautiful black & white photographs we see in old Country Life books, or the seductive drawings of Sidney R. Jones, there is a unique character and perspective in these old illustrations that even the sharpest digital image cannot provide. In the very oldest examples, they may offer details that cannot even be seen today.

Other old books on architecture, through their sheer depth of observation, provide an in-depth illustrative record of measured construction details like doors, chimneys, windows, mouldings and their profiles, stonework, ironwork and more. Few modern books provide these richly detailed and carefully recorded illustrations—which can be so helpful to both the student and the practicing residential architect who may turn to them for inspiration.

Another consideration on the value of old architecture books for the modern user is their essential value as books, and in many cases, great examples of what I refer to as The Book Arts. As an example, I often point to is the two-volume study from Thomas Garner and Arthur Stratton, entitled The Domestic Architecture of England During the Tudor Period. I own a second edition set from 1929; they are huge books—measuring 12” x 16”—wonderful to hold in one’s lap and beautifully illustrated with both photographs and exquisite drawings. A much more recent example of this type might be Mark Girouard’s beautiful Elizabethan Architecture, published by Yale in 2009. It is another substantial, finely illustrated book which does great justice to its subject.

To the casual observer, it may seem strange to provide a review of a book that is no longer in print, and which may not even be easily obtainable. But in doing so, we would point out that:

a) Many books, being highlighted as “essentials” on the subject of our chosen historical period of architecture, are well-recommended for their enduring high value, technical competence and even inspirational content.

b) While no longer in print, most of these books may still be obtained without undue effort from used bookstores, online sources such as, or even Ebay—often at a reasonable price.

c) Some books that have been recently scanned and made available through Print-on-Demand, while helpful and more easily purchased, are actually poor facsimiles of the original version. In some cases, the scanned illustrations are of extremely bad quality, in the worst cases, almost useless as a reference. While the text has value, to be sure, the student would be better satisfied in finding an original edition, which may often be found at a price that is little more than the reprint.

So, seeing some value in offering these types of reviews, we will begin to provide them, since we have no shortage of books on our chosen subject that we would like to share.

Seeing the newer phenomenon of video book reviews making an impact, and noting the advantages of physically describing and talking about a book that I am holding in my hand, this may be the method employed as we move forward.

Our dedication to old books being noted, we would nevertheless invite publishers of new books on period architecture to make review copies available, should they so desire. This would include  - Architecture (particularly residential) from Medieval through the Early Renaissance (Jacobean) – and Revival Styles (Gothic, Medieval, Tudor, Elizabethan, Jacobean) from the early 18th Century through the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and up to 1930.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Modern Medieval: Chelsea's New Football Cathedral

Here in the States, sports stadiums can be either hit-or-miss, and their styles are all over the map. There are traditional venues, like baseball’s Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, popular newer venues like Baltimore’s Camden Yards, or huge mega-parks, like the Dallas Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium. The design of sports stadiums is a specialist trade, generally dominated by a handful of successful firms.

With this in mind, I was fascinated by the design for Chelsea’s new football (soccer) stadium, developed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who have unveiled plans for a gargantuan new home for Chelsea FC, “inspired by the design of Westminster Abbey”. As The Guardian points out in a recent article about the design:
“If football is England’s national religion, the sport may soon have its very own majestic cathedral…”

With concept drawing currently on display, the design is said to take its cues from the gothic architecture of the Abbey, in whose diocese the stadium once stood. The new plan was commissioned by the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, and is expected to cost at least £500m.  The plan will also boost overall crowd capacity from 42,000 to 60,000.

Clearly, based on the concept drawings, the proposed stadium looks nothing like what you might expect, using massive masonry, heavy brick piers and soaring vaults. Parts of it recall London’s Victorian railway viaducts, while other parts do resemble a soaring, buttressed cathedral. The design was also created to blend into the dense, urban location of the stadium, as elevated brick walkway will bring supporters directly into the stands above a world of bars, shops and cafes located in the arches beneath the structure.

From what I can see from the rendering, the concept is a little fantastic, a little outrageous, and utterly brilliant. It is highly difficult to integrate the massing, style and unique design elements of medieval architecture into the modern urban landscape without the result looking like a Disney theme park or something that’s just downright ugly. While I’m sure not everyone will love this design, I see it as highly original, and a very successful effort in using medieval architecture as a modern design inspiration.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yes - This IS a Tudor Home

I happened to come across this story about an old, original Tudor-period home in Surrey [UK] that was about to receive a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for restoration.

The money is set to be used for updating the building so that it can continue to preserve local heritage and attract more visitors. The scheduled repair work will involve solving problems with dampness, removing modern fixtures and restoring the home’s original features.

As I looked at the photo of the house, I wondered if some of those original features would include half-timbering, which may very well be hidden underneath the white clapboard exterior of the present house. In some regions, a number of original Tudor homes were clad in wooden clapboards during later centuries, so their appearance on an actual Tudor house is not entirely out of context. In some cases, it may even be preferable to leave them in place, since it’s often good preservation practice to recognize some of the changes and alterations that have been made to a building over the years.

In any case, it struck me that most people wouldn’t even recognize this as a Tudor house at all, since it lacks the half-timber work that most Americans associate with the style. Most realtors I know would call it a Colonial; indeed, exchange the house’s white color for gray and it would be very reminiscent of the well-known House of The Seven Gables in Salem, MA, or even the “Witches’ House, also located there.  That is certainly “colonial” – but what those houses represent is an older, vernacular Tudor timber structure, clad in the clapboard that we associate with “colonial” homes.

In overall shape, structure and massing—the high-pitched roof, the jettied porch over the front door, the leaded casement windows—these houses can’t be anything but Tudor. The house in Surrey is a great example of this.

My own home (see photo at left) is an example of this as well. Aside from some faux half-timber work in the gable, it’s entirely clad in clapboard-style siding. But it also retains the high pitched roof and the jettied porch over the front door, supported by large corbels at each side. It’s a more modern interpretation to be sure (including the garage) but it is probably more “Tudor” in form than the brick-and-half timber “contemporary” house across the street, which most Americans would probably think of as “Tudor” –if asked to identify the style. To avoid any confusion, I often identify the style of my house as “Olde English” rather than Tudor-Revival, in recognition of the cladding materials and the fact that it was inspired by older forms, rather than attempting to copy them.

For the knowledgeable, this is no great obstacle, but for the casual observer, it’s important to see past the cover and look more thoughtfully at the book. The renovation of the Surrey house is a good story. And a good lesson.

Friday, June 5, 2015

At Least You Can’t See it From the Street

It’s no surprise that I’m a traditionalist at heart. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing about Tudor-Revival houses, medieval art, victorian architecture or preservation issues. That said, I don’t mind a thoughtful update for an older home or a new interpretation of a traditional design. Most of better results come when the old and the new are blended harmoniously together; that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them apart, only that the combination feels natural rather than forced.

That’s why I have a hard time with this Tudor in Rye, NY – where the owner tacked this very contemporary addition onto the back of a modestly-sized Tudor Revival home. I suppose I’ve seen worse; the color and materials do complement the existing house to some extent, but the end result just doesn’t work for me. It’s like you took two totally different house and jammed them together.

What’s more, it seems the owner doesn’t really like traditional or revival styles anyway—the interior, even in the older part of the house—is ultra-contemporary, with no hint of the original house left behind. All white, steel and glass…it looks like the windows were the only element preserved from the existing home.

I suppose they liked the neighborhood. It’s unfortunate that they just didn’t decide to build an all-new contemporary house, rather than compromising the overall appearance of this one. Perhaps the only good thing I can say here is (as you can see in the second photo) that the addition was placed at the rear of the house, and is not so visible from the street.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

No Surprise: Charles a Housing, Heritage Advocate

While I have seen and even paged-through Prince Charles’ 1989 book, A Vision of Britain: A Personal View of Architecture many times, I have never purchased a copy. I suppose I should.

The Prince’s views on architecture, and his preference for the traditional over the modern are well-known. Ever since his famous “monstrous carbuncles” speech back in 1984, where he lectured the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and lambasted modern design, the Prince has been steadfast in his support for traditional design, refusing to back down.

That’s why the recent release of the Prince’s correspondence regarding health, housing and heritage matters is no surprise. Six letters written by Charles have been published by the Government and show how the heir to the throne raised issues close to his heart with the heads of various government departments.

It’s the second batch of letters released under a freedom of information request. I’m not quite sure what the request had hoped to uncover, since the letters support what most people already know about Charles’ areas of interest and concern.

One letter, from June 2009, detailed his concerns about "major historic sites, many of which are lying derelict''. He also hit out at "unscrupulous owners" for abandoning certain unnamed sites.

In another, he expresses concern about the lack of affordable rural housing:
''I have seen from my visits around the country the real problems finding an affordable home causes for those on low incomes in the countryside - many of whom are carrying out essential jobs, such as farm workers, teachers, shopkeepers and health workers and on whom the future viability of rural life depends.''

All in all, the letter reveal little if anything new, but they do provide additional detail about Prince Charles’ dedication to housing and heritage issues.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Akron’s Stan Hywet Hall Celebrates 100 Years

About one hundred years ago, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. co-founder F.A. Seiberling and his family were getting ready to move into their new home, the magnificent Tudor Revival mansion known as Stan Hywet Hall.

This year, the estate — now a public museum and gardens — is celebrating it’s 100th birthday with a series of special events, exhibits and specialty tours.

The 65,000-square-foot manor house is the sixth-largest historic home open to the public in the United States. The Tudor revival structure contains more than 21,000 panes of glass, 23 fireplaces, and intricately hand-carved wood paneling — so typical of the the luxury available to the Rubber Barons of Akron and other successful industrialists. Amazingly, the home still features 95 percent of the original furnishings chosen by the Seiberlings and their decorators.

Along with the special events, Stan Hywet Hall is launching a multi-million dollar campaign to help fund ongoing restoration work. Here are some of the events planned for 2015:

• The twice-daily “Blueprints to Bricks,” a tour focusing on the planning and construction of the estate and manor house, which required 3,000 blueprints and architectural drawings. Tour guests will visit areas and spaces not usually accessible to the public.

• “Picturing the Past,” 15 oversize photographs of the property dating from 1912 to 1915 to be exhibited outdoors on certain days during the summer. Each picture will be positioned at the photographer’s original vantage point on the grounds, allowing visitors a “now-and-then” perspective of the estate.

• The artistic installation “Bloom!,” opening June 2 in the gardens. Glass artist Craig Mitchell Smith, whose work is displayed at public gardens and arboretums throughout the country, will install 32 larger-than-life sculptures, many of them inspired by Stan Hywet. The sculptures — featuring botanical and nature themes, such as Tudor Rose— will be installed in the Breakfast Room Garden; and Butterflies of Northern Ohio, near the butterfly habitat.

• “Twilight & Flashlights,” an evening garden tour on six summer evenings in August and September. The offering will allow visitors to see “Bloom!” in a different light. All the pieces in the glass exhibit will be offered for public sale.

• The official 100th anniversary celebration, scheduled for Aug. 16 as part of Stan Hywet’s Community Day. The event will include free tours, a concert by the Goodyear Band, an antique car show, a vintage baseball game, and historic interpretations by the History First Hand acting troupe. Admission is free for registered guests.

• Several living-history days; “Woof Walk” days, for pet owners and their leashed dogs; the annual Father’s Day Classic antique car show; a gala Shakespearean ball and the annual Ohio Shakespeare Festival; and the Deck the Hall yuletide light and decoration show

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Longwood Manor Preserved, Protected

Where does the time go? I remember reading about Longwood Manor’s impending demise back in 2007, as the Akron Beacon Journal reported that access to the manor house would cease because it no longer met building codes for public use.

Built in a free Tudor Revival style, Longwood Manor was built in 1924. It sits on 300 acres of land that belonged to Colonel William Frew Long, the founding Mayor of Macedonia and a Veteran of World War I and II. His land and the home were given to the citizens of Macedonia for use as a public park in accordance with his Will upon his death in 1984.

Though it served as a visual centerpiece for the park around it and was being used for public events, the house was allowed to fall into disrepair as expensive maintenance was ignored or postponed. As a result, the utilities were cut off and the building was closed in 2007 as the wrecker’s ball cast its shadow.

But that was not the end. Interest in preserving the building slowly grew throughout the community, and by the Fall of 2012 a group had formed to raise money and begin some of the most critical restoration work. That work continues to proceed today, and the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Today’s group of volunteers is dedicated to Preserving the History of the city of Macedonia, with a primary task of updating the Manor so it can serve as a public gathering space, Museum and the headquarters of the organization.

To see additional restoration photos and find out more about the Longwood Manor Historical Society, go HERE.

There’s also a nice online article about the restoration of the Manor HERE.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Man's House is His Castle. Until It's Not.

 Over the years, I’ve seen any number of hideous houses mimicking Tudor-Revival styles; Tudor “ranches”… Tudor “split-levels” … butt-ugly homes where the proportions were all wrong, or where the builder tacked on an inappropriate element where it did not belong…the list is long.

I particularly remember a large home in Bath, Ohio, where the builder accented the formal entry with a poorly-imagined front inspired by Hampton Court; the rest of the house being rather stodgy and barn-like. Like a lot of McMansions, big -- but ill-conceived and ugly.

So it wasn’t surprising that the case of Surrey farmer Robert Fidler sparked some interest.  Apparently Fildler secretly built a mock Tudor castle, hidden behind a cover of tall hay bales for several years in an effort to bypass local restrictions. The 63-year-old thought he would be immune from planning rules as his family had been living there for more than four years and nobody had objected to it. Until he revealed his “creation” and the objectors came forward, fast and furious.

After many court appearances, local officials have finally ruled the four-bedroom home on Green Belt land at Honeycrocks Farm in Salfords, Surrey – worth well in excess of £1million if sold on the open market - must be pulled down within 90 days.

It’s an interesting case – and honestly, I’ve seen far worse looking in terms of Tudor-revival houses. While the backside is a little crude and not-so-well proportioned (the towers were built around grain silos) I found the front of the house (second photo) to be quite charming and very well-handled. The interiors look rather nice, too.

It does seem rather funny that no one had any visual objections to the positively ugly pile of hay bales and tarpaulins for over four years, but can’t stand the sight of the revealed house. I know the point is that Fildler bypassed the planning restrictions which everyone else must follow, but visual blight is visual blight. Would it be okay if he just covered it back up?

Read more about it HERE.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Howard Van Doren Shaw: The Radical Conservative

One of the better known American architects  of the early 20th century is Howard Van Doren Shaw, best known for English-inspired houses like Ragdale, or The House of The Four Winds, in Lake Forest, IL. Many of his houses are reminiscent of works by Voysey or Baillie Scott, though some examples – like a large Tudor-inspired home here in Akron on Merriman Rd.—are just slightly more traditional in their approach.

Chicago Magazine has a great article by Whet Moser on  Van Doren Shaw’s legacy, from his approach to residential architecture to his commercial work, like Market Square, in Lake Forest:
“Market Square was built as what we now refer to as mixed-use, transit-oriented development, with stores on the first floor and apartments on the second, across a narrow street from what’s now the Lake Forest stop on the Union Pacific North Metra line.”

Strangely enough, Market Square feels like some of today’s newer, “walkable” retail developments (Think of Easton Town Center in Columbus or Legacy Village, near Cleveland) – the scale, mixed bag of architectural styles, and overall approach are strikingly similar.

The article goes on to highlight a new book, Inventing the New American House: Howard Van Doren Shaw, Architect, by architect Stuart Cohen, who  makes the case for Shaw as an innovator, drawing out that argument from Shaw’s reticent buildings. Take a look at the article, and check out the book, if you can.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Architectural Crime: Historic UK Pub Demolished – Even After Council says NO.

Even though the local Council in Kilburn said NO to a request to demolish a historic pub and replace it with flats for rent, two bulldozers tore into Carlton Tavern in Carlton Vale, destroying its shell and all its contents.

Patsy Lord, the pub’s landlady, had no idea the building was to be demolished. She explained to newspapers that she was told “the pub was to be temporarily closed due to inventory.”

Previously, the property owner had presented a plan to demolish and replace the existing pub with a new building, to include pub at ground level and 10 residential units. That plan had been rejected on the basis that the bulk, height and detailed design of the new development “would be detrimental to the view from the adjacent Maida Vale Conservation Area and view from the nearby recreation ground” where it was a gateway to the park.

A council spokeswoman confirmed to the Times the demolition had taken place without permission and enforcement officers had attended the scene once they were alerted.

Unfortunately, even if a revised plan is put in place, the possibility of re-using the old pub’s historic furnishings and fixtures is no longer a possibility, since they were destroyed in the demolition. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine a new structure matching the old pub’s charm and architectural character.

You can read and see more HERE.

Drive By: Cleveland’s Tudor Arms Hotel

When I used to work in Shaker Heights, I occasionally had to drive to downtown Cleveland, to see clients or drop off work. Passing through the University Circle area, I always noted the handsome old gothic-revival hotel (which has also served as a men’s club and student housing) with its exquisite architectural detailing.

I’ve never had the opportunity to go inside, but you can take a tour via the photos included in a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer story on the Tudor Arm’s induction into the Historic Hotels of America, an organization that celebrates the best of the past in the lodging world.

Completed in 1933, The Tudor Arms has been on the National Register since 1994. For more information: or To read the article, go here:

Friday, April 3, 2015

Beddie-Buy, My Love: Henry VII's Four-Poster Bed May be Worth Millions

A four-poster bed which was dumped in a hotel parking lot and later sold for £2,200 has been verified as once belonging to King Henry VII – and it could now be worth millions.

The intricately-carved Tudor-style bed was left outside the former Redland House Hotel in Hough Green, Chester, by builders who were renovating the property. Unaware of the bed’s value and history, construction workers dismantled the ornate example of oak furniture and left it to be picked up later by auctioneers.

Ian Coulson, a four-poster bed specialist from Northumberland, saw the item on an internet site, where is was listed as a 19th-century gothic revival piece. He managed to obtain it for just over £2,000 in 2010.

After the new 'Victorian' purchase arrived, he approached TV historian and period expert Jonathan Foyle, wondering if his new purchase may be an original, surviving Tudor bed. Over the fast four years, Mr Foyle has attempted to prove the authentic and historical nature of the bed, with recent DNA testing on the bed's timber proving that it once belonged to Henry VII.

Foyle noted that tests have confirmed the bed was constructed from European oak, “typical of the origin of the finest, slow-grown oak imported by the medieval elites”, with analysis of the historic paintwork proving its age. The medieval bed is now reportedly worth up to £20million, although it is not forr sale and is instead on public display in the Long Gallery at Hever Castle in Kent until November 22.