Saturday, March 14, 2015

St. Joseph, MO and Its Radford Homes: No. 1121

Radford No. 1121 from the 1907 Lumberman's House Plan Book
 (a plan book company, that sold only blueprints, not lumber, and not kits)

It turns out that St. Joseph, Missouri, is a kind of interesting place.

And, it has lots of old houses.

As someone interested in Sears kit homes, however, I have been a bit disappointed trying to find a match there to any of the Sears homes my friends are so successfully finding all over Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois (to name a few states). Zooming around all over the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri (Google map zooming, of course), I've found so many interesting houses! But, remember, Sears kit homes (the ones that actually came bundled in a box car or two, with pre-cut lumber, and tons of nails and screws and paint and everything else to go with the plans you bought) didn't really begin until 1916 or so -- plans and lumber were available in 1908, but not pre-cut.  And... most of the houses I've been running across in St. Joe (as many lovingly call it), date from around 1907. So-- no luck on any of them being kit houses.

But, plan book companies were in full swing then.  If you were going to build a small or moderate house, in a small town in Missouri, you probably couldn't afford to hire an architect to design it for you.  So, folks turned to their lumber yards, and looked through their plan books -- or, maybe a developer bought up lots on a street, and bought up some plans from a plan-book company, and offered them up for your perusal.  Radford Architectural Company of Chicago, Illinois, was one of the major plan-book companies of the early 1900s-- and I've identified, so far, two interesting Radford house plans that have been built on many streets of a certain area of St. Joe, Mo.

Radford's 1907 offerings were made available here in this plan book, through Fravel Sash & Door Company.
I found this on, and you can see it in its entirety, here

The Radford plan books made clear what you were buying, and what you were not buying.  They did not provide a "Bill of Material", I think they called it-- which would be a list of exactly how many of what size of pieces of lumber you'd need.  And, they did not provide you with screws and bolts and nails and paint -- just a beautifully-rendered set of blue prints, on high-quality blue paper, "electrically printed".  Along with that, came a detailed set of specifications, on heavy, high quality linen paper, all bound nicely for the buyer.  All of this, they assured you, would provide your quality contractor with everything he would need to figure out what your house project would need.

Fom the 1907 book.

No cheap tissue paper from Radford!

Even though they didn't tell you precisely what you needed for your specific house plan, they did provide help with how to figure the quantity of materials you might need -- how to figure lathing quantities, how to figure how many nails you might need per project, how many shingles you might need, and, actually, about how much your overall construction project should cost.

Design No. 1121 • 1907 plan book

Design No. 1121 is a double gambrel (or cross gambrel) house.  It is a two-story house, of about 950 square feet, with three bedrooms, a little front porch, and a nice bay window area in the front, and on the side.  The roof lines of the gambrels are very dramatic, with a deep inset from roof edge to the house.  It's a pretty neat looking house. And, I've found it on street after street of the old section of St. Joseph.  All of them appear to be built in 1907.  In the 1903 plan book, it was known as the No. 121, but became the No. 1121 by 1907.   Here's a particularly attractive yellow one:

2722 Sacramento, with its bay window on the left side.

There's a little spot for a porch swing, there on the front porch.

Note the big bay window in the front, left.
All of these photos were taken from Google map views.

Description of the No. 1121, in the 1907 plan book.

This is how the No. 121 appeared in the 1903 Radford plan book, 100 Houses Illustrated (see it here).

Floorplans, as shown in the 1907 plan book.

Another No. 1121 is located at 2702 Monterey Street.  From its listing on, I found these interior shots.

The great Craftsman look of the door and window surrounds is nice and chunky, as is the stairway newel post. 

Here we see the dining room, with its bay window that juts out of the left side of the house, and, to the left in this photo,
the parlor room (which is actually in the front of the house), with its large bay shape.
The parlor room, in the front of the house.
The other wall of the dining room.

2702 Monterey

Scroll down to see examples of other kit-house and plan-book models that are "lookalikes" to this Radford model.

Where is St. Joseph, Missouri?

St. Joseph is in the north west corner of Missouri, along the Missouri River, north of Kansas City, in Buchanan County.  It's a pretty old town, with lots of history, and it's also home to a branch of the Missouri State University sytem, Missouri Western State University

This 1904 map would have been available when our 1907 No. 1121 houses were built in St. Joseph.
You can see St. Joseph up there near the top of this old map of Buchanan County.
(Map source HERE )
Have you heard of the Pony Express? Fur trading? The Wild West? Jesse James? Well, they're all related to St. Joseph, Missouri.

According to a very informative article on Wikipedia,  not too very long before our Radford homes were built, Jesse James was killed at his home in St. Joseph, in 1882.  But, before that, St. Joseph had served as the "jumping off point" and the last supply town for those heading to the Oregon Territory, and more adventures in the really western Wild West.  You couldn't go any farther than St. Joseph, Missouri, by rail, until after the Civil War, so folks headed out from St. Joe in their wagons.  The Pony Express departed from St. Joe, allowing for delivery of mail to areas that were not served by the railroad.  

Images from Wikimedia Commons, here and here.

St. Joseph was founded in 1843, as the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post, and was pretty wild and rough during its fur trading early years.  It was a man named Joseph Robidoux IV, born in St. Louis (where I live), and descended from the Robidoux family of Qu├ębec, Canada, who founded it as a fur trading post, and then hired a pair of men to develop it into a town.  Of two designs presented to him, he chose the town plan that allowed for more lots that he could sell off to potential home owners, at $150 per corner lot, and $100 per interior lot.  I wonder how much our NO. 1121 homeowners paid for their lots in 1907?

In its first 14 years, St. Joseph grew in population from 800 to almost 9, 000 residents. Robidoux's early trading offices there are still available to visit today, and are registered as National Historic Landmarks, known as Robidoux Row. During the early years of St. Joseph's history, this is where folks would stay who were stopping off before departing in their covered wagons to head west, and it is also where folks sometimes lodged as they waited for their homes to be built on lots they bought from Joseph Robidoux. (source: )

This is probably an image of St. Joe's founder, Joseph Robidoux IV.
This photo is from, and they label him as Joseph Robidoux III,
but that is probably an error, as J.R. III was the father of J.R. IV, and a St. Louis resident,
according to other sources, including this genealogy information.,_Missouri

I found several more Radford No. 1121 homes in St. Joseph, all from 1907.  Here is s sample of a few more (images are all from Google Maps):

2707 Monterey Street
2726 Sacramento

2727 Monterey

2819 Monterey
This image has been going around the World Wide Web the past few years. Recognize the house? It looks to be a Radford plan house, No. 1121, the model I highlight in this blog post. The problem is, the family understands it to be a Sears kit house. It's not. Sears offered some kits with slightly similar lines, but this house is not that model. It is NOT a Sears house. What may have happened, is that the family, after buying the plans from the Radford book, sent off to Sears for the required building supplies to build the house, and Sears packaged them up and shipped them, by rail, to the family. But, that doesn't make it a Sears house. A Sears kit house is one that is a model from the Sears catalogs, where absolutely everything to put it together, is shipped with the blueprints (not including brick, plaster, or other masonry products). So... the next time you see this house out there on the Web, please set the folks straight. It's not a Sears house.

A Radford plan-book house. This is not a Sears house, and not a kit house.

Other "Lookalike" Kit-house and Plan-Book Models
I have to say that I haven't found any official documentation that these homes were built from Radford No. 1121 (or 121) plans, but everything seems to fit.  Though there are many other single and double gambrel roof home designs, by every kit and plan book company of this era, this is the only one that I have found with the front bay design, a side bay, the windows and door all placed exactly as these are, and such deep eaves on the gambrel roof on each side. 

Here are a few other Radford (from the 1908 plan book) and Gordon-Van Tine gambrel roof designs, that all differ in some obvious or subtle ways from the No. 1121 (click images for a larger view):

Deeply-inset gambrels, but windows are different, and so is front porch area.

Front porch is different, number and placement of windows is different, and side gambrel is thinner.

This one has the smaller front porch, but no bay in the front.  Windows and size and shape of gambrels is different.

This one has a side bay window, and three windows on the upper front, but a different front porch design, and pointier gambrels.
Front porch design is different, as are windows, and the depth of the gambrels.
These double gambrel home designs are all from the 1908 Artistic Homes Radford Plan book, pictured above.
gvt gambrel roof
This Gordon-Van Tine, Standard Home No. 326 (not pre-cut), from the 1916 catalogue, is very much like the Radford No. 1121.... however, the front porch covers the width of the house here, and is not interrupted by the bay-window
section of the parlor, as in the No. 1121.

gvt gambrel roof
Finally, we have the Gordon-Van Tine No. 305, the most like the Radford 121/1121, down to the triple windows in both the front and side gables, and the inset front porch.  The Radford, however, has a bay window front, and this GVT model does not. You can see it here, in the 1916 "Standard Homes" (not pre-cut) GVT catalog.
Imagine how times have changed.  You used to need the Pony Express and covered wagons to help you communicate and discover the country.  And St. Joseph, Missouri developed in just about 50 years, from a fur trading wild west town, to a university town with fine homes.  

Now, I can use Google Maps to zoom around all over a town that I've never even been to, sitting right here at home in St. Louis.  Life was different in many ways in 1907, when these houses were built, but they are still housing families with dreams.


  1. What a terrific and informative post! I usually zoom straight to the floor plans of these houses and I really like some of these. I feel like I've been inside houses of at least one of these models, and who knows, maybe I have! Great work and research, Sears House Seeker!

  2. Thanks for posting. I bought one of three in a row in WI, but all three are built from stone on the first level.

    1. Oh, Shane, I'd love to see photos! Or, if you email me an address, I can look on Google maps street view: searsHouseSeeker/gmail

    2. 42.691914,-89.023262

      Also on Zillow, 635, 641, 645? Sutherland janesville wi

      Each was remodeled quite differently inside


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