William A. Radford founded the Radford Architectural Company (1902-c. 1926) in Chicago, Illinois as a publishing house for technical books. He hired architects and draftsmen to design plans and develop specifications for residential, commercial, and agricultural structures that he published in his expanding market of books and monthly trade journals. The Radford Architectural Company has been credited with contributing to the popularization of the Prairie School style, for its Special Department of architects and draftsmen (illustrated above) frequently produced Prairie, Arts and Crafts, Mission and Craftsmen-styled designs. Customers could make special requests for individualized plans, specifications and cost estimates, although many builders were content with the stock plans developed for such company publications as Radford's Artistic Homes: 250 Designs (1908) and The Radford American Homes (1903).
Between 1902 and 1926, architects and draftsmen such as G.W. Ashby, W.H. Schroeder, Alfred Sidney Johnson, Bernard L. Johnson, Charles Godfrey Peker, Loring H. Provine and Ervin Kenison created over 1000 plans for Radford.1 An important precursor to prefabricated architecture, catalog homes proved widely popular across America: over 100,000 were built between 1903 and 1940.2
Image above: Radford's Special Department. As illustrated in The Radford American Homes (Riverside, IL: Radford Architectural Company, 1903).
1 Kathy L. Morgan. "Gulder House," National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. Listed 7 January 2010.
2 The Frederick Law Olmsted Society of Riverside. "2008: Architecture Award." URL: http://www.olmstedsociety.org/education/architectural-awards/2008-vince-and-dawn-hartnett/