Welcome to a serial presentation of the outcome of research into the career of the American Mid-Century architect John Randal McDonald. We invite you to join us on this website as we share, piece by piece, the first thorough documentation of JRMcD’s work (1947 – 2003). This website will also contain a section documenting McDonald’s background as a child, a young student, an artist, musician, soldier, Yale graduate, husband and father – keep an eye out for posts in the Biography tab. Yet, the vast body of this website’s presentation will cover his development as a noteworthy architectural creative and professional adventure seeker.
The research done for this presentation has been undertaken over eight years (as of the launch of this site January 1st, 2019). Activities over this period have included:
- Travel to 13 states.
- Visits to 73 homes, commercial buildings, and churches.
- Interviews with hundreds of homeowners, apprentices, professional colleagues, and McDonald family members.
- Capturing 18,000 photographs of architectural drawings, correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, digitization of vintage photographs, and current photography of McDonald designed homes and buildings we visited along the way.
- Donation of thousands of documents, drawings and photographs on behalf of Josephine McDonald to the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison and the State Archives of Florida in Tallahassee.
Researching the Work of John Randal McDonald
Using the Site
Every page of this website contains a top and bottom menu strip. These horizontal bands of page links comprise the primary means of navigation throughout this content. You’ll be able to select a geographic region describing selected Architectural Projects within each area. You’ll be able to learn about JRMcD’s biographical information, including his college focus on Fine Art at Milwaukee Teacher’s College, or find out about his graduate work and the honors he received as he earned a Masters of Architecture degree at Yale.
Besides a top and bottom menu, there will be a Posts Menu on the upper right of each page other than the Home page and this page. You’ll be able to dive into JRMcD’s Projects by category or, for recent posts, by client name.
At this stage of our research, we have discovered over 400 client projects and we’ll be uncovering more as we finish our discovery process. Not all projects were built and some projects have very sketchy detail to work with. Our intentions are to include a significant selection of John Randal’s work during his most productive and creative years of work. This client project population process means we will be posting project content on a regular basis over the next several years. New posts will be easy to find by looking in Recent Posts, the Categories sections, or by looking at the monthly Archives breakouts.
Most importantly, this web content is designed to be updated by readers and we encourage your comments made to any posts you’d like to participate in. The quality of this presentation will be enhanced by comments, questions or sharing of knowledge you might have and decide to contribute.
The McDonald Studio in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida created custom home designs that were published in New Homes Guide and Small Homes Guide Magazine in the 1950’s. Apprentices insist that house plans were purchased by readers from all 50 states. We’ve found these undocumented creations built in Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, Indiana and Arizona. There are certainly other JRMcD designs in locations throughout the country. We hope through this process our readers will help us discover more.
Here are several other important points to bring forward:
- The McDonald design projects included in our presentation will be described by the original clients name, date and city (no specific address).
- The date listed for a project will be for the design, not the construction. Some designs, as we’ve mentioned, were never built or delayed, so to be consistent we will use the design date.
- Our plan is to add project posts in chronological order beginning with the very first client work done for an auto dealership just off campus in New Haven, Connecticut in 1947. If you own a McDonald design and would like us to post early for your location, please write us a comment and we’ll be happy to oblige.
- Finally, if you find material included here and would like to see and experience these items first-hand:
- if the building is in the United States and not located in Florida, please contact the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.
- if the building is in Florida, please contact the State Archive of Florida in Tallahassee.
- if your interest is in a Caribbean design, please write a comment asking us for help.