Posted on May 07, 2014 by Phillip Thompson
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One style of home that I love is the bungalow. Here’s one that was drawn for a Chicago-area client. The roof design, lush landscaping, near-symmetry, and personal story (this was for a woman who had lived here for many years and had to move out due to age) all made this home interesting to take on. Here are a few facts I’ve picked up along the way about Chicago bungalows:
Bungalows rose in popularity in the interwar period. They eclipsed the simple worker’s cottage (single gable roof, long lot) as an affordable single-family home option
Their structure is characterized by a one- or one-and-a-half story, open layout, with a low-pitched roof
Their designs typically reflect the popular Craftsman or Mission styles of their time: indigenous/natural materials, clay-tile roofs like California missions, windows with a strong vertical orientation.
Although they are a beloved style today, at the time bungalows were often purchased through a mail-order catalogue of standard home types. Chicago-based Sears Roebuck and Company had a huge hold in this business. It would be interesting to have heard the views on prefab bungalows from the day’s wealthier families, living in the city’s large Victorian homes.
The Sears catalogue prices at the time: “They had a selection of over 400 different designs ranging from small bungalows costing $450 to large two story homes priced at $4500.” (Source)
The bungalow’s rise in popularity + the availability of cheap open space in Chicago meant that many of the bungalows were built around the city in what is today known as the “Bungalow Belt.” Like the ring of a tree, the dominance of certain residential style can tell an observer today about the approximate year of the city’s growth. The bungalows for which I’ve seen year-of-construction have been around 1915-1925. That may be a reflection of where I live, though.
“Bungalow Belt” also became journalist’s shorthand for a particular Chicago demographic which the first Mayor Daley counted as a major political base. His family home, in fact, was a bungalow in Bridgeport. His son and future mayor grew up there.
Supposedly, one-third of all Chicago homes are bungalows. (Source) Sometimes this style is denoted as the Midwestern or Prairie bungalow, in contrast to Western bungalows.
There are certain historic districts in Chicago that are known for their high concentration of bungalows. Ravenswood Manor is one such district near the Cape Horn Illustration home & studio. Today, that area is booming. It’s a beautiful, lush community abutting the river and accessible by the Brown line. It’s the only area of the city, in fact, where the Brown line is at ground level and regularly announces its way over the area streets.
The historic value, charm, and the pride of bungalow owners all combine into a potent force for preservation. Chicago is home to a group, the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, that offers resources to bungalow owners for education and preservation.
In short: Start looking for bungalows and you’ll start to see them everywhere. Great style to see, great style to illustrate.