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Of Gals and Homes: Bungalows

Posted by Johnine Larsen on August 24, 2017
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Bungalows had their heyday in the early 20th century, but they recently experienced a surge in popularity. Bungalows are affordable—especially compared to their bigger urban neighbors, but without sacrificing character. Bungalows make for cozy, charming homes, and you’ll often find them in active, urban neighborhoods that are low on crime and high on indie coffee shops and young families.

Bungalow in Sacramento, CA. Built in the 1920s.

You can spot a classic bungalow as soon as you know what to look for:

  • One or one-and-a-half stories, often with a basement
  • Room-to-room layout with minimal hallways
  • Wide, overhanging roof
  • Exposed rafters under the eaves
  • Wide front porch beneath the main roof
  • Tapered or square columns supporting the roof
  • 4-over-1 or 6-over-1 sash windows
  • Hand-crafted stone or woodwork
  • Simple forms and natural materials

A bungalow in western Pennsylvania, very typical of the American bungalow style.

The Origins of the Bungalow

Bungalows originally came from India. The term originally referred to small, one-story homes with thatched roofs, where the East India Company used to house English sailors. Eventually, bungalows got bigger and moved to Britain (the thatched roofs disappeared). Even later, the bungalow style crossed the Atlantic and joined America’s Arts and Crafts movement.

The original bungalows.

U.S. bungalows boomed between 1900 and 1930. The lower-middle class was moving out of apartments and into private houses, and bungalows were cheap. You could order a bungalow kit from the Sears and Roebuck catalog for as little as $900. That was in 1910, but $900 back then still only equates to $23,500 today.

Bungalows took most American cities by storm. They sprung up in established neighborhoods, often congregating along streetcar lines. In many 1920s cities, you could find a “Bungalow Belt” of newly constructed homes.

A Chicago, IL bungalow, built in 1925. Most Chicago bungalows were built between 1910 and 1940, and usually made of brick, with one-and-a-half stories and a full basement. This style represents nearly one-third of Chicago’s single-family houses. The main unique feature of the Chicago bungalow are the gables: these are parallel to the street, rather than perpendicular, as in most bungalows. Photo by Silverstone1.

The Bungalow Present

Many of those original homes survived. They predated urban sprawl, so you’ll find them in the old streetcar neighborhoods like Ballard, Maple Leaf, and Green Lake. Although bungalows might have looked cheap back then, they look charming today. Bungalows have character, history, and, more often than not, some of the best locations.

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