Bricks into gems
Chicago's neighborhoods are filled with bungalows. Now they're getting their due.
Bill Faude and his wife, Julie Michaelson, bought a bungalow on Chicago's North Side nearly three years ago because they liked the sturdy brick home, its surprising spaciousness, and the craftsmanship evident throughout the house.Skip to next paragraph
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What they have since realized is that they also purchased a piece of Chicago history. "This is kind of Chicago's signature home," Mr. Faude says.
In this city of first-rate architecture, some of the world's tallest buildings, and a history that includes great architects such as Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright, the humble bungalow is finally getting its due.
While a bungalow is generally defined as a small house or cottage, and styles vary around the United States, most Chicago bungalows have certain distinctive features. They are 1-1/2-story brick structures with pitched, overhanging roofs, sheltered entrances, full basements, and sun porches or living rooms in the front.
The first floor of a bungalow has roughly 1,200 square feet, with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and three bedrooms. But because bungalows have full basements and small attics, usable square footage can double if the storage space is converted into rooms.
Designed in the Arts and Crafts style, the homes contain prominent detailed windows, intricate woodwork, and Art Deco details throughout.
"They have a lot of innate qualities that are worth appreciating," says Charles Shanabruch, executive director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative, a city-run program intended to help preserve the distinctive houses. "They have a lot more character than what people would find in a tract home."
"They are so much head and shoulders above the craftsmanship you're going to find in a new, middle-class house," says Paul Duchscherer, an interior design consultant in San Francisco who has written three books on bungalows. "They just ooze charm and character."
Bungalows account for nearly one-third of Chicago's single-family homes, and hundreds of thousands of mostly middle- and working-class people have called the "bungalow belt" home during the past century. This belt, which includes dozens of neighborhoods, is essentially a semicircle that separates downtown and the lakefront from the suburbs.
"In many neighborhoods [bungalows] are the backbone of the community," says Jack Markowski, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Housing. "Whole neighborhoods were developed with this type of housing."
Bungalow building began in the early 20th century and continued through the post-World War I era, when the city was booming. They provided a way out of the congestion and tenements of the inner city for working-class families, many of whom were immigrants.
The "bungalow belt" was not limited to the working class, though. Many of the city's business and political elite lived in bungalows, including the Daley family. Mayor Richard M. Daley was raised in a bungalow in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the city's Southwest Side with his six siblings. And his mother, Eleanor "Sis" Daley, wife of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and the city's unofficial matriarch, continued living there until her death in February.
In the early 1900s, Mr. Shanabruch says, bungalows sold for about $5,000; some cost even less. Today they sell for a range of prices. Homes that haven't been taken care of in working-class or lower-middle-class neighborhoods could sell for less than $100,000. A refurbished bungalow in an upscale North Side neighborhood may cost several hundred thousand dollars. A large bungalow on a corner lot might bring more than half a million dollars.