Bungalow Bounceback

Better known for its Prairie-style architecture in the heart of Frank Lloyd Wright country, Chicago has long dismissed its endless rows of brick bungalows as humdrum. The basic homes were built for the city’s working class–mostly immigrants–in the 1920s as an urban respite, located just four to eight miles from downtown.

But the current issue of the National Trust’s magazine, Preservation, reports that after decades of quietly subsisting, the so-called “bungalow belt”–some 80,000 homes strong–has benefited from a new boon of popularity.

More than just a question of historic preservation, reviving the bungalows has become a means of providing affordable housing, creating a green housing stock, and revitalizing Chicago’s neighborhoods.

“The initiative started with virtually no knowledge on the public front about what a bungalow was–it was an old house that your grandmother used to live in,” says Jim Peters, director of preservation planning at Landmarks Illinois. “Now, a bungalow is a desirable thing to have. People have seen the quality of these buildings, have seen how they can be adapted and upgraded. That wasn’t the case 15 years ago.”

The bungalows have emerged as a model for the convergence of historic preservation and sustainability, not only because of their eco-friendly restorations, but also because they’re an alternative to new construction in the sprawling exurbs.

Six of the bungalow neighborhoods were recently added to the National Register, and the renowned Chicago Architecture Foundation added two bungalow tours to its lengthy roster of offerings.

Preservation explains that though the bungalows were mass produced, “the craftsmanship was superb and the details were stunning–limestone accents, art glass windows, oak trim, slate roofs, checkerboard face brick.”

Learn more at the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative, or read Preservation’s profile of two happy bungalow owners in Chicago’s south side.

Photo: Ken Ilio on Flickr