Chicago’s north side bungalows: architecture for social distancing

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Post WWI in Chicago, this was the dream: move out from crowded downtown apartment buildings to far flung neighborhoods, into bungalows.

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There are bungalow districts all over Chicago.  I live near the West Ridge Bungalow District and these photos are from the blocks around Talman and Arthur streets.

(Pro tip #1: if you happen to be caught in a shelter-in-place order during a worldwide pandemic, try to live somewhere with interesting architecture within walking distance.)

(Pro tip #2: if you happen to be caught in a shelter-in-place order during a worldwide pandemic, bear in mind that if you have a lentil-sized bladder and plan to do lots of walking to see interesting architecture, that all public bathrooms will be closed.)

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Here’s a typical Chicago bungalow: brick with limestone details, one-and-a-half stories with a basement, side entry and set off from street.

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Topiary is a frequent landscaping choice for bungalow owners.

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In the unlikely event that I were to be a bungalow owner, I would adorn my yard with meticulously carved bushes and lawn ornament flourishes, such as this pink flamingo wearing a COVID-19 prevention mask.

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Few bungalows have garages, but occasionally you’ll see a built-in car park.

A typical bungalow has a finished basement and often a ground-level window to give it some natural light.

 

What stands out about the bungalows is the craftsmanship, which can be difficult to capture in pictures.  For example, many of the windows are leaded glass.

Some decorative details.

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This low-pitched room with an intersecting chimney is charming, no?

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This one is scaled like a bungalow but designed like a more traditional house.

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Okay, now these Tudor bungalows are just downright funky.

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This is my favorite bungalow: petite and perfect with a buttressed spaceship-like sun room.

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There’s a poem by William Wordsworth that I’ve long admired, which I’ve been thinking of recently as we’ve all been forced to stay home:

Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

After a few weeks on quarantine, I call bullshit on this sonnet.  Give me a narrow room, a pensive citadel: sure.  Confine me there, away from all thing humanist, social and living: that’s horrendous.

When the original bungalow owners fled the crowded city center, they didn’t move into isolation—-they built these adorable, perfectly scaled homes and lived companionably side by side.  Some privacy, lot’s of community: that’s the type of social distancing I can handle.

 

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How we got to the West Ridge Bungalow Historic District: on foot.
Where we slept: at home. Price: mortgage, assessments and utilities. Recommended: highly.

20 comments

  1. I loved this little tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope you, your wife and Baby Boy are in good health and able to get out for some air.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nemorino · · Reply

    What strikes me about these bungalows is that they are so close together, just a narrow walkway between one house and the next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since the area is densely populated, there aren’t really that many single family homes around here so the closeness makes sense (and probably made the bungalows more affordable). I forget what part of Evanston you are from but these days there are a lot more apartment buildings going up there too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting architecture.
    That said the flamingo with face mask is such a hoot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gotta have your dark humor!

      Like

  4. Moving from an apartment to one of these must have been a real delight. I liked the Tudor ones, but the sunroom one takes the biscuit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We live in a Tudor from the 1920’s so I have a special affection for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I wouldn’t live in an English bungalow not even if they gave one to me… much in the same way I wouldn’t live in an English rowhouse, or even a semi-detached one. Done, got the T-shirt, hated it all the way.

    But a Chicago bungalow? Or a Chicago townhouse? Or a Chicago rowhouse (assuming it’s the right name)? Sign me up! Great little tour, hope you guys weather this storm as quickly as possible.

    Fabrizio

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not as concerned as the type of place I live, as about where it is. I have to live in a city—a good one, like Chicago or London.

      Best to you as well Fabrizio!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Very beautiful architecture and houses (buildings)! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Times have changed, haven’t they.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, so much even in the last few weeks!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I like the sense of safety that masked flamingo give me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In these unsettling times, we need our lawn ornaments to set a good example.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bungalows always used to be popular for old people, because of the lack of stairs, although these all seem to have steps to get in so that wouldn’t really work,
    I hope you’re finding lots of different walks to take in your neighbourhood. I'[m getting so bored of the same stretch for my state-sanctioned 1 hour of exercise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re only allowed one hour walking a day? How is that even enforceable?

      We have been walking a lot, but in different places like alleys and parking lots (to stay away from others). Our place is right by the lake but the beach front parks are closed off.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. So if AGMA was to move to Chicago…what bungalow neighborhood would you recommend? Hypothetical of course… 🙂 And I am totally smitten by your pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh please do move to Chicago! Don’t you have grandkids here?

      Naturally, you should move to the West Ridge bungalow district, but maybe wait a bit because right now we are the epicenter of the Chicago coronavirus outbreak. :/

      Like

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