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All about architecture - the American bungalow

bungalow example
bungalow example

These narrow, rectangular one and one-half story houses originated in California during the 1880s as a reaction to the elaborate decoration of Victorian homes. The style then moved eastward to the Midwest in the early 20th century, where it remained popular until the Great Depression. Bungalows have low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs and small covered porches at the entry. The style became so popular that you could order a bungalow kit from Sears and Roebuck catalog. The name "bungalow" had its origins in India, where it indicated a small, thatched home. In a sense, the bungalow was a precursor to today’s ranch-style home.

The neighborhoods of Washington Park, Platte Park, Highlands, Sunnyside and Berkeley are replete with these homes.

An offshoot of the Arts and Crafts movement, bungalow designs emphasize a horizontal link between the house and the land around it. The use of natural, local materials and colors also reinforce this home-earth relationship. Overall, bungalows project a picturesque and homey feeling, both artistic and practical at the same time.

You'll recognize a bungalow by these features:

• - One or one-and-a-half stories

• - Low, sloping roof either gabled (front or side) or hipped, often with wide overhangs

• - Exposed roof structure (beams, rafters)

• - Exterior proportions balanced rather than symmetrical in arrangement

• - Modest front porch

Many American Bungalow-style homes were built from kits manufactured by Sears Roebuck. The Osborn, pictured here, ranged in price from $1106 in 1915 to $2192 in 1918.

In 1908 Sears began issuing a yearly catalog of house plans and construction supplies. This continued until 1940. The first catalog contained 22 plans for houses of moderate size and offered to supply specifications and materials. In 1913 Sears brought out a line of panelized buildings called "Simplex" houses. 1916 saw the first Sears "kit-house" offered for sale. This package included the entire house, with numbered parts and instruction booklets, paint and nails.

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