The Bungalow: the “Great American Home”
Few Americans know that the word “bungalow” derives from India’s Gujarati word “bangalo,” which meant a small Bengal-style one-story house, often with a “verandah” (another word from India) in front of it.
In America, the “California Bungalow” became a fabulously popular style beginning in the early 1900s. Bungalows were affordable, suiting the budgets of virtually all working people, and could often be built for less than a thousand dollars. Kit-home companies offered countless variations on the basic bungalow, many in styles that included Spanish, Colonial, Craftsman, Prairie and even two-story foursquares.
Here in Bloomington, Indiana, the city has countless bungalows, many of which were built by workers at the Showers Brothers Furniture Company in the early decades of the 1900s. Most are generic, but a good number of them are outstanding. A handful of high-style bungalows were designed by Bloomington’s early-1900s architect John Nichols. [Click any photo to enlarge.]
Features usually include a front gable end porch supported by tapering supports, overhanging eaves with exposed rafter ends, and often a front living room divided from the dining room behind it by two wooden columns on a half-wall that often included built-in bookcases. Sometimes the built-in bookcases flank each side of a chimney. High-end bungalows can have windowseats, colored glass side windows and exquisite wood floors.
Bloomington architect John Nichols was in the vanguard of the bungalow movement when he built himself a bungalow on North College in the 1890s, for the style was new and completely unlike the ornate and towering Queen Annes that were still being built at that same time. He built two houses to this same design, one with a porch made of local geodes and the other (just south of Third and Rogers) with a plainer wooden porch (the current one is a replacement). Both homes had the same semi-octagon shape on left and right, and exquisite woodwork inside.
Bungalows in Bloomington range in size from 600+ square feet to about twice that size for the 1-1/2-story versions. Many have been rehabbed after decades of hard wear as rentals. They are in many ways a perfect home: small, snug, well-built, efficient and ergonomic, attractive. Because so many of the core neighborhoods around the university campus and downtown contain bungalows, those who are lucky enough to live in them can bicycle or walk nearly everywhere. They are people-friendly in that the deep front porches make it convenient to hang out and wave to the neighbors and engage in conversation with passing friends.
Pasadena, California, has a huge bungalow neighborhood called “Bungalow Heaven.” I’ve driven through it and it’s extremely impressive. See http://www.bungalowheaven.org/
See American Bungalow magazine’s excellent description of different styles of bungalows at http://www.americanbungalow.com/all-about-bungalows/what-style-is-my-bungalow/
Gamble House in Pasadena is a wonderful two-story bungalow-mansion. http://www.gamblehouse.org/
And Chicago has a web page devoted to its own peculiar brick porchless bungalows, http://www.chicagobungalow.org/