If you’re wondering what a “Chicago Bungalow” exactly is, you can find a charming street lined with them in Wilmette, just west of Green Bay Road.
Drive west on Wilmette Ave to Oak Circle, then turn south. This cobblestone, curvilinear street, is lined, almost exclusively, with Chicago Bungalows. Fifteen to be exact. As you walk onto the street and eye one bungalow after another, you immediately feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
The word bungalow comes from “bungla” a type of housing that was built in 19th century India primarily for British officers stationed there at that time. In India the bungla was a thatched or tiled one-story house with a wide verandah. The main premise behind the modern day bungalow is its relaxed, informal setting, as opposed to the busy Victorian mansions that were popular at the time.
Between 1910 and 1940 thousands of bungalows were built throughout Chicago using inspiration from the Prairie School as well as the Arts & Crafts Movement, both of which favored simplicity and excellent craftsmanship. During this period, Chicago’s population was growing by leaps and bounds, and housing had to accommodate this growth.
Bungalows share some distinct architectural characteristics. Made out of brick, they are typically one and a half stories. With spacious rooms and full basements, they were affordable and highly desirable for families. They came with detailed woodwork and moldings, built in bookcases and an open floor plan. Often with intricate woodwork, mason and metal work, Chicago bungalows are rectangular in shape, with large windows and exterior stone accents.
Oak Circle was the first neighborhood in Wilmette to receive recognition as a Historic District by the Wilmette Historic Preservation Commission. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley, himself a bungalow resident, recently established the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative to foster an appreciation of the Chicago bungalow.
Fortunately, people are now beginning to realize the architectural significance of owning a piece of Chicago history. So if you feel like a walk down memory lane, hop on over to Oak Circle as this special street truly deserves a second look.
About the author: Lifelong North Shore resident Danielle Dale graduated from New Trier and the University of Rochester with a B.A. in Philosophy in ’98. A passion for interior design, architecture and real estate, are the primary sources of inspiration in her writing. If you know of a period home you would like to read more about in Make It Better, please email Danielle at [email protected].