Berwyn and the Bungalow

Berwyn has long been recognized for its top quality housing stock, from Victorians to ranch homes; however, it is the bungalow that is the predominant architectural style in this city.  These homes exhibit elaborate design elements typically not seen in other types of architecture, such as stained glass windows, clay tile roofs, terra cotta, and intricate brick patterns.  Although there have been many versions of the bungalow built around the world since the late 1800s, the “Chicago-style” bungalow is the predominant style found in Berwyn.  According to School of the Art Institute, Berwyn has the most significant collection of Chicago-style bungalows in the nation.

Early bungalow developers recognized the efficiency of apartment living, and looked to give buyers an acceptable alternative to the apartment.  In a July 1912 edition of Country Life in America, architect Thomas E. Tallmadge offered a perspective about bungalow living that still resonates a century later saying, “In our opinion to simplify the problems of housekeeping… [T]he bungalow… should have the advantages of a good apartment and in addition, of course, the joys of sole proprietorship and the possibility of a garden and outdoor home life, which the denizens of our modern apartment buildings have not, of course.  It seems to us that the bungalow, therefore, has a distinct place in American life and architecture.”

The majority of Chicago-style bungalows were built between 1910 and 1940.  Development of this unique new home was fueled by the national bungalow craze and Chicago’s own Prairie style.  They are typically constructed from brick and have one and a half stories with a full basement.  The front façade features a decorative face brick embellished with limestone details.

In Berwyn, bungalows are differentiated from one another with either an offset or a side entrance, and a flat or curved façade.  They may have a polygonal, square, or curved bay with hipped, true gable or Jerkinhead roofline.  This variety of textures, colors, and design combinations provided bungalow developers with dozens of options for setting each home, though similar in overall shape, apart from its neighbors and creating a uniform, yet unique city.

In the summer 2007 issue of American Bungalow magazine, Mike Williams identified what sets Berwyn’s bungalows apart from others in Chicago: “You see architectural details and a level of ornamentation seldom seen elsewhere.  A bungalow’s soffits, fascia and gutters may be crafted entirely of copper.   Leaded glass may appear not just in the front windows but in every window, including the basement.  Face bricks are laid not just in simple rows but in complex, dizzying patterns, embellished with beautifully carved limestone ornaments.”  Bungalow blocks in Berwyn, regardless of type of bungalow built, convey a cohesive character with modest stylistic variation framed by pre-established building lines and street lawns, and create the syncopated rhythm block after block that has helped Berwyn residents build a strong and unified community.