Friday, February 8, 2013

The Garden District Gallery of Bungalows

"Bungalow" has meant from its beginning 'of Bengal'.  It is one of those British Empire words, whose developed denotation also was adopted by America, but much later.  As we understood it, it was a Victorian kind of house in, for example, Bangalore. and its origin was native and humbler (Wikipedia, s.v., Bungalow).   Its American usage is fairly summed up by this California Bungalow in Alexandria, Virginia.  It is no wonder that the Wikipedia Commons does not feature ours; they are just like everyone else's, whose idea of house and home was, like mine, formed in the 1930s, when they were fairly new.  Only, ours are built on brick pillars, to let air circulate and avoid rot or to mitigate minor flooding. So let me begin by posting one of ours in Baton Rouge to compare with Alexandria's.  Bungalows like these were, and are, fairly prestigious among the homes of salaried families, and typically they are very well built.
Nice bungalow on Oleander Street  Here the upstairs rooms seem to be later.
The following may serve as an introduction. Never mind that they aren't identical; the varieties are legion.  You will find many that resemble them in all the trade catalogues of the late 'teens and 'twenties of the 20th century, but it is very rare that you will find an exact match.
First, the trade catalogues (and Sears are the best published) offer plenty of options for all the types and also offer to send plans, when they will work well,  flipped left to right, and all the millwork you might like, such as side lights by doors, lights above doors, window designs, etc.  To begin with, here, you might have gables or not, and you needn't have the upstairs bedrooms.
Second, with nearly a century's wear and tear, not to mention storms, at least half the bungalows have major renovations especially on the porches.  See the very instructive two pages of comparanda of the very same house pattern in St. Genevieve, Missouri, where, as the authors say, only the first remains essentially unaltered.  That type, by the way, is the 'bungalow' that resembles a double shotgun with its main wall right down the middle, under the ridgepole, which I shall also try to treat here, in the next post.

See Virginia and Lee McAlester's Field Guide to American Houses, pp. 18-19, which indeed is the best single book and still in print, with good reason.  No matter what you do to the porch and gables, the rooms and measurements remain the same (putting a camel-back onto the rear doesn't count).  By the way, these houses are quite different from New Orleans 'shotguns'.  My only complaint with the McAlesters is their including so few of ours.

Notice that here, and quite properly, the dormer window is opened out of the main roof, and the porch is structurally separate.  This is a definite bungalow, though details of the front may have been remodeled.
With Craftman brackets at the gable, with flat paired posts rather than columns across the porch and with the posts set on solid pillars, this seems the very type of the Craftsman-inspired modest bungalow.
Here the plain posts and the railings may (or may not) be a repair; painting the railing black to match the horizontal line of the porch looks good but is not original.
It may seem a moot point, but the traditional painting of these houses is almost as fixed as the syntax of a classical Order.
With a single continuous gable roof  and the front door to one side, this may be supported right down the middle under its ridge pole.
Similarly, painting the base of the pillar a different color from its capital (to match the wall color) is perfectly understandable but abnormal.  Even the Sears catalogue was quite clear about how it intended the houses to be painted!
But this one, with plain gables (no brackets, which are decorative in any case), and a center door  probably is differently arranged inside.  Also, the continuous clapboard above the posts is certainly late.

Apart from the rows of clapboard applied directly over the little block capitals (where traditionally some sort of architrave supplies continuous visual support which also is expressed by painting it white), this house is beautifully painted.  The corners may either match the posts or match the wall.
Like many others, this one has a truncated gable but with the expected Craftsman brackets.  The detail echoing the railings at the top of the porch probably belong to its recent repairs; a lot of houses since the last three hurricanes have been "worked on".  But this one is newly repainted and very well done.

The structure that looks like a prefabricated, but cut-out, barn serves as a porte cochere for the house that has its garage far back by the alley.