Before Ludwig Mies van der Rohe took downtown Chicago by storm with his stripped down modernist mid-century buildings, there were English Tudors in Gladstone Park in all their decorative frill. In architecture, timing is everything. During the first three decades of the 20th Century, the Volga Germans had been busily constructing their iconic Dutch Colonials in the southern part of the community while homegrown developers were simultaneously building ever-so-popular Bungalows. But when English Tudors started trending in the 1930s and 1940s, there were still many vacant lots in the central and northern parts of Gladstone Park.
We can’t talk about bungalows in Gladstone Park without talking about the American Dream. As the original motivator that lured millions to our shores and to Chicago in particular, it lit a fire in European peasants who had been excluded from bettering their lives by the class structure of the Old World. Immigrants came not only to seek basic human freedoms, but also for the opportunity to achieve what had previously been impossible for them to do in the lands where they had been born: own their own homes.
Drive around the southern part of Gladstone Park and you can’t help but see rows upon rows of Dutch colonials on neat green lawns. The distinctive gambrel roofs of these modest-sized dwellings are the legacy of the Germans (“Deutsche”) who immigrated to Chicago and Jefferson Park/Gladstone Park specifically in great numbers.
During the first three decades of the 20th Century, developers were busy supplying the thirst for affordable homes in Gladstone Park with the ever-popular bungalow. The going rate for a basic bungalow of about 24 x 50 feet in an improved area “with hot water heat” in Northwest Chicago was then approximately $6,500, according to The Chicago Bungalow (Chicago Architecture Foundation). Some potential homeowners in Gladstone Park bucked this trend and it is their houses that are represented here. They are the ones who bought vacant property in the area for $1,500 an acre (if not subdivided) or from $150 to $450 for a 30 x 125 foot lot. Then they contracted with independent builders to erect something different: an American Foursquare or a larger Federal-style colonial. While these, too, are quintessentially American styles of architecture, they are not found in great numbers in Gladstone Park.
One-of-a-kind houses can be defined as rarities, constructions you wouldn’t find anywhere else. The photographs of Gladstone Park’s one-of-a-kind houses are not like that. They’re more like curiosities for our neighborhood. Some of the pictures found here show houses that were one-of-a-kind custom builds when they went up. Many of these newer houses mixed features from many styles so they are like hybridized flowers: charming blends of a number of species that can’t, by themselves, be easily identified.
If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, you can probably still sing the Sesame Street song “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other).” Maybe you remember how the exercise they repeated on the show taught you to look carefully at the items on the TV screen to pick out the one that was different. That’s exactly what you’ll be doing when you look at the photographs of these pairs (and rows) of Gladstone Park houses. You will see side-by-side structures that are similar in topology, a fancy word architects use to describe their physical characteristics. If you want to get technical, you’ll be looking from one structure to its near twin for “the mutation of form, structure, context…of interwoven patterns and complex dynamics,” according to All About Architecture on Medium.
When builders were putting up bungalows, Dutch Colonials, English Tudors, Georgian Colonials and raised ranches in Gladstone Park in the early- to mid-1900s, there was no such thing as “the starter house.” The original homes, with their formal living and dining rooms, ample working kitchens and at least two good-sized bedrooms and a bath were considered spacious. How times have changed. We no longer pile two, three, even four children in one bedroom. We can’t fathom how a whole family can share one bath. We need more room for chopping vegetables, making coffee, microwaving. We want space for recreation, office work, and hobbies. And thus arises the itch to expand the home for more modern sensibilities.
The good news about multifamily housing in Gladstone Park is that there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to different choices at various prices. These range from rental apartments to two-flats to one floor of a two-story vintage house to senior suites. In addition, some investment-owned condos are rented out. The bad news is that so many people seek out these competitively-priced units in the community that they often get snapped up within a day or two of being advertised.