American (Non-Bungalow) Style: American Foursquares, Federal Colonials, Cape Cods, Raised Ranches

Row of Frame American Foursquares c.1924

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.

Why? Those electing to build American Foursquares and Federal Colonials were clearly in the market for larger homes. That much more house — 2,000 or more square feet versus about 1,200 for the typical bungalow — meant that their pocketbooks had to be fuller.

The American Foursquare built in Gladstone Park during the 1920s rejected late 1800s Victorian architecture that preceded it. Symmetry was traditionally maintained by positioning the front door in the center flanked by equal numbers of windows on both sides and above on the second level. Its exterior design featured with full-width front porches, cutting out ornateness for “honest’ Prairie School styling. Rather than warrens of rooms inside, it typically had four large squarish rooms in the corners of each of two levels, as befits its foursquare name. A dormered third floor was available for more space.

Those in Gladstone Park who sought to build a larger Federal Colonial wanted a house in the brick Greco-Roman style like those that sprang up in the Mid-Atlantic region during the early days of the republic. These two-and-a-half story brick homes were also symmetrical in appearance with centered front doors off porches supported by massive white columns. Built in the community from the 1920s to the 1970s, they never entirely went out of style and some aspects of them show up in more modern constructs of hybridized designs. (Some of these are pictured in One-of-a-Kind houses.) Note that these homes were distinctly different from other types of Colonial Architecture that is more prevalent in Gladstone Park: the more modest Dutch “Deutsch” Colonials built by the Germans and Georgian Colonials (found under German Styles and English Styles respectively on this website).

Meanwhile, in the late 1940s through the 1990s, Cape Cods and raised ranches came into vogue just as potential homeowners and builders were scooping up the last remaining vacant lots in Gladstone Park.

Found in scattered locations in the community, the Cape Cod had originally been adapted for cold, snowy New England winters, so were a great fit for Chicago. Its heyday was from the 1930s to the 1950s although the style remains popular enough that some of its features also show up in new houses still being built today.

While the exterior of the Cape Cod might not appear significantly different from that of the bungalow — both were 1-1/2 stories with dormers for second floor expansion — their interior floor plans were completely different. As another form of colonial, the Cape Cod also maintained symmetry. Its front door was in the middle of its façade and entered onto a centralized staircase with rooms on both sides. Since the Cape Cod was generally wider rather than deep, be sure to look for examples in Gladstone Park that, like the Dutch Colonials before them, were rotated 90 degrees on their lots so that their sides face the streets.

The Raised Ranch developed out of the sprawling, low-slung dwellings found on the open ranges of the American West. As such, it had to be adapted to the constraints of the Gladstone Park city lot as well as to Chicago’s environment. The ranches photographed here were built between the 1940s and 1970s, most with five to six steps up to their main levels to combat the area’s swampy clay soil that threatened to leak water into houses. Without any sort of second story, these more compact ranches were designed strictly for one-level living with no interior stairs except to their basements.

Larger ranches in Gladstone Park tend to be found on non-standard (wider and shallower) lots inadvertently created on corners by the community’s oddly-angled street intersections.

For more on how Gladstone Park’s standout stock of homes were built and serve to enhance residential life in the neighborhood, see Development and Vintage Home Living.

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