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.
The American bungalow was the first affordable, quality house style that made that dream possible. Particularly drawn to the home design were Polish immigrants who had long sought sanctuary in Chicago in large numbers. At first clustering in the area that came to be known as “Polish Downtown” centered at the intersection of W. Division and N. Milwaukee some eight miles south of Gladstone Park, the Poles began spreading outward as their financial circumstances improved. In the city’s northwest where their money went farther, they found they could jumpstart making their dreams into realities with bungalows all their own.
With their influx into the neighborhood’s bungalows, Polish influence in Gladstone Park grew and continues to be strong as you will see in the Community section. Even today, Polish is the third most widely-spoken language in Chicago, after English and Spanish, and the Windy City still has the largest population of Poles outside of the mother country.
As the “everyman” house, the sturdy bungalow that became popular during the first two decades of the 20th Century offered formal living and dining rooms, a full working kitchen, and two bedrooms flanking a bath. Its compact floor plan typically ranged between 800 and 1300 square feet, fitting perfectly on 30- to 35-foot wide lots in Gladstone Park developments. Except for a handful of flat-roofed models, they had half-stories upstairs under hip roofs with front-facing dormer windows that made them ideal for expansion. They also had full basements and modern amenities such as hot water heat, city water and sewer, and electric service.
The William A Radford Co. (a direct competitor to Sears) offered many different models of bungalow house kits for homeowners eager to build their own modest dwellings on their own lots. Like Sears, it shipped the components to build entire dwellings, including numbered lumber pieces, doors, windows, and trim, across America. In 1925 it began offering a 30-foot by 51-foot brick model with five rooms and bath called The Gladstone. It is unknown whether any Radford Gladstone model house kits were built in Gladstone Park…or if they did, if they survived intact.
Stucco Bungalows were the first permutation of these compact style homes built in Gladstone Park (between 1900 to 1919), a few with red or green tile roofs.
But when the 1920s came along, the distinctly Chicago Brick Bungalow emerged. Constructed of locally-sourced materials, it had double-thick brick walls for superior insulation and fireproof abilities. The majority of models were designed with limestone accents and massive front masonry steps leading up entry doors accessible from half or full-width columned porches. An alternate style had its entry door at ground level on the side of the house, allowing for a solid wall of windows to face the street with interior stairs leading up to its main level.
Windows were generous, often in clusters of two, three, or more to let in natural light. More expensive models were not just larger, but had more elaborate windows, sometimes with art glass, built into half-hexagonal living room extensions, presaging the less substantial bay windows of the English Tudors built in the decades that followed. Narrow glass block windows in closets and bathrooms were common. Arched front doors, elliptical basement windows, built-in window boxes and imposing tapered porch columns were some of the other special features for those who could afford extras.
In the Gladstone Park developments, only a few basic exterior bungalow designs show up in great numbers. But you’d never know it, for builders deliberately varied the façade of every single one so that each was distinct unto itself. No cookie cutters here! Look at the photographs to see how masons used face (fancy) brick of multiple colors and styles on their fronts, integrating patterns with decorative stone accents to create distinctively different appearances even on houses with the same exterior structural design.
At the same time the brick bungalow was multiplying in Gladstone Park, the more modestly-priced Frame Craftsman Bungalow that otherwise looked similar was being built in the community. Because they were meant to hunker down onto a landscape of cold winters with abundant snow, their basic wood-clad shapes were boxier with fewer flourishes than those of their Chicago brick cousins. In this way they were also radically different from the California craftsman style bungalows with all their exterior decorative details such as exposed rafters and pilastered front porches.
For more on how Gladstone Park’s standout stock of homes were built and serve to enhance residential life in the neighborhoos, see Development and Vintage Home Living.
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