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The Prairie School of Architecture: Chicago Bungalows

Updated on February 28, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

The Prairie School

No style of architecture says American more than the Prairie Style Bungalow that sprung up all around Chicago in the early 1900s. Developed by a group of men that included the incredible Frank Lloyd Wright, the Prairie School impacted the architecture of homes all over the United States before it was through.

 Historic Chicago Bungalow,Ravenswood Manor, Image:flickr
Historic Chicago Bungalow,Ravenswood Manor, Image:flickr

Historic Chicago Bungalows

More than thirty percent of the homes in Chicago are classified as bungalows and built between 1910-1940. Most of these homes were simply homes for working class families. For the first time in American history there was a rapidly growing middle class and the bungalow fit them perfectly.

The bungalows sprung up and wrapped around Chicago, becoming known as the bungalow belt. While there were neighborhood divisions according to economic status, there was an increasing mixture of ethnicity in the neighborhoods.

Prior to these middle class neighborhoods the different ethnic groups maintained themselves in isolated groups, the Polish area, the German area, the Irish area, and so on. Now they groups were living together as well as working together and the city was changing because of it. The one snag in this progress was the Chicago ordinance that kept African Americans out of these otherwise integrated neighborhoods until the Supreme Court overturned the ordinance in 1948. By the early 1950s African Americans had taken their place in the cultural mix of the Chicago Bungalow Belt.

How to Identify a Chicago Style Bungalow

There are certain architectural features which are common to all of these Chicago, or Prairie style bungalows.

  • Low pitched, hipped roofs with wide overhangs.
  • Two Story
  • Huge squares of masonry used to support porch roofs

  • Broad, flat chimneys
  • Rows of casement windows
  • Most bungalows in Chicago were brick
  • Roof gables are parallel to the street
  • Generous amounts of windows
  • Craftsman details and built-ins

A Return to Grace

The Chicago Bungalow neighborhoods are enjoying a return to grace. Young working professionals are buying these once beautiful homes, and restoring them. There is a return to the urban areas, the idea of local community within a large city, and the desire for a simple life where utilitarian things are beautiful as well.

The bungalow is being rediscovered as the perfect home to celebrate the Chicago lifestyle. With help from a group called, The Bungalow Initiative, homeowners are able to improve and modernize their historic homes. This will ensure that the bungalows will provide sturdy, and exquisite homes for the generations to come.


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    • tracykarl99 profile image

      Tracy 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Nice hub. I enjoyed reading it. I have seen bungalows like these in Portland, too.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Beautiful buildings! But how can they be bungalows with two storeys?

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I like Chicago, and the bungalows are good looking. Enjoyed the hub, Marye.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      embitica- I like the cottages in Carmel the best!

      c.s-thank you. I love architecture of all sorts but especiallyt he bungalow-arts & crafts-craftsman style.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      My father was an architect and I grew up on a stool next to him watching as he worked. This exact bungalow style always triggers my memories of home and family. I know that Dad's work and those houses impacted my career as an artist and designer. I wanted to study drafting in school but was not allowed because of my gender. I am thankful that some things have changed in society, and also that those bungalows have not. Really liked this hub.

    • embitca profile image

      Emma 9 years ago from Boston

      I'm partial to California bungalows myself, but I do really like the Chicago ones as well. Great hub!