By Laura Stuart
In villages blessed with historic houses, owners dedicated to their revival and neighbors happy to shell out a few bucks to see the results, housewalks are a slam dunk in Oak Park and River Forest. Pleasant Home Foundation is joining the parade, but with a few twists.
On Saturday, Oct. 8, the foundation will present a tour of Oak Park bungalows, part of a two-day series of events entitled "Beautiful Bungalows: A Celebration in Oak Park."
A bungalow housewalk hasn't been done before, according to volunteer researcher Peg Zak. And unlike most housewalks, all of the homes on this tour are south of Lake Street, with four of the six located south of Madison Street as well.
Zak, who lived south of Madison in Oak Park for 37 years before moving to Brookfield, recalls a comment from a rare South Oak Park housewalk many years ago. "Someone said to me, 'I never knew there was anything south of Madison Street.' And she meant it nicely."
There are, according to Zak, about 100 bungalows in the area of the upcoming tour, and about 500 in Oak Park. "We're moving up a little in history‚Ä"from the 1900s to 1930s" with this walk, away from the more typical Victorian or Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. "It's important history," she says.
All proceeds will fund operating and restoration expenses for Pleasant Home, designed in 1897 by Prairie School architect George W. Maher. The site is a National Historic Landmark and property of the Park District of Oak Park. "We've done many house tours over the past decade, but this is the first time in Oak Park in a number of years," says Laura Thompson, the foundation's executive director.
The bungalow celebration was inspired by the release of a book, Beyond the Bungalow: Grand Homes in the Arts and Crafts Tradition by Paul Duchscherer. Pleasant Home is featured in the book, and Duchscherer will be present for a cocktail reception, lecture and book signing on Friday, Oct. 7 at Pleasant Home. He'll also attend a reception Saturday evening, Oct. 8, in a River Forest bungalow that features a restored Arts and Crafts interior and the owners' extensive collection of art and antiques.
Along with the Saturday housewalk, weekend events include a Friday trip to Crab Tree Farm for a tour of a recently constructed bungalow based on Harvey Ellis' 1903 Craftsman magazine article, "How to Build a Bungalow." For details and ticket information for all events, see the box above.
What is a bungalow?
Zak readily admits that confusion surrounds terms like bungalow or Arts and Crafts. How many of us have more than a vague understanding of what they actually mean?
Zak shared research duties for the housewalk with Oak Park architect Lesley Gilmore. Gilmore explains that the term bungalow comes from "bangla," an adjective that literally means "belonging to Bengal" and describes British colonial dwellings in India that were low-lying, surrounded by a veranda and built with ample openings to provide ventilation in the hot climate.
"The American bungalow," writes Gilmore in material to be provided for the tour, "was among the simplest Arts and Crafts houses designed around 1900: a low, one-story house with a simplified plan and a modest price. . . . Bungalows commonly have tight floor plans with minimal space for hallways and the most room for living and dining areas that focus upon the fireplace. Ceilings are beamed and the rooms have inglenooks for seating and built-ins to hold books and prized objects. Fine craftsmanship and simplicity of detailing are stressed. Often art glass is set into a bungalow's windows and doors."
The style was adapted by architects in different regions of the country: a California Craftsman is not the same as a Chicago-style bungalow. According to Gilmore, a Craftsman has a full-width front porch under a front-facing gable, battered stone piers, shingled walls, exposed rafter tails and a prominent chimney. Chicago bungalows were designed to fit long, narrow city lots and usually are constructed of brick and stone with art glass windows in living room bays, a small side entrance hall and often a sun porch.
But they share many similarities: bungalows are typically one story or a story-and-a-half and include Arts and Crafts elements. (The Arts and Crafts movement began in England as a reaction to the Victorian era and machine-made production, and stresses simplicity of design, handcrafted objects and the use of natural materials and colors.)
On the Oak Park tour, variations of Craftsman and Chicago bungalows will be featured. All share the "aim of being cozy and enhancing an artistic lifestyle," says Gilmore.
Preview the tour
Owen H. Jones Home, 1920
639 S. Elmwood Ave.
Roy J. Hotchkiss, architect
This is a "spectacular" bungalow, the closest thing to a California Craftsman on the walk, says Zak, explaining that a California Craftsman is distinguished from an ordinary Craftsman by its larger size and a bit more care given to interior details. It's also the largest; although it's designed to look like a typical one-and-a-half story bungalow, it actually has a full second floor.
The architect, Roy J. Hotchkiss, was raised in Oak Park and worked as an apprentice to E.E. Roberts before striking out on his own. Among his notable buildings are Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Randolph Street and the Medical Arts Building at 715 Lake St.
Details to look for here, according to Zak, are the terrazzo floor in the breakfast room that extends onto the wall like a baseboard, the terraced wood moldings around the windows, doors and fireplace mantel, the original mosaic floor tiles in the bathroom and the casement-style windows (designed to let in more air than double-hungs). And notice the slate‚Ä"on the front porch and entry outside and around the mantel inside‚Ä"installed by the original owner, Owen Jones, who owned the Western Slate Company in Chicago.
Raymond J. and Dolly Parker Home, 1924
303 S. Scoville Ave.
Roy J. Hotchkiss, architect
This Chicago-style brick bungalow was also designed by Hotchkiss. It's a bit of an "oddball," says Gilmore, more expansive and with an atypical entry because it sits on a large corner lot. That entrance "opens up the floor plan" and allows for a grand entry with the living room on one side and the dining room on the other.
Notice the subtle exterior detailing that stresses the horizontal lines, Gilmore points out. The homeowners removed the green Spanish-style clay tiles, repaired the flashing and put the tiles back on 20 years ago, a "big decision and commitment" to preservation of the home, she says.
John S. Jones Home, 1923
711 S. East Ave.
E.E. Frazier, architect
This one-and-a-half story bungalow was build by Owen Jones for his son John and John's bride, Mary, as a honeymoon cottage. The present owners bought it from Mary in the early 1980s.
The first floor includes a living room that extends across the front of the house, and a small den with a fireplace with a slate mantel and a leaded-glass window. The original cabinets have been preserved in the kitchen, and the newly-built family room includes the old icebox door from the original back porch.
Harry V. Bernhardt Home, 1919
705 S. East Ave.
Jarvis Hunt, architect
It's "fascinating" that this "wonderful little Craftsman bungalow exists here," says Zak. The architect, Jarvis Hunt, designed the Vermont state building at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and is responsible for a number of railroad terminals. No other Jarvis buildings have been identified in Oak Park, and no one knows why this one is here.
In spite of its small size, the main rooms are "larger than expected," says Zak, a tribute to the bungalow floor plan that "gives little room to hallways so main rooms can be large and gracious." Original details include red oak floors, kiln-dried white oak woodwork and a Roman brick fireplace. The kitchen was expanded and updated in 2001.
Herman Moerke Home, 1908
704 S. Euclid Ave.
The exterior of this small, Craftsman-style bungalow has narrow clapboarding above a lower wall of shingles, separated by a wood beltcourse at windowsill height, explains Gilmore. "The different planes emphasize the ground-hugging, horizontal nature of the building."
The public rooms are large and gracious, flowing into each other through large openings. The "pristine, original" living room has a three-sided bay and restored fireplace.
Joseph F. and Nellie Emery Home, 1910
235 S. Scoville Ave.
The exterior of this one-story stucco bungalow is standard Craftsman, but the interior has elements of both Craftsman and Chicago styles, according to Gilmore. The living room, den and dining room are on the south side of the home, and the private rooms are on the north. The kitchen and pantry are west of the private rooms.
The heart of the home, Gilmore notes, is the dining room, with a wall composed of art glass windows depicting a continuous dogwood bough. The art glass surrounds a built-in sideboard lit by an original chandelier and sconces with iridescent Steuben globes.