Letter From the Editor: other early 20th century house types

Small Home Gazette, Fall 2016

Letter From the Editor: other early 20th century house types

This spring, during the Bungalow Club’s annual house tour, I spent time in one of the tour homes—a rectangular, three-story house with no fewer than three sun porches. As tour guests came and went, I heard a recurring question. Standing at one end of the voluminous living room or peering up the home’s central staircase, they’d say, “This is a bungalow?” 

The answer, of course, is no. For the record, four of this year’s tour houses were bungalows; two were much larger. Though the Twin Cities Bungalow Club was founded to advocate for the classic American bungalow (you’re reading the Small Home Gazette, after all), it quickly attracted others who live in, and love, other early 20th century house types. The Bungalow Club welcomes them with open arms. For while the homes’ forms may be different, interiors of the era share a familiar look and feel. And they’re usually located in the same neighborhoods as bungalows, where all houses need appreciation, maintenance and usually at least some restoration. 

Big house.

Not a bungalow.

But if these larger houses aren’t bungalows, what are they? Some house types had names when they were built, such as bungalows and Dutch colonials; others did not. House magazines from the ‘teens and ‘twenties described them as “generous,” “artistic,” “architect-designed” and “a square house built of wood.” 

Some of these larger houses are now instantly recognizable as American foursquares. Surprisingly, this label didn’t exist at the time foursquares were built. The term was apparently coined in 1982, in an article published in Old House Journal magazine. 

We love foursquares, so we’ve devoted a few pages of this newsletter to them. If you’ve been around for awhile, you may remember that the Bungalow Club’s 2007 home tour consisted entirely of foursquares. (We try to avoid such radical detours now, as we get complaints from our hard-core bungalow fans.) 

Though we embrace all house types built in the early 20th century, including the large ones, we do not embrace McMansions. What’s the difference between a large house built during the bungalow era and a McMansion? See article “American Foursquare Architecture and Interiors” in this issue to learn more.