Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Waxing poetic on Chicago bungalows

It's 13 days until we have the keys to our new house--a Chicago bungalow.

Solid brick. 1.5 stories. Full basement. Beautiful woodwork. A perfect, functional, beautiful-in-its-own-way home for living and, even, raising a family.

I grew up on the Southwest Side of Chicago. A significantly wide portion of the Bungalow Belt passed just southwest of my neighborhood. I played Little League in a Bungalow Belt park. I went to grammar school on the very edge of the Belt--often even daydreamed out the windows looking out at the bungalow or two across the street. I passed through the heart of the Southwest Side's portion of the Belt pretty much every day through high school. And even though my parents' house was likely built just before the bungalow boom (I'm pretty sure it was), there are two bungalows right across the street, two next door and another two doors to the other side.

Most importantly, my grandparents, whom I loved dearly, lived in a Chicago bungalow minutes from my house, on a block that was, literally, ALL Chicago bungalows. They were in the Belt. They had a brick Chicago bungalow with, what seems rare to me, a full-width wooden front porch--it's an original feature too, as the roof/attic covers the porch. I absolutely loved their bungalow...I've driven by it every now and then since they passed away in the 1990s, and I can see what disrepair the place has fallen into, and it really does depress me sometimes. Part of me wishes I could buy the place and "preserve" or "restore" it. But another part of me fears what I would find inside. How it would be carved up, run down--or, well-taken care of, but with a design or something I didn't like at all. Either way, if I ever knew the place was for sale, it would be a vicious struggle for me to not buy it, somehow.

Obviously, my love for bungalows is only fueled by the great times I had at my grandparents' house. But, I love the look as well. I love the individuality, and the snobbiness I get to feel when I hear someone say, "What do you mean individuality? They're all cookie-cutter--they're the same!" Oh, don't get me started. To know the reasons that is so not true makes me feel good...

Also, really, to know a good part of the history behind the bungalow, and to be thrilled to discover a new version of one that I'd not seen before--that's also part of the fun.

My wife worried that I would be lazy and not fix up a house if we bought a "fixer-upper." This one is not a bad fixer-upper, but it does need work. Some things, the roof for example, will be contracted out. Other things, such as basement work, will be done by us, most likely. But my wife's worries about work getting done will likely turn more to budget worries. I think she underestimated my desire to restore our place to glory.

She's created a monster.

Through this blog, this monster hopes to share our trip. I will share photos, when possible, stories, and all that as well. If I find a contractor or product I like, I will glorify that. If I find a contractor or product I don't, well, you'll hear about that as well. It's free speech, and as long as I lay out the facts, that's what matters most. You can form your own opinions. I also plan to share any information about the house I think might be interesting...I want to find out about this house's history...and as I find out about it, I'll share the more cool things.

But I look at this blog as a record. We now own a piece of Chicago history, and I'm ready to add to that history. In reality, the title of this blog is perfect. I may not be a builder, and the bungalow I will be building may not be "better" to some.

But, now, my family history becomes intertwined with the history of an 83-year-old "landmark" of sorts. My family is part of the bungalow. It's like Daniel Burnham says up above--our sons and grandsons will do things that will stagger us.

So, I say, I'm ready to write a good story. My grandparents are waiting, after all.

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