Bungalows a turn-of-the-century phenomenon

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2011 06:00 am | By Laura Tanner

The bungalow in the western world is a turn-of-the-century phenomenon. The word comes from the Hindi word ‘bangla’ which means ‘Bengali style house’. The style found its way to North America via England.

In England before the First World War, the building process was changing. Did you know that 90 per cent of dwellings there were rented rather than owned at this time?

The middle class was growing, housing co-operatives popped up, freehold and leasehold tenures were becoming more acceptable, as were mortgages.

The trend in the new phenomenon of suburbs was for wider lots (rather than the city’s terrace housing), so single-family homes could have a larger footprint.

The bungalow is actually more expensive per square foot than a two storey or row house because of the smaller ratio of living space to foundation, but the style flourished in the English suburbs nonetheless.

Popular house styles moved from the very elaborate Victorian to more efficient and simpler Edwardian designs. Health and sanitation were major concerns, so plenty of natural light was provided through larger windows. The kitchen, as well as bathroom, were planned more carefully and efficiently, with an eye to cleanliness.

In Alberta, a turn-of-the-century bungalow would be a low house with a broad front porch and low slope roof, with no upper floor or second floor rooms built within the roof, as in a storey and a half.

The style most known in southern Alberta from this time is the Craftsman or Arts and Crafts house. The Arts and Crafts movement was a step away from mass production and towards the craft of the individual artist.

The style is characterized in part by the stone foundations and fireplaces placed on the exterior of one side.

The large front porch is an extension of the roof, with large overhangs revealing exposed rafters or decorative brackets and supported by large columns.

The green clapboard home at 2113 20 Ave. with the stone foundation is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts style.

Started by Walter Durrer in 1918, he was possibly still building in 1921 as suggested by a bit of newspaper later found in the walls.

Mr. Durer put a lot of work into this house, planning and finishing each piece of wood by hand and building the stone fences. It was sold in 1929 and the Durrers moved to the ‘White House’ on 19 Avenue.

The Edwardian era, as with the Victorian, fostered several different styles. An example of a less radical Edwardian style is the Leismer House.

On the corner of 23 Avenue and 21 Street, this beautifully restored home was built by George and Martha Leismer in 1910 for a growing family, including Evelyn Liesmer who gave piano lessons here.

The Liesmers sold the house and moved to Calgary in 1938 and in 1964 it was one of the first lodges for the elderly in Alberta.

Several additions were made including the northwest wing, the outdoor stairs and the extension of the east side porch.

Bungalows were often also called cottages. What I think of as a cottage is the white clapboard bungalow on the corner of 23 Avenue and 20 Street.

The owner of this house was G.B. Sexsmith, a Massey-Harris dealer who became Didsbury’s first mayor in 1904.

From the late 1940s to the 1960s the bungalow form was further simplified to a straight rectangle with a low slope roof, stucco or wood siding exteriors.

The half storey under the roof is replaced with a full storey in the basement, and the front porch is reduced to a small roof directly over the door if there is one at all. There are several examples of these around town.

A variation on the raised bungalow is the concrete block home on 23 Avenue. It is significant because it is said to have been built by the railroad in the 1960s for its employees.

The bungalow house form in North America is a form that has evolved over the years and still remains very popular.

Laura Tanner is a local architectural designer and owner of dwelling space inc. If you have any details to add or corrections to make please contact her at 403-518-2894 or info@dwellingspace.ca


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