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A Handy Guide to the Most Classic Types of Chicago Houses

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The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

Chicago is famous for its architecture, but there's more to the city than its sky-high towers. Throughout the city's neighborhoods, a wide variety of residential architecture can be found. Some neighborhoods are transforming at a fast pace with developers building new homes as fast as they can tear others down. However, there are a handful of architectural styles for residences that are commonly found throughout Chicago. The Logan Square-based design shop ALSO has recently completed a series on Chicago's classic houses and they have highlights ten different styles that you are probably familiar with. In addition to providing a brief history of each style, ALSO has prints of the hand drawn houses available in their webstore. If you've been in Chicago long enough, you've probably lived in at least one of these types of houses. Here's a look at just a few of the houses featured in the series.

The Bungalow

The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

With more than 100,000 bungalows in the Chicago metro area, this structure was the Windy City's new workers cottage for the 20th century. Constructed between 1910 and 1940, the bungalow was originally built for working-class owners and is characterized by it's one-and-a-half stories, brick construction, street facing verandas, and full basements. The Chicago bungalow was commonly built with limestone accents, dormered roof, and concrete entry stairs. The typical interior layout consisted of a living room, dining room, and kitchen on one side of the building, while the other side contained a series of bedrooms and a bathroom. The attic had ample storage and many homes featured a back porch, all of which was decorated in Arts and Crafts style woodwork. This truly was a new way life in the 20th century.

The Frame Two-Flat

The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

The two-flat has been called the workhorse of Chicago housing. Typically built from 1900 to 1920, these homes were a bridge for the working class between apartment life and the single family bungalows that were to follow. Commonly, the first floor housed the owner, while the second floor was a rental unit. The layout of both units was almost always the same. Two-flats were made of wood, brick, or stone and found in a variety of architectural styles. This example is a wooden balloon-frame construction with Victorian layout and ornamentation.

The Chicago Greystone

The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

With a distinct limestone facade harvested primarily from quarries around Bedford Indiana, the multi-flat greystone is Chicago's version of the New York brownstone. Constructed from around 1890 through the 1930's, they are found in a variety of ornamentation styles, with the most common treatment being a simplified Classical Revival. These houses were built as both single-family homes and multi-family buildings. Stacked apartments and a single street-facing entrance made multi-flat greystones hard to distinguish from their wealthier single-family counterparts. These features provided greystones with the appearance of grand and spacious living, while allowing a density not previously possible with smaller workers cottages.

The Courtyard Building

The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

The distinct U-shaped courtyard building was built around green space visible from the street. Largely constructed between 1910 and 1930, the units were initially sold as luxury housing. With a front entrance stairwell shared with only 5 neighbors, a large back staircase, and a design that allows for good cross ventilation, these buildings made for very pleasant city living. Courtyards were rarely built taller than 3 stories as Chicago ordinance made it expensive for developers to build higher, due to fire-code restrictions and elevator requirements.

The Worker Cottage

The Chicago Houses series from ALSO Design

The workers cottage was the original Chicago home, built as early as the 1830's and into the beginning of the 20th century. These were modestly scaled utilitarian buildings built of wood, while later versions (built after the Chicago fire of 1871) were made of brick. Typically, they were either one or one-and-a half stories in height, and had gabled roofs that faced the street. The "workers cottage" property type developed in response to the grid-like subdivisions common to Chicago, as the city grew around the mouth of the Chicago River. As time passed, the basic form of the cottage stayed the same, while ornamentation styles came and went. Early examples showcased a simple Greek Revival style, while later versions were adorned with the ornate Queen Ann style. Regardless of the ornamentation, these cottages were the backbone of early Chicago.
In addition to these houses, ALSO's series also features the brick three-flat, the brick cottage, the American Foursquare, the Ranch and Dutch Colonial styles. ·Chicago houses [ALSO]
·Estate of the Arts [Curbed Chicago]