Most people consider the bungalow to be one of the most quintessentially American types of architecture out there. So many of them sprang up during the 1920s and 1930s in communities across the country that it's easy to assume that they were originally developed here too. However, their roots stretch all the way over to India. In the U.S., they first appeared in southern California. So, how did the bungalow become so universally popular--and where can you find examples of bungalows in Massachusetts? Get the scoop about this enduringly popular style of home by reading on below.
During the time that the British colonized India, local British residents decided to develop a type of home that could serve as a waystation for weary travelers. Because these structures wouldn't necessarily house people on a full-time basis, they didn't need to be particularly strong or large. What they came up with was the precursor of what would become the bungalow that we all know and love. Interestingly enough, the term "bungalow" comes from the Indian-Hindustani word bangala, which means "belonging to Bengal." It simply reflects the fact that these homes were very abundant in the Bengal area of India, where they were originally developed.
Those first bungalows in India were developed during the mid-19th century. They didn't make their way to the States for another half century or so, when they started appearing in southern California around the turn of the 20th century. These homes were ideal for the region's warm climate. Their gently sloped roofs posed no real problem, as snow and ice aren't really issues in this part of the country. From the beginning, however, bungalows were never meant to be fancy. Rather, they served as practical and economical homes for families of that era.
Because these homes are so simple in design, some enterprising individuals realized that they could practically be put together by everyday people. Thus arose the era of the mail-order home. Without question, mail order catalogs are what truly propelled the bungalow to prominence around the country. While Sears, Roebuck and Co. is often cited when the topic arises, the reality is that another company, Aladdin Co. of Bay City, Michigan, sold far more of these homes. Indeed, Aladdin bungalow homes became ubiquitous in communities across the country. Many are still standing to this day, including in many parts of greater Boston and around Massachusetts.
Some of the most notable characteristics of bungalow homes include:
• Two or more stories - Bungalows always have more than one story. Two stories is the norm, but some have three or even four. Taller bungalows are most commonly found in more urban areas while two-story bungalows are more prominent in the suburbs.
• Large foundations - These types of homes are typically built on oversized foundations. The foundation often rises well above the ground, so it is not unusual for a series of steps to lead up to the front porch, which is often an exposed part of the foundation. Some of these homes have very small porches, but most have fairly large ones. Porches are typically covered so that people can enjoy time outside with at least a little protection from the elements.
• Sloped roofs - Unlike many homes in New England, which have steep roofs to prevent the buildup of snow, ice and rain, bungalows typically have sloping, low-pitched roofs.
• Exposed trusses - A traditional bungalow usually has exposed trusses. This used to be for practical reasons. Today, it is more about aesthetics than anything.
• Windows - Bungalows commonly feature double-hung windows.
• Materials - A variety of materials are used in the construction of bungalows. Brick, stone and concrete blocks are most commonly used, and you will find homes like these around greater Boston. Bungalows also usually have clapboard or cedar shingle siding, although more modern designs may incorporate vinyl siding and other materials.
While it made sense for bungalows to rise to prominence in sunny southern California, why were they embraced in areas like Boston? Mostly, it was about affordability and convenience. A person could flip open a catalog, choose the bungalow that they want, order it and have it put together in short order. When you think about it, however, bungalows aren't very practical in colder climates. Their interiors tend to be quite small, which is why they often have so much porch space. However, in a cold climate, the porch can only be used part of the time.
Although bungalows usually consist of two or more stories, they don't tend to be very large in general. This also contributes to their affordability. Not surprisingly, bungalows have long been wildly popular with people who are just starting out. Many folks end up buying a bungalow as their first home. Back in the day, this was often done by ordering the pieces from a catalog. Today, many of those mail order bungalows still stand, and they continue to house young families with limited budgets.
If you stroll through a typical neighborhood in Boston, you are unlikely to find any bungalows. This isn't because residents of the city were somehow opposed to this design. Rather, it's because by the time the bungalow building craze struck in the early 1920s, most neighborhoods in Boston were largely developed. There was very little space for new construction, so these houses were primarily built in outlying areas. You can find entire neighborhoods of bungalows in communities like Arlington, Medford, Watertown and Belmont.
There is one exception to the lack of bungalows in metro Boston. In Cambridge, Chetwynd Road is lined entirely with these distinctive homes. Therefore, if you live in the area and want a closer look, head over to Cambridge. In fact, if you are thinking about buying a bungalow, this area is probably one that you should consider.
For a long time, bungalows were strictly regarded as starter homes by most people. Those who bought them aspired to upgrade to something larger down the road. Today, however, people are rediscovering the many positive aspects of these simple yet practical homes. While it is unlikely that another bungalow building craze will ever happen, it does appear that these houses have enduring staying power. The one major caveat, which was already touched upon, is that they are difficult to come by in urban areas. As long as you are house hunting in the suburbs or in more rural areas, you should be able to take your pick from many well-maintained bungalows.
So, are you interested in purchasing a bungalow in a particular Massachusetts city or town? Boston City Properties can help. First, sign up using the simple form to gain free, instant access to our constantly updated database of MA real estate listings. In no time, you can zero in on homes for sale in your desired area, including bungalows. Later, contact us to be put in touch with a real estate expert in the area where you are looking. They can help you find bungalows that suit your requirements. Before you know it, you will be moving into your lovely new bungalow. For more information, please give Boston City Properties a call.