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Chicago’s Diverse Housing-A Brief History

Chicago has quite a variety of housing types within its borders. It’s easy to recognize this when traveling through Chicago’s neighborhoods. Almost every type of architectural style exists including: Art Deco, Prairie, Gabled, Greek and Gothic revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor, Dutch Colonial Revival, Foursquare and Italianate. The list goes on and on.

Many of these architectural styles did not emanate from Chicago but were brought to Chicago by the immigrants who settled here. Of the Great Chicago Neighborhoods that these immigrants settled in, some of the more prevalent architectural types that became synonymous with Chicago were: The Two-Flat, Cottage, and Bungalow. Many other housing forms came to fruition including the addition of the mid-rise and hi-rise condo building.

Two flats served as the first residences for urban and rural families throughout northern Illinois. This early and dominant housing type evolved at the turn of the 19th century was from a traditional hall and parlor home. This was a simple rectangular, two-room structure with gables that faced the sides. Another name for these common houses were called two-flats. Extended families used to occupy these residences. There may have been up to eight to ten or more people living on the first floor and another family occupying the upstairs apartment. Over the years, these two flats were converted to single family homes rental apartment buildings and still exist today in some of the most desirable Chicago Neighborhoods.

Many two to four flats are still prevalent in Chicago’s Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, Ravenswood, Andersonville, Lincoln Square neighborhoods.

Another housing style was the simple hall-and-parlor farm houses.

Most hall and parlor homes consisted of four rooms on the first floor, as well as a formal entry hall. Over time, many owners expanded the simple rectangular hall-and-parlor form. These additions altered the basic shape of the house.

However, throughout most of metropolitan Chicago, urban residents adopted a second form that differed from the hall-and-parlor house, the traditional cottage. While cottages were also rectangular, their gables faced the front and rear rather than the sides of the house. Many one-story cottages contained a much different floor plan than the hall and parlor home, with bedrooms lining one side of the house and parlor, dining room, and kitchen along the opposite side.

In the 1920s, many cottages had been expanded and modernized to include amenities such as plumbing, gas and electricity. Nevertheless, these structures appeared old fashioned and out-of-date. In newer sections of the city and suburbs, Bungalows replaced cottages as the dominant common house form. Bungalows were more stylish and modern and were constructed with such amenities as central heating. Many historians have suggested that the bungalow derived from influences from California.

Many Chicago bungalows were of traditional design. They followed the same floor plan as six-room cottages:  dining room, parlor and kitchen on one side of the house, and bedrooms on the other. Overall, these bungalows were modernized cottages, placed on oversized lots, with more stylishly designed roofs, higher quality millwork, and newer amenities. You can find bungalows all over the city in neighborhoods such as: Andersonville, Avondale and Portage Park.

At the turn of the 20th century, many Chicago brick midrise apartment buildings were constructed in Chicago’s neighborhoods which had access to public transportation. These vintage apartment buildings still exist today and many have been converted to condominiums over the past 5-25 years. Properties such as the one pictured above can be found in neighborhoods such as: Lakeview, Graceland West, Ravenswood, Andersonville and Rogers Park.

In the late 1940’s & early 1950’s construction techniques began to transform buildings. Because of this, gracious near north side homes were razed to make room for hi-rise condo buildings. Projects such as the Mies Van Der Rowe’s glass and steel buildings, 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive. Located in Chicago’s Streeterville Neighborhood, these twin tower buildings represented the glowing example of Chicago’s new modern housing design.

Chicago is one of the most unique cities for architecture in the world. During 2000-2010, Chicago has seen its landscape explode with thousands of new condos, townhomes, green buildings, modern hi-rises, single family homes and the 3-8 multi-unit condo buildings.

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