Monday, October 10, 2016

The Eye of the Beholder

I grew up in a suburban post-war subdivision. Every house looked exactly like the house next to it. Cape Cod style homes with the only distinguishing difference between them being the paint on the outside, and the orientation. Your home was either lined up parallel to the street or at a ninety degree angle to the street. Our house was on a ninety degree angle, but that didn't matter. On the outside and the inside our house was the same as all my friends homes.

In the nineteen twenties, in Chicago, there was a building boom. Over a hundred thousand brick bungalows, all very similar, were built. Unlike the place where I grew up, they at least tried to vary them. Here in Arcadia Terrace we have a lot of those bungalows, and over on Washtenaw Avenue are two identical bungalows, side by side. At least they used to be identical. One of the owners apparently needed some extra room, so they built up. I call it the Pagoda House and I'm not sure if I like it or not. But at least it's not a cookie cutter look and I think they executed the idea well.

Originally identical. The Pagoda House next to it's twin.
At the end of the nineteen twenties the depression hit and the building boom stalled. I don't think there were any homes built after 1929 in Arcadia Terrace. After World War Two ended there was a big housing shortage. Once again building began and any empty lots in our neighborhood were filled in. Now the nineteen forties two flats weren't too awful. Not as grand as the ones built in the twenties, but not horrible. By the mid nineteen fifties and into the sixties however, Chicago was cursed with some pretty damn ugly residential architecture. Ugly little yellow brick bungalows that they now called "ranch" houses, and yellow brick two flats with fake stonework that looked more like hemorrhoids than anything. There are a number of those around here, but I did notice one over on Washtenaw that has been redone in a most tasteful manner. They stripped off the face brick on the front of the building along with the "hemorrhoid" stonework, and replaced it with nice reddish, brown brick. They also took down the ugly porch and replaced it with a decent entryway. I like what they did, and it gives me hope that one day Chicago may be rid of those hideous "mid-century" monstrosities.
1960ish version on the left. Redone version on the right.

And one more thing. I also noticed that somebody else on Washtenaw did a nice makeover on one of those nineteen twenties two flats. They took a rather boring brick two flat and updated it nicely.
That is black painted brick.