For Part 1 :: The Significance of the Bungalow in Northeast Baltimore
Revisiting Anneth (On Remodeling a Bungalow)
In part one of this article, we met AJ and Kenneth. They live in Lauraville; their house for the sake of the article, I have dubbed Anneth. They both work in Baltimore. They are active in their community association, NOGLI, and they have been gracious enough to open their home up to us.
While I spent a good bit of time, providing history, contextualizing, the primary purpose of my visit was to get a sense of what it takes to remodel an of-era American bungalow.
There was a little uncertainty surrounding when this bungalow was built. AJ tells me that one set of papers points to 1917 as the year the plot on Overland Ave. was deeded. Other paperwork indicates that the house may not have been built until 1933. Without extended legwork, the amount of which is beyond this piece, there may be no quick way to tell for sure. (More discussion on this coming in an “outtake”.)
Regardless of the date it was actually constructed, this home was built squarely within what can be called the bungalow’s day. Most historians technically place this in the period running from 1900 into the 1930s.
When remodeling, know what you have and . . .
You have probably heard it said, The house has good bones. Good bones, typically refers to the structure of a house; it means, in other words, the framing is solid, the house is standing upright, and that it, generally, is in good enough condition to accept whatever finish one might apply to it.
This house on Overland Ave. has good bones. Yes. In fact most houses built in that era are rock solid. These houses were built by builders – craftsmen (not to be confused with the architectural movement). As with most houses with good bones, this bungalow had pretty good skin too.
AJ bought the home in 1997. When he did, the original plaster walls (the prevailing finish of the day) were in good shape; the foundation was intact, and even some original wallpaper lined her closets.
The house as living document
As impeccably maintained as it can be, a house is still at the mercy of time and usage. Most building technologies, today even (think about it — roofing, siding, and the mechanicals), can at best offer 30 years or so.
Add to that the emergence of new technologies, changes in prevailing styles, and changes in, well, priorities (including other dynamics) it is difficult to find a home unaltered from its original look. Houses change with our needs, and most can be viewed as a document of such. They are a document of our (in the collective sense) movement through time.
In the remodeling, and not limited to AJ’s and Kenneth’s work, original 5-panel doors and some Arts and Crafts door casing remains. This woodwork is painted now. I bring this up, because these elements may not have originally been painted. While that is a discussion with someone more qualified, painted woodwork is nonetheless now written into the home’s history, and the woodwork remains.
The original porch still offers a welcoming extension to the street. The unaltered and intact stamped block foundation still stands tall. (For a great little aside, ask AJ for a personal tidbit about this now retired technique. And please, if anyone has additional insights on this type of foundation and/or this technique please email.) Roofing materials, of course, have been replaced, but asbestos shingles still currently clad it.
Start with what you know
The bungalow, I have read, was the first mass marketed home without servants quarters. As mentioned in the first piece, no space within was designed without purpose, and there was certainly an efficient use of space. Often areas of the house were divided by intended usage between the public and the private.
What I mean by this – the point of public gathering, i.e. household assembly or entertaining was the living and/or the dining room. Sitting toward the front of home, the large front porch was designed to spill right in the living room – This was the location for welcoming and gathering.
Other locations in the home were designed more with private living in mind. The original kitchen, AJ himself categorizes it as a galley kitchen, was set, almost hidden, in the back of the house to allow for private preparation of the food. Serving and eating meanwhile occurred in the forward rooms of the first floor.
A centralized staircase lead up from the dining room to sleeping quarters, only. Initially, two bedrooms were to be found at the top of the stairs – a doorway lead to one room on left, and a doorway lead to one room on the right.
The stage is set
Please return next week for Part 2 – the Remodeling of a Bungalow.
>> More Moxie (Related Links):
The quintessential book on American Bungalows, American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff (pgs. 148-149 “Houses by Mail”): American Bungalow Style