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Book Review: The American Bungalow 1880-1930


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by Mike O'Handley, Editor

We've all seen them - the real estate ads that proclaim "Delightful Craftsman-Era Home,""Cute California Bungalow," or "Mission Style Bungalow." However, how many home inspectors actually know a true bungalow when they see one? Sadly, too few.

For those who inspect a lot of small, single-family homes, The American Bungalow 1880 - 1930 by Clay Lancaster ($17.95 - Dover Books) can be an eye-opening experience. This book is based on a 1953 research paper done by the author, an architect, and traces the history of bungalows all the way from their origin as small veranda homes for British officers and their families based in India, up through the 1920's when they became the symbol of simple, middle-class living in America.

Rich in little-known details about bungalows, including how heavily Asian architecture of the time - mostly Japanese - influenced their design, it breaks these homes down into specific regional types, beginning with native antecedents and then moves through their evolution from the Eastern Seaboard style, westward to the Prairie bungalows, many of which were made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, and finally to the last phase of their evolution on the West coast, most notably in California.

The text is accompanied by nearly 200 black and white photographs, etchings and floor plans - many in great detail - that help the reader to recognize nuances of the various bungalow styles. Once you've read this book, you'll never look at a bungalow the same way again, and the next time someone asks you whether a home is a true "craftsman" or a "bungalow," you'll not only know, but will be able to help them gain a true appreciation for these unique pieces of Americana.

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