Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Frame Houses at 1926-1938 W. Touhy, 1907

A few months ago I wrote about some nearly identical frame homes on Chase.  In that entry I remarked that once you noticed these "runs" of homes you would start to see them everywhere.  At the time I didn't know how true that was.  Within a week, I'd spotted five groupings within three blocks of each other.

These small-scale developments represent a point in Rogers Park history after the 1893 annexation to Chicago but prior to the multifamily development of the 1920s.  This was a period when architects often took a back seat to local builders when it came to developing affordable single family homes.  Since architects were more focused on commercial projects and more prestigious commissions, an entire industry developed that offered pre-designed homes with no architect required.  Some, like Sears, sold kits including all wood, hardware, and fixtures.  Others sold permit-ready architectural plans, like this Radford American Homes catalog from 1903.

These five frame homes were permitted in 1907. They all have double-pitched hipped roofs, two-story projecting bays, and (originally) a full-width front porch on the first floor  Over the years they've been modified in all the ways you might expect- artificial siding, rear additions, and porch alterations.  I chose the middle image at 1938 W. Touhy as the most unaltered example.  These five homes were each built on 30' x 160' lots, which are somewhat larger than a standard 25'x 100' Chicago lot.  At the time Rogers Park had more of a suburban character.  But in 1907 "suburban character" still meant narrow side yards and a detached garage with alley access.

According to a rule of thumb proposed by Stewart Brand in "How Buildings Learn" you can expect homes to go through major renovations about every 20 years and to update their interiors and mechanical systems every 7 to 15 years.  If the construction of the home makes it difficult to update these mechanical systems, it's likely that the home will be demolished.  By 1907 the struggle between gas and electricity in Chicago was largely over.  Electricity had become the standard for lighting and appliances while gas remained in place for cooking and heating.  So these five frame homes already had an advantage over others that were constructed just a few years earlier.  I would estimate that 80 percent of the remaining single family homes in this area (between Touhy, Clark, Pratt and Ridge) were constructed between 1900 and 1910.

To be continued with some nearby homes on Estes...

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