I am often asked why I care so much about preserving old buildings. For some it’s a veiled challenge with no plan to listen to the answer, but some hang around long enough, without yawning, to hear my answer & some actually hear me as I pour out my soul & my passion. And for some, the light turns on.

This is why I keep picking myself up after the wrecking ball wins the battle, keep talking, keep writing. For this light.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the word community “is derived from the Latin communitas (meaning the same), which is in turn derived from communis, which means “common, public, shared by all or many.” Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix con- (which means “together”) and the word munis (which has to do with performing services).”

It’s the ‘con-” part that I like the best. I spent much of my adult life (MY STORY here.) as a neighborhood activist, fighting to keep those bits of turf our own & not give them over to corporate America- to keep us & our neighborhood culture together.


The people in the videos below say it better than I do, in fact, as I was reviewing them tonight, I was wishing that 20 years ago, I could have chained my local Eagle Rock councilman to his chair & not let him so much as wiggle until he had watched every speaker in hopes that he would understand what the building we were trying to save would do for our community, that a new chain store in a sea of parking, wouldn’t/couldn’t/hasn’t/never will.

There are sound quality issues at the beginning. They go away very quickly.

TEDxCLE – Jeff Siegler – Building Community Through Historic Preservation (10:03)
TEDx Talks

Historical Preservation- A Radical Conservative Liberal Concept: Wayne Wood at TEDxRiversideAvondale (15:49)
TEDx Talks

Historic Preservation 101 (44:14)
History Colorado

This video is much longer than any of the others but it fully explains the history & evolution of preservation in the U.S. It goes on to explain the different preservation organizations & programs, both public & private as well as the levels of protection afforded at each level.

It is a clear & thorough orientation to the subject. Learning all of this, bit by bit took me years!


My YouTube playlists are chock full of information vital to bungalow owners. From paint removal to the history of bungalows to stories about old growth wood, you can find a rainy afternoon’s entertainment & learn some stuff too.


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“I have a friend who’s an artist & has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say ‘look how beautiful it is,’ & I’ll agree. Then he says, ‘I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart & it becomes a dull thing,’ & I think that he’s kind of nutty,” states Richard Feynman, scientist, teacher, raconteur of renown & not incidentally, an accomplished conga drummer.
“First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people & to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes.
The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery & the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”
Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman


I never really understood why I take such joy in learning, talking & writing about bungalows. Why am I compelled to know these things about bungalows? What force makes me read Jane Powell’s books, with their truly dreadful puns & teeny-tiny print again & again? Why is every day off spent visiting old house museums & driving around vintage neighborhoods & end with a visit to an antique store?

Thank you, Richard P. Feynman. It’s to experience the other dimensions of bungalows.

When I look at a bungalow, I see its rich philosophical, aesthetic & emotional history- the degradation of the culture caused by the Industrial Revolution. I honor the memory of the wee ones who worked barefoot in the factories to provide a morsel of bread for their families & I honor William Morris’ goal to revitalize this debased society through aesthetics.
I see the long extinct old growth forests & the hard & dangerous lives of the men who cut them down. I see the boys lost in war & the mothers who grieved for them. I see the celebration of new lives being conceived, born & dying on big brass beds.
historic bungalow advertisementI see architecture born of the culture & technology of the times.  I see Stickley’s perception of the intrinsic beauty of the log cabin. I see the joyous anticipation of a family waiting at the station, for their kit house being delivered by the 5 o’clock  train. I see the joy of recapturing the details lost to trends, foolish decisions, economic necessity & outright greed.
I see neighborhoods once united by trolleys tragically bifurcated by highways, but now joyfully united by purpose. In my heart, I see those with whom I have shared this purpose. Some of them are only a phone call away, & some of them, I mourn.
Looking at a bungalow is a rich, comforting, calming but refreshing experience for me. The purpose of my blog is to memorialize those who created & lived in these wonderful houses, those who taught me so much about them & fought with me for their preservation & to share all this with you, so that when you look at a bungalow, you too can see it in all its dimensions.


The story of the Chicago bungalow isn’t about the houses, it’s about the humanity. I call it, “Grits & girdles history.”

Because our houses tell the stories of the lives of the people who built them & how they lived, worked & formed their communities- the intimate details if you will. (In fact, I produced a historic documentary film about a bungalow neighborhood in Tampa that was full of the juicy goings- on of the time.)

The Chicago bungalow may be the most striking example of regional uniqueness to be found in the United States, in terms of single-family housing. There is no mistaking a Chicago bungalow which has many character defining features that are simply not seen in other areas of the country because they do not provide the same history or environment.

These features were developed out of the events that happened in the city, the natural resources & challenges, the man-made materials & technology that were available in the area during the period of their planning & construction.


Craftsman farmThere were a great many influences that resulted in the Chicago bungalow, the first of course, being the Arts & Crafts Movement in England, a pushback against the overproduction of shoddy goods that characterized the Industrial Revolution.

The philosophy & design of the Movement were imported to the U.S. by Gustav Stickley, a furniture designer, writer & innovator. The Chicago bungalow veers wildly from Stickley’s ideal of a log cabin in the woods as they are built of brick & sit on a 125’-by-25’ lot in a city, which by 1910 was the home to over 2 million souls, the second largest in the United States, after New York. Not the low, wide structures of the American West on their expansive lawns, nor Stickley’s rock chimneyed log house in the woods, but bungalows they were-tidy compact brick muffins sitting prettily on the narrow city lots.

The Chicago bungalow provided exactly the modest refuge that was needed by the working class at the time, many of them immigrants, who had come to work in the factories & meat packing plants. Nearly 80,000 homes were built, each one with its own subtly distinctive charm & character.

The next great influence was the Chicago Fire of 1871, which started in a barn & burned for over a day, killing 300 people. Because of the pressure to build houses to accommodate the growing population, buildings had been constructed using quickly assembled, cheaply constructed balloon-framing, with studs running from the foundation to the roof. Fire travels upward & there was nothing to stop it as it roared up the walls & turned the houses to ash, making a third of the city homeless. After this disaster, the city enacted new building codes & rapidly rebuilt the city according to those codes. With brick.

When you think of a Chicago bungalow, brick does come instantly to mind. The area was gifted with an abundance of clay by the glaciers that moved through the area over 10,000 years ago leaving their assorted debris so the resultant, fired bricks are speckled in a variety of colors. To satisfy the demands of the building boom in 1910, nearly a billion of these cheap bricks were produced. When I say cheap I mean cheap, averaging $7 per thousand while the better, more homogenous brick sold for as high as $35 per thousand.

So, builders took advantage of this cheap brick & used it to build areas that were not so visible, like foundations, structural walls, chimney flues & the back & sides of the house. Because Chicago is centrally located & a railroad hub, it was easy to bring all types of brick from all over the country so the front facades of bungalows show a charming diversity of brick types.


The images that you see here are created by Wonder City Studio by Phil Thompson & his wife Katie who are obviously in love with their town. He has created many drawings of Chicago buildings of all types, including capturing the sweet, sturdy hominess of the bungalow.

He features prints of his representations of the city, but, he also does commissioned portraits of homes anywhere. When I lived in Eagle Rock we had plein air painters (an Eagle rock tradition, historically) lining the walking tour route, many painting the homes of the tour hosts. The paintings were then auctioned for charity at an exhibit later & the homeowners were always the highest bidders for the paintings of their own homes. A portrait captures the soul of a house much more eloquently than a photograph (well, than a photograph of a mere mortal. You have to allow for the work of Alex Vertikoff.)

But, wait, there’s more! Katie Lauffenburger, wife, mom & founding partner of Wonder City Studio, will sculpt a custom planter Mini-Me of your home. And you can put flowers in it!

Although we may dream of living in our homes forever, sometimes life necessitates change & having either a beautiful drawing or a tiny 3-D model of it could mend a broken heart.


What I can tell you about Chicago bungalows is a tiny fraction of the knowledge that the Chicago Bungalow Association posses & teaches. I just wanted to whet your appetite for this architectural form, unique in all the world to the Windy City.


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By attending old house classes, a conscientious steward can learn the basics of old house repair & maintenance. Owning an old house is not for sissies, nor for the uninformed. When I owned The Hare House, my 1910 Craftsman in Eagle Rock, I made some mistakes that I would have not made, & tossed away money that I would still have in my pocket, had I access to any of the education offered below.

Even if you are not a hands-on restorer, by inclination, aptitude (or the lack of)  or physical condition, you need to have some knowledge of these skills.You can also use them to educate any trusted tradesman that you have working at your home to expand their skills. This can save you money & provide you with services to which you might not have access in your area.

I suggest contacting the event producer about any classes that appeals to you that might require physicality beyond your own capabilities, to see if they can accommodate you. They want you to learn so they will make it as easy as they can for you.

The best thing about attending is that it gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded folks. I have met wonderful people in my preservation activities & formed many strong friendships. I urge you to participate. It will enrich your life!

I AM FULLY AWARE THAT MY LIST IS WOEFULLY INCOMPLETE! Please let me know what I have missed so that I can add them.


Craftwork  Training Center
Telford, PA

Hands-on workshops are taught by professionals who are looking toward building the resources necessary preserving the future of the trades.

Participants learn a variety of crafts in order to pursue & succeed in vocations in the preservation trades. The Center’s goal is to build the next generation of highly trained artisans.

They offer classes in:

  • Historic Preservation Boot Camp is a 3-day workshop covering repointing, plastering, & brick/stone repairs
  • Repointing Brick & Stone Using Lime Mortar
  • Repointing Special Joint Profiles Using Lime Mortar
  • Basic Plaster Wall Repair
  • Brick & Stone Surface Repair
  • Sash Mechanics of Historic Windows
  • Restoring Historic Wood Windows & Doors
  • Basics of Building with Hempcrete



Chicago bungalow AssociationChicago Bungalow Association
“Now serving all old homes.”

The Association offers an extensive menu of seminars, webinars & hands-on workshops, designed to help you preserve & improve the appearance, usability & value of your home.​

Though they focus on bungalow, they offer help to anyone who owns an old house of any style or age. They are some of the friendliest people in preservation that I have ever met. I have called them several times with questions regarding bungalow characteristics in the Midwest & they have always  gone out of their way to obtain the information requested & relay it to me.

Take advantage of their many educational videos on many subjects, all beautifully & clearly presented.

Sign up for their email list so you can stay informed whether or not you live in Chicago! If you do live there, you’re welcome.

Belvedere school historic preservation workshopsBelvedere School for Hands-On Preservation
Hannibal, Missouri

Bob Yapp, after traveling the country, teaching preservation skills, had the dream of establishing a hands-on trade school, delivering workshops to students of all ages, lasting from 2 day to 8 days. His students come from all parts of the world to learn from this master.

The Beleveder School is lodged in the historic brick, antebellum, 1859 Italianate, Alfred Lamb Mansion which also holds his wife’s bed & breakfast. Known for its delicious breakfasts, the B&B provides a wonderful setting for making lifelong friends.

He also delivers seminars & workshops on many different topics to communities all over the U.S.

You can enjoy his many videos on old house topics.

RethosRethos historic home workshops
Saint Paul & Winona, Minnesota

“Whether you’re an individual or part of a group or business, if you believe in a future that honors our old buildings, beautiful towns, and our culture, you are a part of Rethos.”

Rethos is a non-profit organization offering hands-on & Zoom classes as well as informative videos to homeowners in all aspects of preservation. They are perfectly amenable to your attending a workshop without physically participating. You can learn a great deal by just watching! They offer classes such as:
Lead, Asbestos & Radon
Old Home Certified for Realtors®, a regional designation
Window Restoration
Drafting a Maintenance Plan
Wallpaper Installation

DIY Plumbing

Not local? You can see their educational videos here.


Wood Preservation Alliance

This group, composed of the most knowledgeable people in the field from all over the country, is a trade organization dedicated to saving old wood windows. In addition to connecting pro’s with homeowners, they assist everyone from those who want to have careers in wood window restoration, to established pro’s.

The WPA provide resources & information on products & materials as well as general information on running a successful business. They also “help preservationists find the tools they need to educate building owners, architects, and other decision makers about the value of original windows.”

If you wish to host a old house classes, contact them to see if they could provide you with a speaker/demonstrator. If you, or someone you know would like to spend your life returning old houses to their former glory, they are standing by to give you the education & assistance you need to be a successful professional.


Old House ClassesI am working on a manual (It’s pretty close to being done.) for hosting such an event, laying out step-by-step what to do to choose topics, attract craftsmen & volunteers, promote it & make some $$$ for your organization, & run a smooth-running day of hands-on, old house learning.

The manual is divided into sections, & I have included a timeline that cross references the sections so that you can go step-by-step through locating a venue, attracting speakers & demonstrators, recruiting enthusiastic volunteers & promoting the event to the public.

Let me know if you or your organization is interested in learning how to host classes & I’ll get working on this thing a bit faster! I’m going to sell it for a whole $25.00 because if you pay for it, you’re more likely to use it.


Many preservation groups host classes so if you are interested in attending, contact your local group. I am building lists of such groups, but it’s taking a ridiculously long time to create such a list for all 50 states so if you don’t see it here, Google “historic preservation your city.”

If you are involved in a preservation group, please encourage them to host old house classes. It’s a good P.R. activity, will encourage membership & it also can raise some serious funds.


Even if you have no plans to live the DIY life, it is important to understand how your house works. If any of these topics interest you, but you don’t have the physical capabilities perform the work, most of them will allow you to participate as an observer.

These are also great learning sources for the tradespeople who work for you. You need to have someone you can count on who has these skills & it may be up to you to ensure that they get them.

There are young people all over the United States who would love to be trained in these trades & make this work their vocation. You can do your bit for preservation by letting them know about these opportunities. I have a book in my hip pocket that is about 50% complete, about how to run a successful specialty contracting business. My plan is to complete the dang thing & somehow raise the money needed to have it printed & then donate the books to high schools. So, someday I may be coming to you, asking for a hand-out & for your assistance in placing them!


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historic building New YorkThe preservation advocacy groups in New York fight unwise development, public apathy, & inadequate funding for preservation projects & education. Though they fight a good fight, with many wins under their belts, they need your help.

Participating in preservation groups is the way that you can help. Does it hurt your heart when you see an old building go under the wrecking ball? Adding your voice can make a difference.

Look to see who’s in your area. And if I’m missing one, let me know!


preservation advocacy group New York Preservation League of NYSPreservation League of NYS

The Preservation League of NYS is the statewide nonprofit preservation advocacy group for New York which protects the state’s historic structures & landscapes through community revitalization while supporting wise economic growth.

They advocate for intelligent public polices, support historic tax credits, deliver education through workshops & seminars, & speak in the media advancing the awareness of the benefits of preservation throughout the state.


preservation advocacy groups in New York Beachside BungalowsBeachside Bungalows Preservation Association

The dedicated folks of the Beachside Bungalows Preservation Association love bungalows & are dedicated to their preservation.

I think it’s love;y!



preservation advocacy groups New York Landmark SocietyLandmark Society of Western New York

The Landmark Society of Western New York, Inc., is one of the most well-established & effective, preservation advocacy groups in New York. They focus on nine counties in western New York

The Landmark Society’s service area covers nine counties in western New York in their work to promote preservation & intelligent use of their historic & cultural resources.


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The 2 greatest gifts my mother gave me, a love of art & an huge affinity for things old, gave me my third gift, historic preservation activism in my bungalow neighborhood. This is an article I wrote for my neighborhood association newsletter many long years ago.


My husband & I often walk in the evening, sometimes on our block, sometimes on other blocks of bungalows. We meet many of our neighbors, walking the dog, or imploring the pink-helmeted young one to get off her scooter & come in for her bath and bedtime tale.

Womens-sufferage-historpc-activismAs we stroll, we see blue flickering lights in the windows of too many houses. We speak of decades past when life was lived, & not merely observed. It seems that every grandmother participated in improving the world around her. Some had some exceptional talents, be it baking or knitting, or growing roses & these talents were freely offered in aiding the community- women’s clubs, bake sales, school plays, garden clubs. Some worked to change the community, advocating for children’s & women’s rights. We choose to live in old neighborhoods because we wish to recapture some of the warm community spirit of those past decades.

The best thing about neighborhood activism is that you meet wonderful & talented people like yourself & you have a great time. These people are well-known & broadly loved for their contributions. They decided to do something to improve our environment & then did it. An inclusive group, their doors & hearts are open to receive you, your talents & help-whatever they may be.

Another great thing is that it creates a small town environment for you. The world becomes a less anonymous place because you see people you know at the grocery store, the post office & just driving the street. You become part of a community.


Join your neighborhood organization. Their websites & Facebook pages should give you enough information to see what they have that could interest you. Send in your membership application & your check (Your money pays for the mailings that keep you informed of local activities & interests.) & count yourself amongst those who make a difference. Attend general meetings, & events.

Love old houses? Many bungalow neighborhood have historic preservation committees & help ensure the survival of our wonderful vintage buildings. Ours was very active & we produced many events with local & national guest speakers & even a historic documentary film about the neighborhood! Many old bungalow neighborhoods have been revitalized in the past couple of decades, turning from blighted, crime-ridden areas to beautiful streets of proud homeowners. In almost every one, this was accomplished through the intelligent & hard work of those in the association. A number of them worked with low-income families who were in danger of being uprooted, to take them out of often unsafe, derelict housing, & established improved housing for them.

Additionally, participation allows you to take ownership of a greater sphere. These grassroots activities can create effects at city, county & state levels & can actually even impact decisions made by the fed’s, such as highways built with federal funds.


Historic-bungalow-on-neighborhood-preservationist--home-tourThese images are from our first Eclectic Eagle Rock Home Tour, one of the best days of my entire life! The first one is one of the homes on the tour, the Hanson Puthoff House, a meticulously restored bungalow build by one of the foremost painters of the Plein Air Movement.

This house is truly a time machine. The kitchen is an authentic as one would find in a house museum & beautifully designed because the owners of the house are artists themselves. I had invited (cajoled, begged, pleaded, harrassed the editor of American Bungalow Magazine to the tour & they chose this house to feature in Issue 28. The tour goers were fascinated to learn the history of the house, from the life of Puthuff, through the years that it housed a sweatshop, with the workers stashed at night in the crawspace’ through the beautiful work done by the current owners. The lovely stone column with the lamp atop looks like it has always been there, but in fact was newly crafted & is featured on the cover of Jane Powell’s BUNGALOW DETAILS: EXTERIOR.  

Elderly-man-talking-to-younger-woman-at-bungalow-neighborhood-historic-preservation-eventThis last image shows a pair in rapt conversation. He grew up in Eagle Rock in its early years & was telling her tales of his life there as a boy. We had invited several town elders to attend the tour & people stood in line to converse with them. I curse myself that in this neighborhood of film industry professionals, I did not have the foresight to produce a historic documentary film while we still had these folks around, or at least film the tour. So glad that I was smarter several years later, in my new, bungalow neighborhood.

For neighborhoods that do not have these activities & would like them, I am working on 2 manuals- one on how to create a successful home tour, & another on how to produce a workshop to teach people how to restore their historic homes. I have helped establish these activities in 2 areas & they are very popular, (easy to do when you know how- & believe me when we first began, we were clueless & it was HARD!) Both events are good fundraisers & great for activating & uniting a community. Please contact me if you are interested in more information on either of these activities for your neighborhood.


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