Lesser know than many of his contemporaries, & viewed as being too eccentric for the commercial market of his time Rohlf’s designs do not fit into any one category. His inspiration came from many sources, including Japan, China, the Middle East & Medieval & Renaissance Europe. He was visibly influenced by the Aesthetic style the Arts & Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau & is considered to be a proto-modernist, a style of the period approaching modernism which appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and filtered through the century into Modernism.
Over the period of barely a decade, Rohlfs designed only a few hundred works—many of them for his own home. I have viewed his pieces at The Museum of Arts & Crafts in St. Petersburg, Florida & every time I visit I am enthralled by his genius.
He may be unfamiliar to you & I urge you to learn a great deal more about him by watching these videos.
WATCH THE VIDEOS ABOUT A MASTER, CHARLES ROHLFS
The Interiors of Charles Rohlfs – Joseph Cunningham (1:17:45)
A scholar, dedicated to the study of Rohlf & his work.
Charles Rohlfs Mahogany Chair- Extraordinary Finds (4:17)
Antiques Roadshow PBS
Imagine finding a chair in your attic worth $120,000! (Spoiler- it sold for more at auction.)
Appraisal: Charles Rohlf’s Music Stand, ca. 1905
A lovely piece & a bit more about the artist.
To access the complete MENU of videos, click here. I recommend it!
The bungalow is a hybrid, born of the Arts & Crafts Movement of the United Kingdom, the Craftsman Movement of the Eastern United States & the beauty of the Southern California landscape.
The cultures & technologies of the time conspired to create a philosophy which motivated an aesthetic inspired by nature, & a housing type that was suitable for all parts of the U.S. Regional differences allowed for variations in materials & style, but the basic bungalow took America by storm & has remained the favorite American home for over 100 years.
Let’s begin at the beginning & take a look at how the Arts & Crafts Movement affected the aesthetic of the time on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching even into Asia & Australia. I encourage you to watch the Gustav Stickley videos which further tie together the European & American Movements.
THE BUNGALOW & THE ARTS & CRAFTS MOVEMENT
Arts and Crafts: Design in a Nutshell (2:29)
OpenLearn from The Open University
A quick intro to A&C.
Arts and Crafts Movement (8:15)
AP Art History
A bit more in-depth look of the Arts & Crafts Movements in Europe & the U.S.
History of the Arts Crafts Movement Part 1 of 3 (11:36)
Beautiful images & informative video, but it’s way too fast. Slow it down & learn a great deal about the Movement.
You will be linked from past 1 to part 2 & then to part 3 from there. All 3 are well worth watching.
Take a tour of world’s first Arts and Crafts Movement Museum (3:06)
FOX 13 Tampa Bay
This museum is a miracle. It tells the complete story of Arts & Crafts. Once again, slow it down to fully absorb the information & the images.
“An illustrated monthly magazine in the interest of better art, better work and a better more reasonable way of living.”
~The Craftsman the magazine of the Arts & Crafts movement, edited by Gustav Stickley, was published from October 1910- December 1916 & was taken over by Art World in 1917.
Stuckley’s interest in furniture began as a carpenter, but inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement of the late 1800’s in England, he created a whole design movement giving identity & voice to the Movement in America. Through his ideology of simplicity, craftsmanship & wholesome living, he built a home decorating empire including a large store, modeled on today’s department store, featuring his furniture & metalwork. In the store was a beautiful restaurant where they served fresh food that was grown on his farm.
Stickley promoted his goods & his ideals through The Craftsman magazine which featured articles about architecture, interior design & about living well. A vehicle to educate the public on the Arts & Crafts Movement, the first two issues were devoted to William Morris & John Ruskin. Articles on Morris include praise for Morris as a poet, a storyteller, an artist & a handicraftsman, as well as “an unprejudiced man of wealth, culture & position” & “versatile genius.” Stickley laments Morris’ recent passing calling him – “a lost leader, friend & brother.” I consider myself a Morris groupie, but I do not feel that I ever knew him before I read Stickley’s words.
With that, let’s pause to consider the fact that in the first eight volumes of The Craftsman, from October 1901 to September 1905, Irene Sargent, an American art historian, made eighty-four contributions, & nearly all of its first three issues were written primarily by her. An academic, her aesthetic is succinctly expressed by a quote she published of Thomas Carlyle: “ornament is the first spiritual need of barbarous man.” This book, a chronology of Sargents’ life, by Cleota Reed, was hand-printed by Andre Chavez of The Clinker Press.
It is my feeling that though it is likely that the Morris tributes above flowed from her pen, Stickley truly loved & understood the European Art & Crafts Movement & was profoundly influenced by it, considering it his mission to bring it to America. Being the editor & publisher, you can be assured The Craftsman was Stickley’s voice, as often expressed by Sargent.
However, as much as Stickley admired Morris, rather than being another child of the medieval period on which the European Movement was modeled, Stickley’s uniquely American, colonial-inspired, cultural aesthetic was clear from the magazine’s inception & grew ever bolder with each issue.
What I consider to be the most valuable aspect of the American Arts & Crafts Movement was its focus on simplicity, honesty, & cooperation as the ingredients of living well. He was a proponent of building in harmony with the environment by using natural materials & was also an early supporter of conservation. You can see an example of the The Craftsman magazine’s beautiful & eloquent content here.
He encouraged his readers to become proficient in manual tasks like carpentry even publishing plans of how to build his furniture designs at home. His articles provided guidance on doing handcrafted work such as embroidery & there was much written on gardening. Stickley was the major tastemaker of his age & in my humble opinion, taught folks to live fulfilling lives centered on creativity, self-sufficiency, health & family.
An example of articles contained in the magazine can be viewed here, a charming article about Christmas & another informative one about lighting, a very new technology when it was written.
And, please take a look at these videos about him, his life & work. I have included a trailer of the documentary film, Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman, available on Prime Video. It contains much of what you need to know about the Movement in this country. What I have written here is so abbreviated that I am feeling a bit disrespectful, but if it encourages you learn more about this brilliant & heartful man, then my little article has done its job.
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS FROM WINTER’S GARDEN
In tracing the custom of decorating the church and home with green boughs, vines and flowers on Christmas day—a custom dear to many people in many lands—we wander through both Christian and pagan eras. The records disclose curious, interesting and beautiful facts and fancies of historical and poetical importance. Some writers see in this custom a yearly commemoration of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem when the people waved pine branches as token of their rejoicing.
In Isaiah we read, “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree and the box together to beautify the place of my sanctuary.” Nehemiah commanded the people, on some occasion of rejoicing, to “go forth unto the mount and fetch olive branches and myrtle branches and palm branches and branches of thick trees.”
It seems strange that in spite of these authoritative quotations and incidents, the early Christians forbade the use of flowers and branches in their church, no matter what the occasion. The Puritans also denounced the use of flowers or greens as “vain abominations” for the same reason—namely, that the custom was said to be of pagan origin. “Trymming of the temples with hangynges, flowers, boughs and garlondes was taken from the heathen people, whiche decked their idols and houses with suche array,” wrote Polydore Vergil.
The reason among the Druids for bringing in bits of evergreen from the woods and adorning the house is a most charming and lovable one—”The houses were decked with evergreens in December that the sylvan spirits might repair to them and remain unnipped with frost and cold winds until a milder season had renewed the foliage of their darling abodes.” How gracious a way of luring the shy, sweet wild-woods spirits into the homes of men!
The Druids with ceremonies of great solemnity used to collect mistletoe “against the festival of winter solstice.” Only the oaks bearing mistletoe were sacred to this ancient order of men, and they made solemn processions to such oaks, a prince of the order cutting the mistletoe with a golden sickle. It is recorded that the people’s reverence for the priests proceeded in great measure from the cures which the priests effected by means of this curious green plant of the pearl-like berries. It was collected thus ceremoniously by the Druids because it was supposed to drive away evil spirits.
Sir John Colbatch boldly said that “it must have been designed by the Almighty for further and more noble purpose than barely to feed thrushes or to be hung up surreptitiously to drive away evil spirits.”
But whatever the origin of decking our homes with holly, mistletoe or with branches of any green plant hardy enough to carry with it a hint of immortality by remaining fresh and green throughout the apparent death of the world during the winter—the custom is now well established, and who would willingly let it slip into oblivion! It would seem strange indeed not to welcome this child’s festival,—the holiest festival of the year’s calendar,—with fragrant boughs from the forest set at our doorways and windows and on our altars. It is a fitting and beautiful way to symbolize our love and worship of the One who made immortality credible.
Nature has set many a lovely plant in her winter garden of rich perpetual green, giving some of them an added charm of scarlet berry, or berry of blue or white or purple. Some have hardy, glossy leaves of wonderful shapeliness, some of them have fragrant needles, some exhale rare aromatic incense, some even put forth hardy flowers of glowing crimson or purest white.
Of those bearing bright berries that we can gather from the woods or fields to adorn our homes at this Christmas season, perhaps the general favorite in the East is the holly—in the West it is the toyon. These two glossy leaved bushes of the scarlet berries are too well known to need words in their favor. The mistletoe of the South and of the West should be mentioned in the same breath with these favorites, for they are closely associated in our minds. The “Lord of Misrule” and the “Abbot of Unreason” [both terms apply to a peasant or low level church official appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying] have claimed these white Christmas berries from the time of their first hilarious coronation day when fate was precipitated with surety upon the head of the maiden of their merry courts who was caught under the fruiting branch of their wand—the mistletoe bough!
The snowberry that holds large waxy berries through most of the winter is well known in both the East and the West and lightens dark corners of rooms in most decorative way, looking like miniature snowballs—that do not fade away at the approach of fire. Barberries have won a well-deserved popularity as Christmas decorations, so also has the winterberry or black alder with its red fruit. Several of our thorn bushes show bright berries in the whiter. The viburnums with black berries, the wild currant with small but pretty red fruit, the spindle tree with pink berries and the orange and red bittersweet can be obtained with a little search of open groves and sheltered pastures.
Among the evergreens whose beautiful leaves are polished to glossiest perfection by Jack Frost, are the magnolias, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, bay laurel, madrone. The pepper tree of the Southwest drips with red berries as well as sparkles with shining leaves. The checkerberry also combines red berries and polished leaves, though it is a tiny humble little plant compared to the showy pepper tree. Galax leaves are coming into favor, and deservedly so, for they are of the richest, glossiest dark green and bronze, and their heart-shaped surfaces are beautifully veined, a fine example of natural engraving.
As to vines with which to drape mantel, table and picture, the wild smilax of the South and the ground pine of the North cannot be surpassed, for they are charmingly graceful, retain their fresh color for a long time and have decorative qualities wherever placed. The Christmas fern which grows quite universally throughout the country is another graceful plant that lends itself graciously to decorations of every nature. The winter garden shoves nothing lovelier than the shapely green fronds of this fern, and it retains its rich green whether covered with snow or taken into the warm atmosphere of the home.
Besides all these green things that are to be had as reward of a walk in field or forest, are the evergreen trees of all kinds, the firs, spruces, arborvitaes, pines, hemlocks, whose balsamic fragrance add so much to Christmas cheer. The Christmas rose should be better known—should be made to bloom in our gardens as well as in Nature’s garden.
Delicate mosses, lichens and little rock ferns can often be found on the sheltered side of rocks, that are as green as when summer holds sway over our land.
With such an array of green growing things to choose from, things full of sentiment, of dear associations, of rare beauty, why not give ourselves the joy of a search for them through winter fields and woods ? Would not such a search be just about the best part of the season’s merry making. ”Would we not be entering more into the spirit of Christmas by going out to meet it, as it were, by searching for these aromatic symbols of immortality and bringing them into our homes, rather than by unromantically ordering wreaths, vines and branches from the florist’s.”
The Craftsman Magazine was the premier publication of the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Each article promotes a natural, simple lifestyle in beautifully expressive prose. Read my article on how I created my Craftsman Magazine Christmas here.
I learned about the culture of the early 20th Century at my mother’s knee. The stories she told me about my grandmother, born in 1888, growing up on the farm, & the fascinating tales of her own life & times, combined beautifully with my own old-timey nature & held me securely me in those periods as others are anchored to the generation of their birth.
Not surprisingly, I have always lived in an old house & I always felt a special kinship with it, but it wasn’t until I owned my first home that I learned the concept of stewardship & became curious about- no, actually compelled to start researching the history of my bungalow & discovering its secrets.
A building is a composite of the culture & technology of its day. A custom-built home tosses in the tastes & lifestyle of the homeowners. Who were they? What inspired them? How did the house serve their needs? So, let’s make those walls talk!
My suggestion for keeping the maze of information easy to follow is to start by creating a system in which to keep your research orderly because you could end up with many pages of documents, both hard & digital. Set up a dedicated hard file & a digital one in your computer in which to stash your finds.
You might also want to create a spreadsheet to make a map of your data so you know where you’ve been. In this you would have such columns such as the document name, its date, publisher, your source & a space for notes & most importantly, where can it be found in your hard or digital files. Each piece or group of information can lead to the next so you want to keep your clues untangled!
GETTING STARTED RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF YOUR BUNGALOW
Are you in a historic district, or has your house been designated as a historic structure? (This information should have been disclosed to you when you purchased your house because these designations often come with restrictions, but, sometimes there are surprises!) If so, the designating planning body should have information about it. Even if you are not, your house could have been part of a historic survey at one time so check with your city & state preservation offices.
OLD HOUSE GROUPS
Your local historic society can often provide a great deal of information from their archives. Also, see if there’s a preservation advocacy group near you & enlist their aid. Even if they don’t have information about your specific house, they will be able to provide you with a great deal of information on your city, maybe even on their website! I recommend being connected with & supporting these groups. If you are an old house lover, they’re your peeps!
”For over 20 years Arcadia Publishing has reconnected people to their community, their neighbors, and their past by offering a curbside view of hometown history.
Composed in a unique pictorial format with over two hundred vintage images and accompanying captions, Arcadia books animate the cherished memories, people, places, and events that define a community.”
The next place to start is your own observations. Does the layout make sense? Are there indications of add-ons? This can confuse records because sometimes a build date can be listed as the date a later addition was permitted. I’ve seen houses that were clearly built close to the turn of the last century with recorded build dates that were post WW II.
In researching the history of your bungalow, look around your neighborhood. Are their houses that look similar? Talk to your neighbors & ask what research that they have done. They may have made discoveries that would enrich with what you are seeking.
One interesting factor is to notice how your house & the surrounding houses, orient to one another. In my neighborhood, you can clearly see what was the original farmhouse. Much older than the other houses, it faces what is now a big city street, with its back door facing the rest of the neighborhood. Most neighborhoods began as farming communities & in researching the history of your bungalow, you’ll find that the story of your local neighborhood forms a large chapter in the history of your own house.
THE BUNGALOW HISTORY RESEARCH PAPER TRAIL
Know this- the older your house is, the more changes could have occurred with regard to its location- street numbers, street names, even town & city names & borders. And, the house itself could have been moved maybe just blocks or even many miles! So pay attention to any oddball changes you might see as you are doing your research- those facts that don’t line up. For example, an odd build date can reflect a house move. You don’t want to be researching the history of the house that was demolished to make room for your house! I’m sure the lives of its inhabitants are worth knowing about, but it’s not what you’re after! This Folk Victorian that I restored (You can see the sad tale here.) had been moved from another neighborhood to make room for a highway project. It was weird to do research for a different address but at least I knew that it had come from another location & I had the correct original address for it.
Additionally, public records can be incomplete or inaccurate due to human error, floods & fires destroying decades of information & illegible from age or just terrible hand-writing. Your search is not likely going to be linear, but more cobbled together like a puzzle, as you search for like pieces from different sources that form bits of the whole picture, some contradicting other materials & some validating it. This is why you want to keep those records in good order when researching the history of your bungalow!
HOME OWNERSHIP RECORDS
Visit your local county’s Tax Assessor’s office which will provide ownership records & descriptive information. You may have to go to a separate location to view archived records, or perhaps they will be helpful to find them for you & bring them to the office.
Next, head to the county courthouse to search for deeds & follow ownership backward. Take notice of how the property may have changed hands- liens, judgements, inheritance, etc. & you may need to check other records such as civil courts or wills to get more of the story.
Then, with all your information, head for your local public library. I can almost guarantee that you will find at least one librarian there who is a local history expert & she will happily point you in the right direction to flesh out your data. Local colleges & universities can also provide a wonderful amount of material as well as friendly & enthusiastic librarians who hold much data in their heads.
The Library of Congress’s collection of telephone/city directories represents the following states and localities: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the city of Chicago. Most local libraries will have these directories to many local ones, covering most of the 20th Century also.
Many of these directories are arranged geographically, in other words, by street name, so you can look for your address in any particular year’s edition & see if was included. This is often very helpful in discovering the year your house was built. In one volume you’ll see it. Checking earlier, you won’t!
THE SANBORN MAPS
These maps were created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Founded in 1866, the company made maps of churches, schools, commercial, industrial & residential properties. These maps are helpful for determining build dates & also footprints of houses, including outbuildings. They also show the locations of windows & doors, building use (sometimes even particular room uses) as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, & roofing materials.
These maps can be accessed via the Library of Congress & through many local libraries. They are very beautiful. so, old house nerd that I am, I have saved some of the most lovely ones for you here on Pinterest.
There are also general maps that can be accessed from Old Maps Online. A fun feature of this site is that you see the evolution of a place by overlaying old maps on top of modern ones to compare historical maps to current data. This provides a visual clue to the development of areas over time.
Another great tool is census records which paint a detailed picture of each person living in the house. For example, the 1910 (my favorite year) census records the following information for each person:
• relationship to head of household
• color or race
• age at last birthday
• marital status
• length of present marriage
• if a mother, number of children & number of living children
• place of birth
• place of birth of parents
• if foreign born, year of immigration and citizenship status
• language spoken
• type of industry employed in
• if employer, employee, or self-employed
• if unemployed
• number of weeks unemployed in 1909
• ability to read & write
• if attended daytime school since September 1, 1909
• if home is rented or owned
• if home is owned, free, or mortgaged
• if home is a house or a farm
• if a survivor of Union or Confederate Army or Navy
• if blind in both eyes
• if deaf & dumb
This data can be accessed through the National Archives, but your local library can probably help you with it too.
NewspaperArchive provides links to millions of pages from 12,111 publications in 2,671 papers all over the U.S., starting way back in 1736.
They gather information from libraries, historical societies, & newspaper publishers, amassing content that will help you find the stories that will further your research on your bungalow.
The search can be arduous, but poking around on the site I discovered that Reverend Alfred Hare, the builder of the Hare house, played the guitar & was very active in the social life of my town, Eagle Rock, as well as participating in community betterment activities. I also found the obituary of his wife’s father. In general, I was able to get a good idea of the lives & characters of the Hare’s & gain a greater understanding of the some of the puzzling features of the house. And fell more in love with them.
I also got an idea of how life had been in my town around 1910. The funny thing is, it hadn’t changed all that much! It was still centered around our cultural center, which had been a Carnegie Library, & the 20th Century Women’s Club, to which I belonged in the 21st Century.
A large number of bungalows were built from plan books, many of which can be accessed here. Instead of drafting whole new blueprints, builders would adapt these plans to the lot & to clients’ needs. Many people believe that they have kits houses because they see so many houses that are similar, but what they actually have is a home built from a plan. There was even a self-proclaimed “Bungalow Man,” Los Angeles architect Henry L. Wilson, who published catalogues of bungalow designs, complete with plans & specs for $10.00. Many of them are unique to the California landscape, providing a broad broad view of bungalow designs of the region, expressing what Wilson termed “artistic beauty & cozy convenience.”
This book was reprinted by Dover, is available on Amazon & other book outlets & especially should you live in California, I recommend it highly.
Please let me know about any other great resources you might discover & I’m very eager to know what your walls tell you!
TIP: I put together a collection of very informative videos to further orient you to the research process. You can watch them here.
Researching the history of your bungalow can be arduous, but I guarantee that it will be rewarding.
In addition to learning about the previous occupants of your home, you will make new/old friends, who may be long gone, but through your research you will come to understand them & the period in which they lived. Many of these people were leaders & you will discover their many accomplishments. You also might uncover why certain puzzling choices were made in your house by the original homeowner.
Solving the puzzle of a house history can be discouraging at times, but if you persist, I think that the many findings & insights that you will gain, will increase your enjoyment of your house tremendously. And future stewards will love you!
I have curated the clearest & most thorough videos that I could find. My suggestion is that you watch them to get an overview of the process, & then use the article to guide you through the steps.
LET’S WATCH THE VIDEOS!
Researching the History of Your House (9:30)
Although the narrator says “DC house” 1,642 times, the information applies to all cities.
25 tips on how to research your house history and previous owners (21:15)
Researching the History of a House (1:07:38)
American Ancestors- New England Genealogical Historical Society
A more scholarly presentation.
TIP: Read my article on why this stuff is important!