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A Century Of Bungalows

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 17, 2010

This is 2500 block of Q Street in Midtown Sacramento. It's called Bungalow Row. With me is William Burg. He's an historian with the state office of historic preservation. Burg says in 1910, bungalows were the height of fashion.

Burg: If you were a designer, you wanted a Craftsman bungalow to show Sacramento's most modern architectural style

Bungalow. That's a funny word. It's Hindi, and it describes a house in the Bengali style, much like the one we're looking at on Q Street.
Burg: The first thing you'll notice about a bungalow is that it tends to have a very broad low-pitched roof with overhanging eaves.
Perfect for shade in a hot climate. Across Q Street, Burg points out houses that are older, taller and … ornate.

Blend in: The bungalow was a reaction to that. It was spread out and the idea was to blend in to the landscape.

The Q Street bungalows are set back from the sidewalk, to give the impression as you approach the porch, of walking through a bit of nature … from the outside world to the inside.


Burg and I and exchange introductions with the young owners of this old house.
Dennis: My name is Dennis Beck and I live here in my 100-year-old Craftsman home with my wife Jenny and our son Franklin. I work for the state, Jenny works for the city and Franklin doesn't have a job because he's just under 4 months old.
Jenny: When we were house hunting, we loved the big front porch, the windows just because they're so beautiful.
Dennis: It needed a little bit of upkeep, but we could tell it that it was structurally very sound. The floor was in good shape…
The floors squeak, as if to gently remind us how long they've been at work. As we walk to the kitchen, Dennis tells us it was remodeled once, probably in the 1930s. That makes the kitchen Depression-era.
Dennis: We've tried to make it less depressing.
It's got mellow-yellow walls and a ton of morning sun from typically big bungalow windows. Jenny's 1950s Wedgewood stove is set with 50's-looking pink pots and pans. As much as the Becks love living in a 1910 house, Dennis says there are drawbacks.  
Dennis: People back in 1910 probably didn't have as many clothes as people today. Soooo, the closet space is very, very small.
So he added on, which presented another drawback - negotiating the Historic Preservation Process with the City. Beck paid thousands of dollars in fees. The biggest attraction of this hundred-year-old house?
[toilet sound]
The toilet's chain flusher has been restored to its 1910 glory. 
The bones of bungalows were always made with rustic LOCAL materials. That makes bungalows green -- but rare. That's why the Becks are letting strangers traipse through their bungalow for a glimpse, on Sunday's home tour. And when their baby Franklin is school age, Dennis Beck says the family will probably stay put.
Dennis: We'll stay here as long as the house will have us.
Historian William Burg is waiting for us in the dining room. It's the biggest room in the house, a gathering spot for family and friends.  
EC: They don't build them like they used to, do they?
Burg: It's a federal crime to build them like they used to.  This house was built out of old growth redwood.
Burg says redwood is impervious to anything but fire. He sees no reason why this bungalow couldn't last another 100 years.
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