The bungalow is one of the most successful vernacular housing styles in twentieth-century America. In Mississippi as well as the rest of the country, bungalows were built in large numbers and reflect all different climates, owner aesthetics, and income levels. The word bungalow comes from the Hindu word bangla and historically referred to dwellings of light construction with verandas for English officials in colonial India. The American vernacular bungalow, also known as the California bungalow, first appeared in trade literature in 1904.
By the 1920s bungalows had gained tremendous popularity, and they remained popular through the 1930s. Most vernacular bungalows are long and low—1 or 1.5 stories. Other common characteristics include a prominent front gable or hip roof, overhanging eaves, large front porch encompassed by the main roof, and an open interior floor plan. The length of the house is usually greater than the width. The bungalow’s simple, unassuming design was further accentuated by the use of natural materials and colors that were supposed to blend into the building’s surroundings.
Compared to the overly detailed Victorian styles that preceded it, the bungalow was simple and appealed to middle-class America. It was often linked to the Arts and Crafts movement, which indulged the growing US middle class and its large demand for affordable yet attractive suburban houses. Constructed in the Craftsman style or with some Craftsman-style detailing, many bungalows incorporated such features as exposed rafter ends, enormous stone or brick exterior chimneys, local natural materials, and open floor plans.
Perhaps the best-known example of a bungalow in Mississippi was the Louis Sullivan bungalow in Ocean Springs, a vacation house for Chicago School architect Louis Sullivan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its connection with Sullivan and another famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, both of whom claimed to have designed the structure in the early 1890s. It was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. While the high-style Louis Sullivan bungalow is not typical of Mississippi’s bungalows, it exhibited the spacious interiors, overhanging eaves, and open verandas of the more abundant vernacular bungalows.
Bungalows largely fell out of vogue after the 1930s but continued to be built sparingly into the 1940s and 1950s in rural settings. Extant examples are found throughout Mississippi on urban and suburban blocks and in rural communities.
- Rachel Carley, The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture (1994)
- Jan Jennings and Herbert Gottfried, American Vernacular Interior Architecture, 1870–1940 (1993)
- Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Reading Room website, www.loc.gov/rr/print
- James C. Massey and Shirley Maxwell, House Styles in America (1996)
- Mary Ann Smith, Gustav Stickley: The Craftsman (1983)