The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes

Aside from its soaring sky-high buildings, another thing that Chicago is known for its architecture. Walking through the residential areas of Chicago, it’s hard to miss the distinct architectural styles of the city’s homes.

The architecture styles of Chicago are believed to have a connection with the Great Chicago Fire that happened in October 1871. Legend incorrectly holds that the fire started when a family cow accidentally kicked a lighted lantern. The origin story claims that the fire began by a barn located on the property of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, at 137 DeKoven Street on the city’s southwest side. O’Leary denied the claim and the reason for the fire was never discovered. The tragedy has burnt down four square miles of the city, ending the lives of 300 people and making the one-third of the city’s population homeless.

Rebuilding the City After the Great Chicago Fire

After the devastating fire, rebuilding the city immediately began. The Government required the new buildings to contain fireproof construction materials such as brick, marble, stone, and limestone. Terra-cotta clay has also become a popular and effective fireproof material. The durability of terra-cotta clay has proven effective, as many historical Chicago skyscrapers containing this material are still standing today.

This part of Chicago’s history has contributed to the birth of today’s many notable architectural styles and schools in the city. It’s no wonder why there are styles of homes that people can identify as truly “Chicago”.

5 Timeless Styles of The Windy City Homes

Indeed, Chicago has risen from devastation and, to many, has become America’s top architectural city. How can you not notice the amazing structures that prove the city’s dominance in this field? The Willis Tower, Aqua Tower, and the Jeweler’s Building are just some of the Chicago’s architectural prides, but there are countless others that create the amazing skyline and spaces in between.

In this article, you’ll get a glimpse of the various styles used in Chicago homes and commercial buildings, along with the interesting story behind each structure.

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes | The Worker Cottage

  • The Worker Cottage

This type of home is said to be the original Chicago home–as early as 1830s, the building of worker cottages has started. These structures were initially made of wood, but after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, their foundation materials were upgraded to bricks. Over the years, the basic form of workers cottage remained the same, but it varied in different ornamentation styles. They usually have one to one-and-a-half stories and street-facing triangular roofs.

Interesting Fact: The worker cottages are believed to be essential to Chicago’s urban growth in the 19th century.

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes | The Courtyard Apartment

  • The Courtyard Apartment

With a green space on its center, the U-shaped courtyard apartments boast a front entrance stairwell and a large back staircase and a design that encourages ventilation. However, courtyard buildings taller than 3 stories has become a rare sight due to Chicago ordinance that implements fire-code restrictions and elevator requirements for those who want to build higher, making floor additions much more costly.

Interesting Fact: Typically built from 1910 to 1930, this type of house was first sold as luxury housing.

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes | The Bungalow

  • The Bungalow

Bungalows started to be built around 1910 and 1940, and they were first designed for working-class owners. This type of house is usually distinguished by its one-and-a-half stories, brick facade, full basements, and verandas facing the street. It commonly has limestone accents, concrete entry stairs, and dormers. A living room and a dining room with a kitchen on one side and bedrooms on another comprise the typical interiors of a bungalow.

Interesting Fact: With its popularity in Chicago, bungalows were considered the new workers cottages of the 20th century.

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes | The Frame Two-Flat

  • The Frame Two-Flat

Popular in 1900 to 1920, two-flat homes are commonly composed of wood, stone, and brick. This type of house is usually adorned in various architectural styles, layout, and ornamentation. Usually, the owner resides in the first floor of the two-flat, while the second floor is rented out.

Interesting Fact: Two flats served as a link for the working class between apartment life and the single family bungalow–making this house type known as the “workhouse of Chicago housing”.

The Signature Look of Classic Chicago Homes | The Greystone

  • The Greystone

Though greystone houses utilize different ornamentation, the most common architectural style used for this housing type is the simplified Classic Revival. Greystone houses can serve both as single-family homes and multi-family buildings. The single entrance that faces the streets and the apartments of a multi-flat greystone create an illusion of capacious and grand living.

Interesting Fact: The Greystone homes are said to be the Chicago’s version of New York brownstone with its limestone exteriors acquired from quarries around Indiana.

Today, one can walk around the streets of the city and see all 5 types of homes in short order, which goes to prove the diverse history the city holds. Old and new seamlessly blend together to create lively communities, rich with culture and history.

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