When New Orleans composer Joe Verges sat down to write “Our Bungalow of Dreams” back in 1927, there was good reason the songwriter felt inspired by the house type.
Bungalows were all the rage in that era and the lumber companies were doing a masterful job of promoting them for both infill and new construction.
Although aficionados of architecture prize our city for its 19th-century treasures — Creole cottages, double gallery houses, centerhalls, and shotguns — New Orleans’ inventory of bungalows is surprisingly vast. That is precisely the reason that Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams of Tulane’s Southeastern Architectural Archive co-curated the exhibition “Bungalows,” devoted exclusively to this often-underappreciated early 20th-century house form.
A visit to the exhibit offers an opportunity to study original architectural drawings, many of them for houses still standing, and to view display cases filled with trade materials created by lumber companies to promote the construction of bungalows. Window sash styles, bracket configurations, and rafter tail treatments all may be examined in the exhibit that continues through May, 2015.
For a complete understanding of the history of bungalows and how they became ingrained in neighborhoods, a visit to the exhibit is a must. But in the meantime, consider these 10 indispensable facts about bungalows:
1. The word bungalow is derived from the Hindi word “ba?galo” and refers to a small, low dwelling, typical of India, with a porch, where a traveler might stay overnight. The first known use of the word in the English language was in 1676.
2. William G. Preston was the first architect in the United States credited with using the term bungalow to describe a residence. He applied it to a beachfront house he designed and publicized in “American Architect and Building News,” 1880. The two story house with expansive porches seems to have had more in common with a Stick-style or Queen Anne house than what the term eventually came to mean.
3. Defining characteristics of the earliest bungalows were an asymmetrical floor plan radiating from a central hearth, no halls, low-slung roofs, deep overhangs, and porches. By the time the house type migrated to New Orleans and was adapted for our climate, the term generally referred to modest-sized houses having asymmetrical facades and floorplans, but styled in any number of fashions that were popular in the early 20th century (Colonial Revival, Spanish Revival, Craftsman, Tudor Revival and more).
4. Competing lumber organizations — locally the Southern Pine Association and the Cypress Manufacturers’ Association — hired architects to design bungalows for inclusion in marketing materials for their products. Their advertising booklets featured details of various styles of bungalow windows, brackets and rafter tails, as well as floorplans.
5. New Orleans developed a variation on the bungalow theme which we call a raised basement home. Our raised basement bungalow was exported to Minnesota by architect Morgan D.E. Hite and subdivisions featuring the raised basement bungalow can be found in Minneapolis today.
6. Not all houses having bungalow features were originally built as bungalows. In the 1920s and 1930s, many older homes had face-lift in order to appear au courant and in tune with the popular bungalow aesthetic.
7. Architects Hite and Edward Sporl and builder William R. Gilbert were responsible for many of the homes built in the bungalow heyday (1906 – 1939). Gilbert was so prolific that he became known as Mr. Bungalow.
8. Many early ads for bungalows touted the efficiency of “small homes” but not all bungalows are modest in size.
9. Locally, the term bungalow often conjures the image of a California or Craftsman style house, popularized by brothers Charles and Henry Greene in Pasadena just after the turn of the 20th century. Their work inspired the developers of Gentilly Terrace.
10. Gentilly Terrace was the first 20th century neighborhood in New Orleans recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not the only bungalow subdivision. Others include Derby Place (c. 1936, near the Fairgrounds and featuring Spanish Revival bungalows); Bungalow Place of the Gilbert Bungalow Colony (c. 1913, on Pine Street between Jeannette and Hickory); Marlborough Gate (c. 1912, between Upperline and Robert ½ block south of Freret); and Bungalow Court (c. 1924, between Dumaine and Orleans at Bayou St. John). For a complete list, go to and click on Bungalow Subdivisions under Links.