Established in 2003, West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors is a voluntary group of neighbors in Chicago who desire to assist each other in preserving and appreciating the homes in our neighborhood; educating each other and the broader public in the value and the story of our neighborhood; and providing resources to each other to improve the quality of our homes, enrich our lives and assure our neighborhood's future.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why we love old buildings

I received this email from a friend who lives near the apartment building being demolished at 6425 of N. Rockwell and thought it was a nice tribute:

I'm sure you have both been down the road to see the building...

It's been quite a sight watching them tear it down - very sad thinking of all the people who have lived there through the 80 something years, all the voices that have echoed through the halls, the birthdays and funerals, all the footsteps that have gone up and down the stairs, all the smells of all the different cooking...

I think since I have lived here there were Irish, Jewish, Romanians, Filipinos, Gypsies, African Americans, Mexicans, Indians and Pakistanis - everyone coming to give the American Dream a go!

Now it sits in ruin -just a ghost. I guess that's what they call progress! (Gulp!)

And now what? Do you remember when they paved over Downtown Chicago and State Street was a mall?

God only knows whose bright idea that was- I truly believe this will be as bad as paving over downtown - the people will quit coming because there will no longer be the lure of the marketplace, the air of being with people enjoying themselves, the liveliness and feeling of being a part of something, all the street fairs and fests that they had there - it will all be gone, hidden behind more concrete...

I guess I'm a child of the 70's because I just keep
thinking of that Joni Mitchell song about putting up a Parking Lot -

The neighborhood becomes a lesser place...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

West Ridge Winners!

Congrats to West Ridge neighbors the Millers and Martins, both are 2007 HCBI / Driehaus award winners!

Dan and Michelle Miller took the top award for the beautiful exterior rehab they completed on their Talman bungalow.

Beth and Ken Martin won honorable mention for their woodland garden, see details in the following post.

Bungalow Gardens and Window Boxes

It's not just stained-glass repair and woodwork refinishing that get the attention of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative, which works to encourage the preservation and restoration of the classic style of brick homes found all over Chicago. They also honor landscaping. This year Lyndie & Matthew Sherman won a top Driehaus award from the initiative for creating a small formal garden where there once was a back-yard pool.

Beth and Ken Martin (photo at top, also proprietors of two rain barrels and a worm compost bin) won an honorable mention for planting woodland gardens to replace grass in their front and back yards.

The bungalow initiative's Web site is a font of information and sources for green and historic remodeling, much of it interesting to owners of other old houses or anybody interested in remodeling.

Speaking of sprucing up, see the window boxes on the Martins' house? That's what those mysterious stone projections are that you see sticking out of the fronts of so many bungalows: They are brackets for window boxes. Most of the boxes are long gone. But when they are there and well-planted, what a difference they make!

Unfortunately, it takes a loooong window box, much longer than you can pick up at the local home center. Octagon bungalows like the Martins' have a combination of three boxes, but some bungalows have brackets for a single box all across the front of the house.

Such a sizable box is likely to be a custom item and can be pricey. It needs to be strong and well-built. Finding just the right one is a great source of frustration to Chicago bungalow devotees.
Before you start shopping, measure your brackets. And it also might be a good idea, before you place an order, to cut out the silhouette of the window box in cardboard to scale, set it on the brackets and step back to make sure you like the look. The mockup will help you decide on just the right length. You could even paint it to help decide on a color.

Urban Prairie Planters in West Ridge makes wooden flower boxes designed for the bungalow brackets and can custom-make other planters. Call Jo Stavig at 773-743-4386 or e-mail them at

Another material for boxes is polystyrene, which is plastic but can be painted with latex paint. Check them out at or has fiberglass window boxes up to 6 feet long. None of these is exactly in the Prairie-cum-Arts-and-Crafts style of the original boxes that came with the houses in the 1920s, but if you choose a restrained and simple one you might be satisfied.

This post is part of The Chicago Gardener, a blog of the Chicago Tribune. See more posts on container gardening here. For information on the Tribune Home&Garden section's Glorious Gardens contest, click here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

2007 Bungalow and Green Expo in October

From the Chicago Sun-Times

July 20, 2007

Oct. 27 has been selected as the date for the 2007 Historic Chicago Bungalow and Green Home Expo at the Merchandise Mart.

Visitors to the expo will have access to 150 vendors and 15 seminars focused on historic home restoration and green building technology. Information will be available on loans and grants for home buying and rehabbing through the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association and the City of Chicago's Department of Housing.

Exhibitors will be on hand to advise residents on projects such as restoring wood windows, upgrading wiring, and plumbing and installing a rain garden. Owners of Chicago bungalows who bring photographs of their homes will also be able to certify their bungalows on the spot with the HCBA (the first step to taking advantage of the group's financial incentives). Workshops at the event will provide details about home rehab, restoration and permits.

The show was created in 2002 as the Historic Chicago Bungalow Expo, and it was expanded in 2006 to include green home renovation resources.

"The Historic Chicago Bungalow and Green Home Expo offers residents the tools and resources necessary to purchase their first home, restore a historic house, or incorporate green building techniques into their renovation projects," said Annette Conti, executive director of the HCBA. "We are excited to again partner with the City of Chicago's Departments of Housing and Environment to encourage residents to be green, as energy-efficiency means long-term affordability for homes."

Admission is free. A Brown Line CTA station brings passengers right to the Merchandise Mart. Hours for the event will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit, or call (312) 642-0999.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

WRBN update

Greetings Bungalow Neighbors,

Believe it or not, this is the 4th year of WRBN! We've all learned so much and met great neighbors who have become friends.

We are, however, at a crossroads. Halfway through 2007 we have fewer than 10 households who are paid members. In order to continue WRBN we need your support both as paid members, and also in recruiting new members.

We kicked off 2007 with a great party at the Concaildi's award-winning bungalow. And we've had great speakers this year:

  • Landscape designer David Gianneschi on bungalow landscaping and small space gardening
  • A hands-on insulation session in a bungalow, led by John Carroll of All Comfort Insulation
  • House in Progress bloggers Jeannie and Aaron Olson on forming a high-tech bungalow community while rehabbing their bungalow
  • Architect Chris Turley on how to add living space without destroying historic integrity

    And we've got lots more planned:
  • August tbd joint outing with the Northtown Garden Society to the Chicago Center for Green Technology
  • August 25 Members Only Saturday field trip to look at the Bungalows of Beverly. . and Beyond
  • September 11 A realtor's take on the bungalow real estate market in 2007
  • Oct 20 Members Only Saturday field trip to Island Girl architectural salvage showroom
  • Nov 13 The history of Devon Avenue and the neighborhoods around it

    How can you help? If you haven't already done so, please drop off a $15.00 check to Ann Glapa at 2601 W. Farwell if you'd like to attend any members only events. And spread the word! We'll be emailing a flyer with meeting details and membership information that can be distributed to your neighbors.

    Best regards,
    Jo Stavig and Maribeth Brewer
    WRBN Co-chairs

Thursday, July 5, 2007

How we became West Ridge

From the October 17, 1963 Chicago Tribune

Residents of the Far North Side neighborhood of West Ridge are more likely to tell you they live in North Town or West Rogers Park.

The official name of the community of 61,129 is nearly as old, though, as the hill that marks its eastern border at Ridge Avenue. The neighborhood is bounded on the north by Howard Street , on the west by the North Shore Channel and Kedzie Avenue and on the south by Peterson and Bryn Mawr Avenues.

Though originally settled in the 1830s by Phillip Rogers, West Ridge was never really part of Rogers Park. Clashes with its eastern neighbor and nearby Evanston led to West Ridge's incorporation as a village in 1890, accoring to yellowed Tribune clippings tracing development of the Far North Side.

The independence was short-lived however. West Ridge was incorporated into the City of Chicago three years later.

A realtor's view of West Ridge Bungalows

Here's a link to a relator who is highlighting West Ridge Bungalows on her website. It has some nice panoramic photos, you'll recognize some of your neighbor's homes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

R.I.P, 6425 N. Rockwell

The lot is fenced, the backhoe is waiting in the wings and this 80 year old building is headed to the landfill. Maybe it will end up next to the remains of the Nortown Theater. Say goodbye to another piece of West Ridge history.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Are you registered?

Yesterday I was out shooting what I hope are the final photos for our Talman Historic District nomination - bungalow garages. One owner was very nice about letting me into his back yard to shoot the pretty yard side of his garage, shown in photo.

I asked him if he had registered his place, and he said no, someone told him if you registered, the HCBA dictated what you could or couldn't do with your home. This is not true. The HCBA provides guidelines that they suggest you follow to preserve the integrity of your historic home, but there are no bungalow police who will swoop in if you decide to do a purple roof and put deer statuary in the front yard. Not that I recommend either of those things.

The HCBA website offers
online registration, and once you've been certified you are eligible to apply for their various grants and loans. Yes, there are some requirements that need to be met to qualify for the money, but they are reasonable and practical and in the long run will make your home more attractive and energy efficient. All good things to work toward.