The Craftsman Bungalow
The one home style that is synonymous with Seattle is the Craftsman. When you check out the real estate listings it can seem like nearly every other home is referred to as a Craftsman. Of course most are not, but people just love Craftsman homes. All across the country, in working class neighborhoods, this house is prominent largely due to the work of a man most have never heard of — a man named Gustav Stickley.
Mr. Stickley coined the term “Craftsman,” and in 1899 the Gustav Stickley Company was founded. Stickley’s company manufactured inexpensive furniture of his design using the latest technology of the day — mass-production. This would be the same Arts and Crafts or Mission style furniture that we now look at as valuable antiques.
From 1901 to 1916, in addition to making furniture, he published a magazine The Craftsman, which featured photographs of homes decorated with his furniture, along with plans for actual homes. Much of his furniture (plus certain pre-fabricated houses featured in his magazine), were also available from the Sears catalog as part of their Modern Home program. Because of all this brilliant marketing, Stickley’s work and influence can be seen in neighborhoods throughout the entire United States.
Meanwhile in Seattle, an entrepreneur named Jud Yoho popularized the Craftsman movement with a similar concept to Stickley. Yoho served as President of The Craftsman Bungalow Company and publisher of Bungalow Magazine. Bungalow Magazine was patterned after Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman and, like his rival, Yoho promoted his home construction company, with catalogs of his Craftsman Bungalow homes, as well stock house plans designed by Yoho and his associate Edward L Merrit.
Yoho was not a trained architect, so Merritt filled that void, and together they designed, built, and sold homes throughout North Seattle. In 1913, Stickley began legal proceedings to prevent Yoho from using the word “Craftsman” in marketing his homes. To stop the proceedings, Yoho agreed not to use the word again, however in 1914, Bungalow Magazine continued to use the word “Craftsman” to advertise his home plans and his 1916 deluxe catalog had the word prominently featured on its front cover.
So what is a Craftsman? The majority of Seattle’s Craftsman homes were built between 1900 and 1930. Generally, a Craftsman features a low-pitched roof with exposed rafter tails, street facing gables, wide overhangs and eaves. Most sport a prominent front porch with overhangs supported by either tapered or square piers, however this is not a hard and fast rule. Wood shingles, combined with clapboard siding, usually cover the exterior. Stone or bricks are used for the chimney, with the porch piers and foundation often featuring stone and brickwork as well. Living and dining room windows are usually placed in groups of three with a larger fixed center window often flanked by narrower double hung windows on either side. The upper sashes feature multiple panes or “lights” while the lower window is single paned.
Interiors make great use of available space. Entry foyers are mostly absent, with the front door opening directly into the living room. The living and dining rooms are separated by half walls, which frequently house built-in bookcases. Window seats are very common, adding additional storage underneath, and wainscoting often runs from floor to plate rail height, with the plate rail adding additional shelf space. Fireplaces may have built in bookcases on either side, and more elaborate examples may have leaded glass doors. Ceilings often feature box beams, which look structural but in most cases are purely decorative.
Of course, you would be a very lucky buyer to find a truly traditional Craftsman home that matches what I’ve described. Most of these homes have endured a hundred years of indifferent owners, remodels, and renovations — so much so that many of the finer details have been unfortunately lost. However, when I do find one that has retained its original charm it can be very exciting!
If you would like more information on classic Seattle homes I recommend the books Classic Houses of Seattle– High Style to Vernacular, by Caroline T. Swope. Or maybe The Seattle Bungalow: People and Houses, 1900 -1940 by Janet Ore. Historic Seattle www.historicseattle.org is a non profit group dedicated to preserving Seattle’s architectural history. The Sears Archives also has information on the many homes available through their catalog. Not only is this a blast from the past, the site is a great reference for home styles of the era. It’s hard to imagine these designs as being pre-fabricated homes. The archive is available online at www.searsarchives.com/homes