Influence & Development of the Seattle Craftsman in the 20th Century

For my final project, I was most interested in discussing architecture, its impact, and importance in the environment surrounding it (which obviously, is extremely broad). I narrowed it down to Seattle and vernacular architecture, with the Craftsman-style bungalow. It is a house that all the locals see every day in passing, but we really don’t give enough attention to.

Taking four previous architectural history classes, I honestly hated discussing the history. One of the previous classes had us research a building in Seattle and its historical significance, but I was picking at straws and it was difficult to find enough reliable information. Researching from an historical archaeological perspective was much more interesting, because I surprisingly found so much I could discuss within in my paper. Thankfully, I even had notes on the specific architectural styles that I was discussing, from the classes that I did go to last year! And I still had my architecture textbooks, so it looks like they didn’t end up being a waste of money!

Anyway, my topic discusses the influence of previous styles of architecture and their accompanying ideology on the development of the Seattle bungalow, and how it contributed to suburban expansion. The Craftsman-style derives its roots from the Arts and Crafts movement in England, in which reformers found that industrial society was corrupt and they had these Romantic ideals of incorporating real craftsmanship and nature into their designs, whether it was architectural or furniture or textiles. They despised classical architecture and believed in a “no-frills” aesthetic, where artistic integrity should be included within the structure. Planners talked about having garden cities (which I personally, think is a good idea) that had maximum capacities to counter overpopulation in cities. In terms of architecture, houses were built with local materials instead of imported, and there was no geometric order to structures.

In America, the bungalow became most prominent in the west coast, starting in California. One of the more famous examples is the Gamble House, or if you’re not crazy and you’ve seen Back to the Future (if you haven’t seen it, you’re a slacker, McFly), Doc’s house. In Seattle, the bungalow became a capitalistic venture more so than an ideological one. Jud Yoho, a businessman advertised Craftsman homes without them being craftsman. They were the same style, but just mass-produced and much cheaper which appealed to buyers. They also included better appliances, and provided families with a sense of security and independence. Characteristic of Arts and Crafts houses, they had open plans, and so the dining room and living rooms had a flowing procession.

The more I researched into it, the more I became interested. I feel this is important to talk about because these homes have become characteristic not just of Seattle, but of the Pacific Northwest, and the rise in population growth from companies like Amazon could become a potential threat to pieces of history. The cost of living rises each year (my rent went up $100 in just a year—that’s 50 cups of coffee!) and unless you work at a tech company or some other decently-paying job (or you’re Jeff Bezos or Dr. Meredith Grey), rent does become a burden. It’s a problem that directly affects all of us.

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