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The Undersung Hero of Chicago Architecture

Small, boxy Georgian homes break up the bungalow belt, but fit in nicely due to their material and modesty.

Chicagoans love bungalows and worker’s cottages — two architectural styles that pretty much define our sensible, solidly-built residential architecture. Sometimes the adorable Tudors in places like Schorsch Village get some love. But the one totally neglected style is Georgian revival.

Starting in the 1930s, spurred in part by the restoration of colonial Williamsburg in the late 1920s, architects started to revisit the buildings that built early America. “Jigsaw exteriors, overdone bungalows, and false gabled English were among many passing fads, while good colonial, early American, and Georgian have stood the test of time,” wrote T.C. Hughes, secretary of the Detroit chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1939. “If well done, they will always be good.”

If you search for “Georgian” on Zillow, the pattern of how the style matches the city’s growth is evident:


Image: Zillow

Georgian architecture is about simplicity and proportion, and late Georgian revival pushed it further, following a post-Depression shrinking of house sizes. In Chicago the result is particularly extreme: They’re small, unadorned boxes that break up the bungalow belt but fit in nicely due to their material and modesty. Because of their size and comparative lack of desirability, they make good starter homes, and their compactness can result in big lawns by Chicago standards.

3554 North Rutherford Avenue


Image: Zillow

This thoughtfully updated three-bed, two-bath Georgian is typical of the form: a little bay-window space that blends it in with the bungalow, with midcentury touches in the woodwork and glass blocks, but thoroughly neo-Georgian in form. Fortunately, they kept the little mansard “roof” above the basement bar. Like all Georgians of its kind it looks tiny, but it’s a respectable 1,277 square feet for $314,000, and you can see the tradeoff for backyard space.

3060 North Neva Avenue


Image: Zillow

Not far from Schorsch Village, just down Belmont from Schiller Woods, you can see how the Georgian has persisted as an affordable house. This simple one is $275,000 for two beds, two baths, and a 2.5-car garage. From the perspective of the dining room looking out to the living room, you can see how the interior borrows from bungalows. Even with the garage, the lawn is still expansive.

2029 North Nordica Avenue


Image: Zillow

If you have a bit more money, you can get fancy: this 1936 Galewood four-bed, 1.5 bath has terra cotta and copper roofs, two wood-burning fireplaces, and french doors off the dining room. Vibrant landscaping sets off the simple facade, and a mature evergreen shades the living area. It’s $435,000, but you get a lot more space than a later Georgian box: 2,266 square feet, to be exact.

1620 West 100th Place


Image: Zillow

Set on a hill in Beverly, this looks a bit more bold than most Georgian boxes, but it’s similar in size and affordability: $324,900 for three beds, three baths, and 1,600 square feet. It’s got some unusual touches, like bedroom bay windows that make for sunny, private nooks. The open-plan main floor carves out a lot of kitchen space with lengthy counter space and a breakfast bar; the third bedroom makes for a bright home office.

2923 West Morse Avenue


Image: Zillow

For $589,900, you can get a neo-Georgian that, on the inside at least, wears its midcentury roots proudly (see the asymmetrical built-in bookshelves in the living room surrounding the fireplace). Some of the renovations have aged badly, like the pink bedroom with brown carpet — but you can’t get that wood in the bathroom just anywhere. It’s not cheap, but it’s bigger than it looks: four beds, 2.5 baths, at just over 2,000 square feet.

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