Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Basic Bungalow - Digging Through the Past to Plan for the Future

We won't be able to start this project for a bit.  Typically we start the next project while an existing project is getting completed - but that wasn't possible this time.  It took a long time to find something to renovate.  And without a project to work on, the crew has moved on to other work..... now we're waiting our place in line for their availability.  Maybe not so patiently.....😝. 

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the behind the scenes work that typically gets done before we lift the first hammer.  Hopefully you'll find it interesting as I give you a sneak peek into some of the decision process that happens at the beginning.

There are a couple of mysteries regarding the bungalow that I'm still trying to solve.  The first is what seems like a simple question.  When was it built?  It's been surprisingly hard to figure out.

Mystery #1 - when was it built?  The City's records show the house was built in 1925.  But the City had a fire years ago and many records were lost in the fire, so they've had to estimate when homes were built.  The previous owner, who lived there for 40 years, said it was built in 1948.  1925 or 1948 - that's a big difference.  I wanted to be a bit more accurate!

I did a deed search and found that the house was built in a subdivision called Sunset View, which was established in 1925.  In 1926 Edwin and Mabel Whiteley bought the lot and the deed required that a single family home be built - and it had to cost more than $4000 πŸ˜‚ (I'm sure they couldn't fathom what today's real estate prices are like!  Although I did an inflation cost analysis and that would be $60,000 today - not sure you could buy a lot for that price)

1925 Sunset View Subdivision Plan

Mystery #2 - Was this always a 3 season porch?
  The property was sold in 1935 and had a house on it by then, so sometime in that 9 year period the house was built.  That makes sense - we haven't found evidence of knob and tube wiring which started to phase out in the early 1930's. The lumber used in the house is slightly smaller than a full 2x8, which points to late 1920's.   And the foundation blocks are similar to another house we did down the street which was built in 1930.   We will probably never know the exact year it was built, but this narrows it down a lot.




And that brings me to mystery #2 - the front porch.  I'm trying to decide what to do with it.  It's decent sized - 8x6 feet and appears to have been used as a 3 season porch.  The insulation is still in the walls..... but no paneling or wallboard, which seems a bit odd.  So do we finish it up again as an enclosed porch? It could be a nice spot on a sunny morning.  Or should we tear the windows and walls out to have an open porch?  It would be nice to see how it looked originally!  BTW - we can't expand it, building codes have changed a lot since the house was built and now the footprint can't be changed.  

Things that make you go hmmm..... why are their footprints on the ceiling?  


Like most bungalows, the porch opens directly into the living room

Our Basic Bungalow
So that led me to do some research on the original house and the front porch.  I couldn't find any really old photos of the house, but I wondered if there were other bungalows that were the same in the neighborhood. So I started driving around and found 4 that were the same!!!  Jackpot!  Interestingly all 4 of them have a different porch style.  Isn't it fascinating to see how different the same house looks with a different porch?
 

4 identical bungalows to ours..... just the front porch is changed


The South Portland Historical Society helped me find this 1954 photo of a matching bungalow around the corner.  Clearly, they have kept it the same across all the decades.  See how it looks now (in the bottom photo above) vs 1954?  Could our porch have been the same?  All the framing on our porch appears to have been redone, so we can't tell what was originally there.  Or, judging from the siding on the lower half, was it closed in from the beginning?
Photo from 1954 - South Portland Historical Society Archives

For our porch, I'd love to build in a bench along one side.  The porch faces southeast and gets flooded with morning light.  Wouldn't it be great to sit out there with a cup of coffee in the morning and watch the world go by?  The windows could be open in the summer to keep it cool - but as long as it's sunny out, it should be pretty comfortable even in the winter.  A sunny, warm spot on a Maine winter morning is a pretty sweet place to be!  

So, I'm curious.  What is your vote?  Should the front porch stay an enclosed porch?  Or should we open it up like the twin bungalows?  

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20 comments:

  1. If you can get a build date on the other bungalows, that might help narrow it down. There are two other examples of our house plan in our neighborhood and they were all built within a year of one another (1922-23).

    I like that big open front porch with the haint blue ceiling!

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    1. I thought about that too - but because of the fire destroying the records, they were just as ambiguous!!

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  2. I think open it. It would be lovely to sit out there on a nice day and feel the breeze. I like your idea of benches, that is also great for changing shoes. If that's the main/daily use entrance it will get filled with coats, boots etc if its closed in.

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    1. The family will most likely use the kitchen entrance! And for some reason, Mainers never seem to use the front door! πŸ˜€

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  3. I like the look of it open, but as a mom I it's a huge bonus to have a space where boots and snow clothes can be taken off before everyone comes in the house. Is there a dedicated mudroom elsewhere?

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    1. We will have a mud bench and hooks next to the kitchen door. But in Maine, the more space the better!

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  4. I agree with Morrise Family that it would make a great mudroom. There's room for hooks for coats and backpacks over a bench with shoe storage underneath.

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    1. I’m embarrassed at how many pairs of boots my husband and I have! If we had kids it would be even crazier!

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  5. I'm a sucker for a front porch. I think it adds so much character and curb appeal. I say open her up! I can envision big ferns hanging there in the summer time.

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  6. Based on the photos of the other houses, I think it looks better open. However, it is useful closed up - a good place for guests to remove wet clothing during the winter before stepping into the living room. Then again, it’s good to have a covered porch to stand under when knocking on someone’s front door. There, I am officially no help. πŸ˜‚

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    1. Ha ha - you sounds like me! I’ve changed my mind over and over again!

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  7. I'm a New Englander with a house in Maine. My three-season sunroom is my favorite place in the world. Open porches in New England look like southern wannabes.

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    1. So many people from Maine are saying the same thing!!! And who wants to be a ‘southern wannabe’ 🀣🀣🀣

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  8. If you've got a mudroom going in at the back, then my vote is open. We lived in a similar bungalow in Portland and it had an open front porch. We were surprised at how much we used it. We became inveterate stoop sitters! I love the house btw. We're right down the street. Excited to watch the progress.

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  9. We have a small screened porch on the front of our bungalow and live out there all summer long! No bugs! Cat and dogs spend hours out there and think they're in heaven. It's a must for any home we own in the future.

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    1. I hadn’t even thought of screening it in! Interesting idea!

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  10. My vote is open. Keeping the existing structure, but just open (like the pale green one in your group photo without the flag).

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    1. I keep bouncing back and forth - tough decision!

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  11. My vote depends. First, is the living room really light? Because an enclosed porch makes the rooms behind it darker than they would otherwise be. Second question, are you sure it will be comfortable in the winter? I had a bungalow in New Haven CT and the enclosed porch just wasn't very pleasant in the winter, and it was hot in the summer, the windows stopped the airflow just enough to make it less comfortable than if it was open. As a result, I just pretty much never used it. Now, I live in North Carolina, and I have a screened-in porch on my 1930s colonial revival and even on the warmest summer evenings (it often stays in the 80s at night here), with the ceiling fan going, it's very comfortable. Our camp in Phippsburg, Maine has a screened-in porch, which we use every evening even when it's chilly. So with all that said, my vote is open it up and screen it.

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