The Weeping Bungalow

The bungalow, first developed in India, became a proud 20thC fixture in many of our city’s neighborhoods. Thousands still sparkle today as testament to their sturdy brick & mortar commitment to where they stand.

Starting with Mayor Daley I, bungalow owners have worked to preserve and protect this architectural heritage. I know, because one of those stout beauties was my childhood home. Whenever I return for a visit [ a pilgrimage? ], I see in it a living history of our city’s recent successes and failures.

Our bungalow was built by its owner during the Roaring years of the 1920s….was sold to us during the Depression years of the 1930s…. got our family through the War years of the 1940s….. and gave us security during the Boom years of the 1950s.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the 1960s!

Like us, our neighbors had planned their bungalows would be the family home for generations to come. I guess we hadn’t heard the adage: “Man plans and the Gods laugh!” With little warning, an anti-establishment burst of war riots and racial rage filled the 1960s. It wasn’t long before an incoherent White Flight took over our quiet, leafy streets. The sense of social order these bungalows had once stood for now got caught up in the whirlwind.

Our bungalow neighborhood — Chicago itself — might have happened very differently had we all responded more wisely to the 1960s. The anger of those years should have sparked reform, not repression. The demands of those years should have been discussed, not dismissed. The dreams of those years should have been pursued, not put off.

My old red-brick bungalow still stands there on Mayfield Avenue. The new owner, an African American lawyer, invited me in during one of my trips down memory lane. He is as proud of his home as we were when it was our home. I like to believe we have become friends. It’s what might have been had we all allowed our best, not our worst, reactions to the violence of the 1960s.

My…his…our home will soon be 100 years old. It has seen some of the city’s best and worst.
Like a graying elder statesman, it seems to speak to me whenever I’m in the neighborhood.
It seems to ask, “Why did you leave me so soon?” A question to which I and so many others can only answer: “Our fears forgot our dreams.”

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