At the beginning of the twentieth century, California was already a popular destination for tourists trying to escape harsh winters back home or sometimes seeking the light and air that could cure their illnesses. Many stayed while others returned for annual winter retreats. At the same time, builders were busy constructing everything from apartments to beautiful hotels that would provide housing for these visitors and new residents.
“The court…was both an expedient way to minimize the value of city land, and an attempt to entice urban residents with a sense of community all too often lacking in fast-growing cities of the early 20th century. Even a narrow 50-foot lot could be made to accommodate two rows of small cottages, facing inward on a lawn or driveway”.
Around 1909, a new concept in dwellings started an architectural style that continues to this day, the bungalow court. The style has its roots in Spanish patio villas or, the summer cabin resort in the woods. With demand high for housing this community court concept was tremendously popular with builders and dwellers alike.
Fresno has 128 examples of “bungalow” courts within the City limits with numerous others through the County islands. “Bungalow Court” has been used as a generic term for home courts built in a variety of styles. Most complexes in Fresno were designed in a pared down Spanish Revival or Minimal Traditional style.
Bungalow court design was and remains an expedient and efficient use of land. The bungalow, normally a one-story home with wide overhanging eaves, projecting rafter tails and an informal floor plan that opened to the garden, became the new American cottage in the early 20th century.
Although court housing was constructed throughout the City one of the richest concentrations lies within the Tower District around the Tower Theater, constructed in 1939 on Olive Ave. and undoubtedly the inspiration for the “Tower Village,” located on E. Hedges.
Another well known bungalow court in town is just north of the Tower district known as Normandy Village. The village appears to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is already eligible for the California Register of Historical Resources. The complex is already listed on Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources.
Like bungalow home design in general, the court bungalows shared the cost-cutting elements of no basements and no attics. However, they also shared the integration of garden and house. The gardens and courtyards helped, along with patios and porches, to bring the outdoors closer.
The court design represents a successful attempt to bring gardens and homes together in a community setting of both private and public space. It is truly an idea that has allowed many Californians to enjoy the good life.
Want to see more? Join About Town Taste on its next adventure this coming Friday night or Saturday morning for the Tower Taste on 9/24 or 9/25.
We see many diverse architectural styles, including several examples of the bungalow court and even get exclusive interior access to some historic buildings. Tower Taste adventures feature art & architecture woven together with stories of our historic past and even have food tastings along the route…. all included!
Why not do something different? About Town Taste unique walking adventures explores four diverse local neighborhoods. Great for social groups & associations, families or individuals.
About Town Taste unique walking adventures operate every weekend
June 1st to September 30th Tours last under 3hrs.
FRI 5:30p or SAT 10a $49 pp.
1st wkd of ea month: Downtown Art & Architecture
2nd wkd of ea month: Art Born of Graffiti: Mural Arts District
3rd wkd of ea month: Antiques & Art: Old Town Clovis
4th wkd of ea month: Tower Taste
October to June Saturdays only
Advance reservations & information
Contact info@AboutTownTaste.com or 559 392 4471