The Arts and Crafts Movement
Craftsman architecture in the United States was a direct result of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Great Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. Art critic John Ruskin and his disciple William Morris inspired an organized movement in Great Britain dedicated to handicraft production, fine workmanship, and artistic integrity, with the condemnation of industrial capitalism, manufactured production, mechanized men, and falsified architecture. Through guilds, workshops, schools, and publications their ideals, including house designs and decorating plans, spread throughout Europe and to the United States as the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The Craftsman home in the United States was shaped by William Morris's concept, "The House Beautiful," which believed houses should be simple, tidy and natural with a large garden. He advocated for uncluttered houses with only useful and beautiful objects including; bookcases, witting tables, moveable chairs, wood cupboards, wood floors, brick and tile fireplaces, all of which should be made by a craftsman. He firmly believed that people should "have nothing in their houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Morris's ideals were spread in the United States through magazines, newspapers, American Arts and Crafts societies, and American furnishers, including Gustav Stickley.
American magazines brought the concept of the Craftsman home to the American middle class. In 1901, the furniture manufacture Gustav Stickley created The Craftsman, a magazine which interpreted the Arts and Crafts Movement to the American public at large. In 1903 he began to print illustrated interior and exterior designs for Craftsman homes, which advertised handcraft wood furnishings from his shop. The style spread in popularity and other magazines including House Beautiful, founded in 1896, and the Ladies Home Journal, featured room and house designs influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. Soon the Craftsman home became associated with the growing middle class.
The Craftsman magazine was crucial to the Craftsman style's growing popularity in the American middle class.
Inside Gustav Stickley's home; a prime example of the Craftsman style.
The California Craftsman Style
The Craftsman home developed differently in California than the rest of the country due, to its history, natural landscapes, and fast growing middle class in the late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth centuries. California was a symbol of anti-modernism, and the Easterners and Southerners who came to California were drawn to its romantic history of rancheros, haciendas, and Spanish missions that had nourished the concept of a simple and rustic California lifestyle. The idea that California was a retreat from the excess of progress made it deeply perceptive to the message of William Morris.
Charles Fletcher Lummis, a Harvard drop-out who walked from Ohio to California in 1885, embraced Morris's ideals while also admiring California's Native American, Spanish, and Mexican history. He believed in preserving California's history and became the first President of the California Landmarks Club, the first preservation society in California. Lummis publicly advocated for simplicity of living and the Craftsman ideals of William Morris. His friend Charles Keeler referred to him as "William Morris turned into a Mexican Indian."
Californian, poet, and naturalist Charles Keeler is the father of the California Craftsman style. A good friend of John Muir, Keeler sought a simple rustic life joined with nature which would become the foundation for the California Craftsman style. Keeler was a follower of the Arts and Crafts Movement and organized the Ruskin Club in the 1890s to "show the necessity of art in the home-in homemaking, in home decoration, and for the general spirit of our daily life." In his 1902 publication, The Simple Home, he advocated for functionalism of style that associated beauty with need, a concept taken directly from William Morris. In the preface of The Simple Home, Keeler asserts that "a simpler, a truer, a more vital art expression is now taking place in California."
Keeler's goal was to create a California Craftsman architectural style that was distinctive from the rest of the country. He suggested use of California native redwood trees and river stones for building materials and the use of natural paint colors and native California plants for gardens, allowing the home to blend in with the natural landscape. Due to the warm California climate and outdoor lifestyle Keeler also suggested houses have "deep, recessed verandas, windows with deep reveals, and open rooms roofed over and with sides protected by screens upon which vines may be trained." Keeler had taken the Craftsman style and molded it to the California lifestyle. The Simple Home was read by many California architects who then designed houses that promoted the Craftsman style and fit into the myth of California so well. Many drew upon oter influences but all catered toward the nostalgia of California. California Craftsman influences included English Tudor, Swiss Chalet, Japanese Temple, and Spanish Mission.
The strong Japanese influences on the California Craftsman style became popular in the late nineteenth century. George Turner Marsh, a native from Australia, opened America's first shop devoted exclusively to Japanese Art at San Francisco's Palace Hotel in 1876. Turner designed a Japanese garden and several traditional Japanese structures for the California Midwinter International Exposition. The area survives today as the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the oldest of its kind. The exposition influenced regional home building as is made apparent by the Japanese qualities of California Craftsman houses.
Charles Fletcher Lummis embraced California's history and promoted the simple and rustic lifestlye of California's past.
Painter William Keith, Charles Keeler, and John Muir
Charles Keeler's Craftsman home in Berkeley designed by San Francisco architect Bernard Maybeck in 1895.
View of the Japanese Tea Garden at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco.
The California Craftsman Bungalow
The Bungalow, in all its various forms, has existed since the early seventeenth century. It originated in the Bengali region of India as a peasant dwelling, or "bangala" made of mud, cow dung, thatch, and bamboo. Its design shielded the hot sun with its low pitched roof and many windows which allowed for plenty of air ventilation. By the eighteenth century English colonists in India had adapted the hut to meet their needs, a structure which became known as a Bungalow. A Bungalow is classified as a one-or-one-and-a-half story house with a porch and veranda. In 1888 a local builder published his plan for a redwood bungalow in the California Architect and Building News, and the California Craftsman Bungalow was born.
Southern California's growing middle class demanded affordable but stylized housing. The California Craftsman Bungalow was the perfect answer. Craftsman Bungalows followed the California Craftsman architectural style but on a smaller scale. They utilized natural materials, simple ornamentation, and honest construction. Low pitched roofs with overhangs at the eaves allowed for shade over large porches where families could enjoy the sunny California climate. Local materials used in construction included river rock for porches and chimneys and Pacific Northwest redwood for exterior timbers, beamed ceilings, shingled walls, and built in cabinetry. This allowed Bungalows to harmonize with their surroundings and be built for between $1,000 and $2,000. The California Craftsman Bungalow was a perfect blend of artistry and economy.
Prefabricated Bungalow kits from Sears, Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and the Aladdin Company became popular in the early twentieth century. Californians could choose their perfect Bungalow from a catalog book such as Henry L. Wilson's California Bungalows of the Twenties. Catalog plans made the California Craftsman Bungalow even more accessible to the mass public, which led to the "Bungalow Land" phenomenon in Southern California. The California Craftsman Bungalow became the characteristic architectural style of the early- twentieth century.
A Bungalow from Henry L. Wilson's California Bungalows of the Twenties catalog.