Bungalow Courts - A Sense of Place in the Here and Now!

13 Nov 2020 5:44 PM | Anonymous

by Peyton Jones, Ph.D.

Bungalow courts are characterized by their unique design - two parallel rows of five or six cottages, facing inward, separated by a wide, hexagon-brick path or communal “court”. They recall an earlier era of housing shortages, when episodic influxes of seasonal and permanent residents strained the available housing stock, and property owners and builders got creative with their spaces. It recalls a time when people valued affordable, multi-family dwellings that promoted neighborliness and community in a proto-suburban setting.

The 'Burg's bungalow courts are threatened by a downtown beset with new development (click here to read about how PTB helped to save a bungalow on Moffett Court). The remaining courts, seemingly tucked away and commonly only recognized by the lucky few, carry note-worthy stories like Lang Court and Al Lang and Rhoda Court and Rhoda Vogel.

Home builders in Pasadena, California, inspired by a variety of residential architectural styles and neighborhood designs, from the Spanish patio villas to the vacation cabin in the woods, pioneered the “bungalow court” in 1909. The style gained popularity with buyers and renters who could not afford a detached single-family home (or, as in St. Pete, winter guests who didn’t want the upkeep). The central court, whether a garden or patio or pathway, promoted a sense of community and shared responsibility while maintaining the spirit of American individualism. Click here to learn more about the history of Pasadena's bungalow courts.

In St. Petersburg, the bungalows of Lang and Rhoda Courts are more than old buildings that tell a story—they’re iconic features of the city’s built-environment, and, combined with the city’s natural endowment, are an essential part of the city’s sense of place.

Lang Court residents, along with Preserve the 'Burg, secured local historic district designation for their bungalow court in 2014 (click here to read the landmark application). Today, Lang Court, fronting 4th Ave. N. just east of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. St., still retains the feel of bygone St. Petersburg.

On the southside of downtown, the bungalows within Rhoda Court lack a landmark designation. Preserve the 'Burg is exploring ways to help ensure Rhoda Court, fronting 6th St. and just south of 3rd Ave. S., will also be preserved. When you walk through the court it evokes feelings: nostalgia for an earlier time, but also a sense of place in the here and now—the there, there, as when somewhere says show me St. Petersburg, you can point and say there.

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