I had always thought the term “Aeroplane” or “Airplane” Bungalow was a modern term, one of the many bizarre descriptions that are a lay person’s terminology or inscribed by super studious architectural historians to describe an architectural trend. So imagine my surprise when I ran across a period use of the term on a structure that I recognized. The early description of an aeroplane bungalow is characterized by a very low pitch roof.
“This is one of the new “Aeroplane” bungalows, a name which has been aptly given to the almost flat-roofed structures which have become so popular during the last few months.” -Henry Menkin “A New Aeroplane Bungalow.” The West Coast Magazine February 1912: pages 508-509. Print.
Henry Menkin (sometimes published as Henry Menken) was one part of the duo suitably named “Bungalowcraft,“ a house plan company located in Los Angles, California. Publishing their first self titled plan book in 1908, Menken served as “Arranger and Editor,” while H. A. Eymann served as “Designer and Publisher.” Bungalowcraft had well established their bungalow credentials by the time Menken penned the aeroplane bungalow articles in early 1912. I do not know if Menken was the originator of the term but it is the earliest use of aeroplane bungalow I could find. Merriam-Webster cites the term “aeroplane” as first being used in 1873, where as “airplane” was first used in 1906, so I think its safe to hypothesize that the use of “airplane bungalow” archtype would not predate 1906.
In 1921, plans for an aeroplane bungalow appeared in the Times-Picayune. A photograph, and floor plans were accompanied by the following description.
Another Stucco Beauty – Plan 1085 To you who may be seeking something exceptional in the way of a home, Plan 1085 will strike an appreciative chord. Here is a house that will grace any neighborhood and would do an honor to the Garden District of New Orleans. This house contains two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, breakfast room and kitchen, to say nothing of the aeroplane sleeping porch, that’s a dream in itself.
This plan originated in a 1921 Southern Pine Association published plan book, of which the home styles were primarily craftsman or colonial revival influenced. The plan book somehow caught the eye of syndicated newspaper columnist Fredrick J. Haskins. Upon his request the Southern Pine Association prepared an edition of the book for free distribution through newspapers represented by Haskins. This is likely how the plan ended up in newspapers across America.
Giving the home a bit of international flare, the plan also appears in a c.1926 French book titled Maisons de Campagne sans étage et bungalows. This book was part of the Tulane University’s Bungalow exhibit last year, and was accompanied by this explanation.
French Garden City leader Georges Benoît-Lévy (1880-1971) greatly admired the New Orleans bungalows he saw in manufacturers’ pattern books. He obtained photographs and plans from New Orleans and published his compilation as Maisons de Campagne sans étage et bungalows. His schemes were copied directly from Southern Pine Association catalogs. [While] This “aeroplane bungalow” was built in Biloxi, Mississippi. It is not known whether it was ever constructed in France.
The Tulane exhibit also credited the design of this aeroplane bungalow to architect R.B. Williamson, with the description of the structure as a “Habitation for a Hot Climate, with a “Plein Air” Sleeping Porch.”
I do not know much of its origin but the Biloxi aeroplane bungalow was built on speculation in the Bay Terrace subdivision about 1925. Other than the unique casement window sash this Biloxi aeroplane bungalow appears very similar to the aeroplane bungalow that appears in the books and advertisement.
While Henry Menken cited an example of a single story structure as being an aeroplane bungalow, making the aeroplane bungalows primary qualifier a low-pitched roof, another feature that is often associated with the aeroplane bungalow is a smaller second floor, usually of one or two rooms, that were often used for sleeping porches.
A second 1921 Southern Pine Association publication, that was jointly published with the Architects’ Small House Service Bureau of Minnesota, Inc., described an aeroplane bungalow in the following manner:
THE aeroplane type of house is given that name from the fact of the likeness of its roof to the wings of an aeroplane. The roof has a very low pitch and is covered with canvas with prominent ridges, which increase the similarity to the aeroplane. The projection of the cornice is surmounted with a large cupola, having a remote resemblance to the cabin of the aeroplane operator. This type of house has been a great favorite in California.
Do you know of any Mississippi bungalows that might fit the description of having a low-pitched roof, and a smaller second floor, possibly containing only one or two rooms? If so let us know!
Categories: Biloxi, Gulf Coast
Great article. Did the term coincided with the Wright Brothers introduction of the airplane, aero plane?
Thank you. I am glad you’ve enjoyed it. The Wright Brothers first flight was in 1903. Based on Menkin’s description that the “structures which have become so popular during the last few months” in early 1912 I would speculate the use of the term did not coincide with the Wright Brothers first flight. Obviously without the Wright Brothers influence on powered flight the term might not have been chosen to describe something broad and flat. I would say it is similar to the nomenclature use of the prefix “e” on many products and services today, after the creation and popularizing of “eMail” (i.e. eBay, eCigarette, eHarmony)
I do now realize an error I made and have now corrected in the post. The first known use of the word aeroplane was in 1873, while it was the word airplane that was not first used until 1906.
Here’s one in Belhaven in Jackson (corner of Arlington and Jefferson), reversed:
What a wonderfully low pitched porch roof. Even without the smaller second floor I would say this qualifies as an aeroplane bungalow.
I’ve always wondered why this house had that one room stuck up on top like that.
How do you mean, “Even with out the smaller second floor …”?
The primary qualifier of an aeroplane bungalow is a low-pitched roof. Another feature that is often associated with the aeroplane bungalow is the smaller second floor, usually of one or two rooms. You can have a aeroplane bungalow without the smaller second story, but a house with just a smaller second story is not necessarily an aeroplane bungalow.
The low pitched porch roof alone would be reason enough to consider this an aeroplane bungalow.
Ooooooooooooohhhhh!!!! I shouldn’t have skimmed that part, I guess …
In college I was meeting with a professor who had given me poor marks on a written exam. During the meeting the professor exclaimed “oooooh now that I read your exam answer it makes much more sense” !! :-)
Ha, TR. My experience has more often been “oooooh, now that I read the question…” :) But, this was a great essay and I give you A for writing, research, and critical thinking, plus, being able to field the questions.
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Georges Benoît-Lévy credited the bungalow plans featured in his book to R.B. Williamson.
Is the Maisons de Campagne sans étage et bungalows an exact reprint of the Modern homes Southern Pine Association publication?
In my brief research for this post I only found reference to R.B.Williamson as an architect for the Chicago School Board. Do you know anymore about him?
Not exact… but nearly.
Airplane Bungalows were especially popular in Topeka, KS and Garlinghouse company designer Iva G. Lieurance developed a prairie type after researching examples from other regions. See: Max D. Movsovitz, ed. “Bungalow Homes for a Nation.” Shawnee County Historical Society Bulletin 83. And:
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512 Bay Street at the corner of Bay Street and Byrd Avenue in Philadelphia.
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514 5th Ave South
I’ll try and get better pix this weekend.
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