From the Inside Flap
In this unique book, Joseph C. Bigott challenges many common assumptions about the origins of modern housing. For example, most studies of this period maintain that the prosperous, middle-class housing market produced innovations in housing and community design that filtered down to the lower ranks much later. Bigott shows that the number of houses built for the working class far exceeded those built for the middle class and argues that this dynamic low-end housing market generated enormous wealth and significant social change.
Bigott analyzes ubiquitous, yet previously ignored, aspects of the built environment to make his argument. Drawing on physical evidence found throughout Chicago, he shows how modern bungalows evolved from nineteenth-century cottages through years of incremental change in construction practices, building materials, and methods of selling real estate. He also explores the social and cultural consequences of working-class home ownership by examining two of Chicago's largest immigrant groups, the Germans and the Poles. To show how changes on the landscape affected the lives of ordinary people, Bigott provides a fascinating look inside these communities and their working conditions, labor relations, local politics, and religious institutions. He argues that an intimate, local form of capitalism thrived, even as the great corporations of the day flourished. By improving the circumstances of everyday life, immigrants expanded the notion of who might become worthy citizens to include groups who, fifty years earlier, had been considered beyond redemption.
Ultimately, this book shows that the transformation from cottage to bungalow reminds us that material progress has the power to diminish, as well as extend, the barriers that separate American citizens.