Washingtonians can be forgiven if they have a rather limited view of which architectural styles can be considered "historic."
Because this area was settled relatively soon after the founding of the United States, there is a definite bias toward federal or colonial styles, understandable with Annapolis and Williamsburg so near.
The restoration of Capitol Hill's stock of Victorian buildings in the last 10 years has brought a certain degree of respectability to the various styles that fall under the general heading of Victorian architecture.
But Washington has several other architectural styles that generally are not considered historic. It is those buildings that often suffer when the details and features that make them unique and coherent are stripped away.
In many sections of the city and suburbs there are streets lined with small, one-story houses called bungalows. Some of those now are getting the attention they deserve.
Part of the Takoma Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington is being considered for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. A significant part of that nomination is based on the architectural importance of the bungalow style.
The name comes from India with its root in Hindu as "bangla," meaning from Bengal. The original bungalows were built by the English to serve as waystations for European travelers. Builders used every architectural device to provide natural air conditioning in the hot, steamy climate.
There were wide porches (called verandahs in Hindi) and wide eaves on the roof to protect the interior from the intense sun. There were stone floors to retain the coolness of the earth. Wide hallways were built in to circulate the breeze.
The English brought the name to the West, but it was the Americans who adapted the architecture to their own needs. The bungalow in its American form was a popular architectural style between the end of the 18th century and the start of World War II.
The style is commonly associated with California, where the first identifiable example was built on the San Francisco peninsula in 1895.
The design flourished everywhere in the West, Midwest and the East. It was highly adaptable and could be used for simple middle-class homes or elaborate California mansions.
Whatever the variations, bungalows shared certain common characteristics or details.
A basic bungalow had only one-story, although there were versions that had a dormer or second story tucked under the roof. It had a pitched roof with two gables. One of the gables covered the main portion of the house. The other, usually set off to one side, covered a large porch. The end of the roof always faced the street.
A characteristic of the bungalow is that it is horizontal: The eye moves from side to side when you look at it. With a federal or Victorian house, the eye moves up and down.
This shift from the vertical to the horizontal was a major change in architecture. It is a quality that the bungalow shares with other modern housing styles.
There was almost always a fireplace on the inside and a chimney made of field stone, cobblestone or brick on the outside.
Bungalow builders in the old days copied designs from house plan books that were published primarily in southern California. Houses could be duplicated for little, but there were also architects who brought the highest standards of their versions.
Two brothers, Charles and Henry Greene, working almost exclusively in southern California, produced what Randell Makinson, in a book called Greene and Greene: Architecture as a Fina (Peregrine Smith, Santa Barbara, $24.95), describes as the "ultimate bungalows."
The houses all used natural materials (redwood and stone) and were influenced by the simplicity and elegance of Japanese design.