Turn, Turn, Turn

THOSE OF US WHO live in old houses are inexorably linked to other times. Our houses were designed by people living in another era, built of materials from another century, and were called home by people who lived long ago.

This attachment to the past can be both a curse and a blessing. Although we’re often annoyed with tiny closets or a former owner’s decision to paint the wood trim, for instance, we’re just as often delighted by the discovery of someone’s long-forgotten, hidden personal treasure or comforted by the faint aroma of a thousand home-cooked meals when the renovation saw hits an old kitchen beam.

There may be other, less obvious links to past generations. William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their 1991 book Generations, focus on historical cycles and theorize that these eras, or turnings, as the authors call them, are closely tied to similar repetitive patterns of human generations. Too complex to be properly represented here, their theory is basically that each generation belongs to one of four types, and that these types repeat sequentially in a fixed pattern. In 455 pages of text and almost 100 more of tables and references, Strauss and Howe provide pretty good evidence that both history and the types of people who make it—or are made by it— recur in observable cycles, much like the seasons of the year.

Stay with me here. Applied to the history of bungalows, this theory actually gets interesting. It suggests that bungalows were originally built during what the authors say was an idealistic “Missionary” generation era, and were the childhood homes of the heroic, civic-minded “GI Generation” born during the period 1901-1924. In their scenario, the bungalow’s mid-century fall from fashion would have coincided with a “Crisis” era encompassing the Depression and WWII, and bungalows would have remained unpopular during the ensuing “Outer-Driven” era, when the GI Generations and its offspring moved to the tract houses of suburbia.

So far, so good. But what can this hypothesis tell us about the new surge of interest in bungalows? Well, since each of these historic eras lasts about 22 years, today’s interest would correspond to a prior cycle in 1916, give or take a few years. And if Strauss and Howe have their facts right, today’s bungalow-buyer generation has idealistic values almost the same as the people snapping them up back in the teens. Bingo.

Of course, there is also bad news. A few years ago Strauss and Howe released another book called The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. In it they suggest that in 1997 we were in a period of unraveling and that the cycles of history predict another American “Crisis” in the early 21st century. Let’s hope that the events of the first four years of this century have fulfilled the authors’ prophecy.

Only time will tell what the future will bring, but one thing is certain: every American crisis has resulted in improvements to our way of life and even to the lives of others. The Revolution created independence; the Civil War, freedom; and WWII ended with power in the hands of the most benevolent and forgiving nation in history. Whatever the historical season, you can rest assured that your bungalow has withstood the tests of time. It has always been a safe harbor in a variety of eras through the changing seasons, and it has all you need to get you safely and comfortably through any winter while awaiting the glorious spring that always follows.

Looking forward to hearing from you,





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