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Many people who live in Craftsman homes are passionate about them. Susan Marx is one of those people.

"When I first saw this home, I sat on the stairs and cried. I couldn't believe that I might be able to live in this home. It was almost a spiritual experience," she said.

She bought it the day she first saw it. "When you know something is right, there's no hesitation," Marx said.

What, exactly, makes a house a Craftsman house? The term is not very precise and is often synonymous with bungalow, said Ed Zimmer, the city's historic preservation planner. Craftsman is a shortened version of "Arts and Crafts," a movement that began in England with William Morris, who rebelled against the "excesses" of the ornate Victorian homes.

In the United States, the Arts and Crafts style tried to reinterpret European Arts and Crafts ideals for Americans, such as the designs promoted by Gustav Stickley in his magazine, "The Craftsman."

Craftsman can refer both to form -- the architectural style of the house -- as well as an aesthetic, meaning furniture and decorative objects used in interior design, Zimmer said. The Craftsman era spans about 1905 to 1925 in this country, generally ending with the Great Depression.

Marx loves the abundant quartersawn white oak trim and doors, built-in buffet, fireplace mantle, ceiling beams and oak floors in her Craftsman home.

Three-quarter walls divide what she calls the piano alcove and the living room and dining room. Combined with the oak railing and balcony above the living room, the effect is an open, airy feeling that Marx loves. The house looks like a one-story from the front but rises to a large 1½-story house at the rear with about 2,500 square feet.

"I like the clean lines and the 'squareness' of it," she said.

Her home at 1601 A St, called the Funk House, was built in 1915 by Linus Southwick for his daughter. Southwick owned the large home to the east. The Fiske & Meginnis architectural firm designed the home. Best known for commercial buildings and Whittier, Clinton, Prescott and Elliott schools, Ferdinand C. Fiske and his various partners also designed many Lincoln homes, especially in the Near South and County Club neighborhoods. Southwick sold Marx's home to Robert and Lola Funk.

As many Craftsman homeowners do, Marx has furnished and decorated her home with Craftsman or Craftsman-like objects such as pottery with simple lines, vintage Bradley and Hubbard brass candlesticks, an antique Craftsman clock, a Mission oak library table and family pieces such as hammered copper bookends, oak rockers and oak tabourets, which are end tables. She also incorporated reproduction and authentic light fixtures reminiscent of those used in the Craftsman era as well as push button light switches with brass cover plates.

Marx is a good steward of her home, which Zimmer calls "a free interpretation of a bungalow."

Lincoln has many fine examples of bungalows in older neighborhoods such as the Near South, Woods Park, College View and Hartley. Many of these bungalows were built by Ed Gerhke, whose catchy advertising slogan was "Marry the girl. Then see Ed Gehrke, the bungalow man."

In recent years, there has been a nationwide revival of interest in the Craftsman style. Some new homes in developments such as Fallbrook and Village Gardens have Craftsman design elements on the exterior and in the interior.

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Craftsman purists prefer historic Craftsman homes. All of the Arts and Crafts architectural styles -- Prairie, Craftsman, Mission, Four Square -- are American styles. Unlike previous house styles that were adopted from European models, American Arts and Crafts homes are almost completely homegrown, said Jim Edgar, managing partner of StarCraft Custom Builders, a Lincoln firm that specializes in renovating period homes.

"If you are fortunate enough to own an Arts & Crafts home, you own a gem -- a true American original. Fine detailing was the norm. Excellent tile, beautiful wood and plaster walls were the standard of the time," he said.

One of the biggest differences between Arts and Crafts homes and Victorian homes is that Arts and Crafts homes were built horizontally while Victorian homes were built vertically, he said.

The hardest part of renovating Craftsman homes is demolition, Edgar said. "Demolition is a bear. These homes were built to last."

But to Edgar, the renovation and preservation are worth it.

"It is living history with its own personality, quirks and foibles. It groans in the winter wind, creaks in the summer sun. It sags a little here and a little more there, so nothing is ever quite straight or square or perfect."

But that is offset by a legacy of character and charm, said Edgar, who lives in a period home himself.

"None of us can imagine living anywhere else -- squeaky floors, sticky sashes and all."

 

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