VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE

   Victorian architecture consists of a variety of styles that correspond with the long reign of Queen Victoria, who ruled Great Britain from 1837 to 1901. In the United States, Victorian architecture appeared from the 1860s until the turn of the century and can be categorized into the Second Empire style, Stick, Queen Anne, Shingle, and Folk Victorian styles, which are typically found in domestic constructions. The Richardsonian Romanesque style (1870s-1900s) also dates to this period and was sometimes integrated into Victorian homes. At this time, dramatic changes in construction materials and processes, spurred by the Industrial Revolution, allowed architects to realize more challenging designs than the traditional rectangular building. For example, the balloon frame, made of lighter wood held together with nails, replaced the heavier timber framing of prior buildings and allowed for a more varied manipulation of wood decoration. As the custom-made decorative detailing of wealthy homes became less expensive, Victorian homes began to feature more elaborate woodwork, decorative overhangs, wrap porches, turrets, and other elegant features.
   The overall appearance of these homes was typically that of an asymmetrical design and multicolored wood, although brick was often used in the Richardsonian Romanesque house style. In the interior, these two- or three-story Victorian houses were formal and elegant, the last domestic house-type that maintained the formality of the upper-class lifestyle. Beautifully carved wooden stairs at the entrance foyer set the stage for elegant interior detailing. The parlor was located off the front foyer, followed by the family living room and formal dining room, which were often divided by large sliding wooden doors, while the kitchen, located at the back of the house, was separated entirely from view by a traditional door that was kept closed. The more elaborate Victorian homes featured a separate back entrance to the kitchen, a butler's pantry, and a separate set of stairs leading from the kitchen to the servants' rooms located at the back of the second floor.
   The Second Empire-style house, popular from 1855 to 1885, featured low-hanging Mansart roofs, dormers, elaborate cornice designs, and cornice brackets. These houses were traditionally built as town houses, with a flat front façade placed at the line of the street. Contemporaneous with the Italianate and Gothic Revival homes, the Second Empire-style house lacked the busier details of these more picturesque homes and was therefore considered modern, with clean lines more appropriate to the urban setting. The Stick-style home, popular from 1860 to 1890, was a wooden home with a gabled roof that featured diagonal wooden trusses in the gables. The horizontal wood boards on the exterior walls were often overlaid with vertical or even diagonal boards, called "stickwork," to lend variety to the surface, while porches were braced with diagonal pieces of wood attached to columns that echoed the wall designs. Often crossgabled and with towers and dormers, Stick houses featured fine design details and are seen as a transitional style from the Second Empire to the more ornate Queen Anne style.
   The Queen Anne style, built mainly from the 1880s through the 1910s, was even more varied in its exterior design and became the dominant style of the last two decades of the 19th century. Featuring an irregularly shaped roofline with a façade-facing gable, the Queen Anne house was typically a wood home with shingles in the gable, bay windows, and a wrap-around porch. The decorative detailing of the Queen Anne style is the best known aspect of the Victorian home. With slender, turned porch columns that resemble furniture legs, delicate spindle work in the porch frieze, gables, and wall overhangs, this highly sculptural style is sometimes called "gingerbread" or "Eastlake," from the contemporary English furniture designs of Charles Eastlake.
   The Shingle-style home (1870s-1900) featured a simpler exterior detailing but is noted for its continuous wall cladding of wood shingles. Given its style name by Vincent Scully in the 1950s, these homes are often found in rural settings or at seaside resorts from coastal Maine through the middle of the East Coast, where the more rustic, less formal design was conducive to use for vacation homes.
   Finally, the Folk Victorian, popular from around 1870 to 1910, was a smaller version of the ornate Queen Anne style. With a single gabled roof, these one-story homes were offered as a less expensive version of this ever-popular style of house.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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