Victorian Architectural Styles: Let the Arguments Begin…

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When I was learning about architectural styles in San Francisco, I was taught that there are three styles of Victorian homes: Eastlake, Italianate,and Queen Anne. I was also taught that homes are called Victorian based upon their construction date, and that to be a Victorian home it must have been built during the reign of […]

When I was learning about architectural styles in San Francisco, I was taught that there are three styles of Victorian homes: Eastlake, Italianate,and Queen Anne. I was also taught that homes are called Victorian based upon their construction date, and that to be a Victorian home it must have been built during the reign of Queen Victoria, which was from 1837 to 1901(although Queen Victoria did die early in 1901, so let’s just call it 1900 for the sake of argument).

Example of Queen Anne Victorian Style Architecture in San Francisco, CA via Wikipedia

So how can you have a Queen Anne Victorian? Who was this Queen (usually heard in the Castro in an entirely different context, but I digress…)? How did she get involved? And what, exactly, is a Queen Anne Victorian anyway?

In Britain, Queen Anne Style refers to English Baroque styles created during the reign of Queen Anne during her reign from 1702 – 1714. However, San Francisco is far, far from England, and according to our friends at Wikipedia, the define the American style as:

In America, the Queen Anne style of architecture, furniture and decorative arts was popular in the United States from 1880 to 1910. In American usage “Queen Anne” is loosely used of a wide range of picturesque buildings with “free Renaissance” (non-Gothic Revival) details rather than of a specific formulaic style in its own right.

That seems like a whole lot of words that don’t exactly help me nail down what a Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco would look like. Fortunately, they go on to list some typical architectural details that you would expect to see:

Distinctive features of American Queen Anne style (rooted in the English style) may include an asymmetrical facade; dominant front-facing gable, often cantilevered out beyond the plane of the wall below; overhanging eaves; round, square, or polygonal tower(s); shaped and Dutch gables; a porch covering part or all of the front facade, including the primary entrance area; a second-story porch or balconies; pedimentedporches; differing wall textures, such as patterned wood shingles shaped into varying designs, including resembling fish scales, terra cotta tiles, reliefpanels, or wooden shingles over brickwork, etc; dentils; classical columns; spindle work; oriel and bay windows; horizontal bands of leaded windows; monumental chimneys; painted balustrades; and wooden or slate roofs. Front gardens often had wooden fences.

But what I still don’t understand is why it’s called Queen Anne if it was during the reign of Queen Victoria?

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