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History of Victorian Architecture

Victorian Period | Architectural Timeline

Paragon Real Estate Group
Significant Dates
1837: Queen Victoria I begins reign in United Kingdom.

1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. European and American immigrants populate the newly opened territories, spreading American architectural forms into Texas, California, and the Midwest.

1865: Transcontinental Railroad finished, speeding America's industrialization and westward expansion.

1867: Exhibition in Paris marks the spread of the 2nd Empire style into America.

1868: Charles Eastlake publishes "Hints on House Hold Taste" the codex on Victorian Design.

1869: Completion of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2nd Empire architecture.

1869: M.C.C.C. (Metal Compression Casting Company) awarded its first patent for decorative hardware.

1872: Beginning of Russell & Erwin hardware mfg., first casting of hardware on a large scale.

1890: Louis Sullivan designs the Wainwright Bldg. — considered by some the first skyscraper.

1893: Chicago's Columbian Exposition marks the launching pad of the Colonial Revival.

1914—1918: World War I marks the decline of Victorian styles.

The early decades of the Victorian Era saw the full flowering of the industrial revolution. For the first time, mass production of hardware and supplies made products readily available and affordable to increasingly more people. The prominence of handmade craftsmanship quickly gave way to machine manufacturing. House styles were breaking free from their box-like shapes, with asymmetrical floor planning and elaborate exterior features.

The Victorian Era marked the explosion of creative options and the emergence of intricate, daring forms and techniques available to the homeowner as never before. Designers and architects broke away from the traditional symmetrical lines and simple colors. Victorian homes are colorful, elaborate, and bold.

Gothic Revival Early Victorian houses drew inspiration mostly from Western Europe, usually reinterpreting medieval forms. Multi-colored and textured walls, steeply pitched roofs and asymmetrical facades are traditional features. Gothic Revival homes are most easily identified by the elaborate vergeboard (also called gingerbread) below the gables, and the strong vertical emphasis of the windows and rooflines.

Italianate As the architectural influence of the Federal Era blended with the emerging Victorian aesthetic, a new style developed, incorporating the arches and pediments of Roman architecture with the elaborate detailing made possible by the emerging industrial base of the growing nation. Italianate homes featured elaborate porch decoration, decorative eaves, symmetrical facades with corner quoins, and arched windows which were often paired. Some Italianate homes featured a central square tower or cupola, and most had flat or low-pitched roofs. The Italianate style later influenced the rise of Richardsonian Romanesque; a style prevalent in many of the large public buildings built during the late 1800's.

Second Empire As the newly prospering cities of America blossomed, the impulse for a new and equally vigorous urban architecture also grew. Inspired by the ornate cityscapes of Paris, Second Empire architecture incorporates rectangular or square floor plans, tall flat facades capped by Mansard roofs with dormer windows, and double entry doors. Roofs are frequently patterned and bay windows are also common.

Stick / Eastlake Increasingly affordable building materials and woodworking allowed for creative new uses of wood cladding and framing beyond the basic box structure. Stick / Eastlake style homes feature decorative trusswork, exposed half-timber framing, and an intermingling of vertical and horizontal planes. Roofs are typically steeply pitched with simple gables. Stick style houses are particularly common in California and other areas where no previous architectural style had predominated.

Shingle Similar to Stick style architecture, Shingle style buildings are notable for their extensive and unusual use of newly affordable wood products. Manufacturing techniques made it possible to produce wood shingles in such abundance that architects incorporated them not only as roofing, but also as siding. In Shingle style houses, the entire exterior sometimes consists of shingles.

Folk Victorian Given the affordable and widespread construction techniques of the era, working class families could, for the first time, build homes of their own. The tradition of the English cottage and American homestead merged with the romanticism of the era, giving rise to the style known as Folk Victorian. Often found in rural or country settings, Folk Victorian homes are usually constructed from local materials and blend functionality with newer stylistic ornamentation that includes colorful and fluid vergeboard (also called gingerbread) around wide wrap-around porches. Though often less elaborate than their urban counterparts, Folk Victorian homes feature a similar attention to texture variations and creative decoration.

Queen Anne Perhaps the most recognizable of Victorian styles, Queen Anne houses quickly gained popularity throughout the entire country from the late 1870's to the beginning of the 1900's. The Queen Anne style shows the influence of English architect Richard Norman Shaw, whose designs melded the ideals of the old-English cottage with the rampant decorative impulse of the Victorian Era. Queen Anne homes frequently feature irregular floor plans, multiple steep roofs and porches with decorative gables. Dominant octagonal or circular towers, corbelled chimneys, and highly decorative windows and entry doors with glass panels add to the curb appeal of these beautiful homes. Common elaborations include vergeboard and exterior framing, bay windows, and a wide variety of colors and textures throughout the entire structure.

Gilded Age / Beaux Arts Infrequently used in home-building except in the most expansive of mansions, Beaux Arts designs are nevertheless important in the influence they exerted on the period. Also called "The American Renaissance", Beaux Arts architecture features massive...

A History of Design from the Victorian Era to the Present: A Survey of the Modern Style in Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, and Photography (Second Edition)
Book (W. W. Norton & Company)
A History of Design from the Victorian Era to the Present: A Survey of the Modern Style in Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, and Photography (Second Edition)
Book (W. W. Norton & Company)

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