The many styles of Victorian homes

by Jennifer Sierra
Board Member for the Dayton Board of Architectural Review

Built during the Industrial Revolution, this style of architecture is known for craftsmanship and detail. Architects of these homes  embraced new technologies and materials from the time that allowed them to create the beautiful details this style is known for. The most popular styles of Victorian Architecture are:

Italianate – They have low roofs, wide eaves and ornamental brackets. They look like a building you would see in Italy, like an Italian Renaissance villa. Because of the ability to build this style of building with any budget, it was also a common choice for architects of public buildings such as town halls, libraries and court houses. Italianate structures are more common in the North in this country because it reached its peak during the Civil War when the South was devastated economically.

Gothic Revival – This style was inspired by medieval architecture and included arches and pointed windows. Many were constructed of stone to give them the look of small castles while other, more modest structures, were made of wood.  This style is known for details like patterned or multi-colored stone, detailed stone carvings, and strong vertical lines. Many recognize Gothic revival in traditional Victorian homes that have scrolled ornamental and lacy woodwork on them. This is more commonly known as “Carpenter Gothic”.

Queen Anne Style – This style embraced the use of towers and turrets as well as gingerbread details but a building could be identified as one of the sub-groups of Queen Annes such as: Spindled Queen Anne, Free Classic Queen Anne, Half-Timbered Queen Anne or Patterned Masonry Queen Anne. A building could have been built with all of the above in mind and have qualities of all of these styles.

Folk Victorian – A carpenter would add spindles and Gothic windows to a basic farmhouse-type structure and make it look more detailed. Many people know this style for its square, symmetrical shape. It has a low-pitched, pyramid-shaped roof and a front porch decorated with spindle work. Many have vertical board and batten trim.

Shingle Style – Often owned by wealthy people on the East coast in places like Nantucket, this style is often, but not always, sided with shingles. The roof lines are irregular and it has eaves on several levels of the structure. They are also are known for having inviting porches and an asymmetrical floor plan. Some of these homes have Palladian windows, stone on lower stories, squat towers and arches over windows and porches.

Stick Style – These buildings are decorated with vertical, horizontal and diagonal timbers. Other than this geometric, timber design, the houses are plain and they don’t have big bay windows or ornamentation. Don’t confuse this style with Tudor though. The fundamental difference here is that a Tudor is sided with stucco, stone or brick. Stick houses are made with wood and they have large prominent brackets and corbels on them. Very few authentic stick houses remain. This style just couldn’t compete with the Queen Anne’s architecture that was so popular in America at the same time.

Mansard Empire Style – Often mistaken for an Italianate the fundamental difference is that Mansard Empire will always have a high Mansard roof which was inspired by Parisian design during Napoleon’s reign. To recognize this style, look for dormer windows that project from the roof like big eyebrows, rounded cornices at the top and base of roof, brackets beneath the eaves, bay windows and balconies, cupola, slate roof, wrought iron cresting above upper cornice, paired columns outside front door, a small entry porch and tall windows on first level. Think “Adams Family” house.

Richardsonian Romanesque Style – This style is named after the architect, Henry Hobson Richardson. They were Romanesque because of the wide, rounded arches similar to ones found in ancient Rome. Most people couldn’t afford to build a home in this style because it was constructed of massive stones that gave it a castle-like appearance. Features of this style include: round towers with cone-shaped roofs, columns with spirals and leaf designs and patterned masonry over the windows.

Eastlake Style – This style is named after English designer, Charles Eastlake who is famous for making furniture with fancy spindles. Many Queen Anne homes are called Eastlake.

Octagon Style – 8-sided buildings that were designed to provide more light and ventilation within the structure. These are very rare because only a few thousand were constructed before they went out of style. They are known for their octagonal or rounded shape, not always with 8 sides, however. Thomas Jefferson built an octagonal shaped home for his summer home.

Take a look at the following pictures and see if you can identify which style of Victorian they would be classified.

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