Thursday, April 2, 2009

Victorian Architecture

Victorian architecture started in the 1800's during the Gothic revival era around the time Queen Victoria ruled England. At first only the very wealthy could afford to build this style of house because it involved the skills of highly trained stone carvers. Eventually the style was translated into wood. Early Victorian architecture in England was considered the be a failure. Victorian architecture in America on the other hand was very successful. The Victorian architectural period is from roughly 1825-1900. Nature and geometry greatly inspired the Victorians and it translates well into the architecture that they produced. The houses started off simple and eventually escalated to very intricate. Later designs were greatly influenced by the civil war.
Within Victorian architecture were many collective styles including Italianate, Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake, and Queen Anne. Italianate is characterized by flat roofs and Corinthian-columned porches. Stick-Eastlake also had flat roof lines but included square bay windows and free-style decoration. Queen Annes have gabbled roofs with shingles, angled bay windows, and towers. The Victorian style of architecture flourished in San Francisco like no other place. In other parts of the world it was considered to be over decorative and cluttered, but here it was considered beautiful. This can be attibuted to the abundance of redwwod trees which were used to biuld the homes in Northern California. Redwood is easy to work with and resists rot and termites. Most of the Northern Californian houses were built between 1870 and 1906. One of the most famous characteristics of the San Francisco Victorian houses is the vibrant colors used to paint the outside.
The interiors of the Victorian houses reflected their extravagant exteriors. Usually they were decorated with the Italian/Renaissance style or the Medival/Queen Anne style. They had elaborate ceilings, marble fireplaces, gold framed mirrors, and sometimes pediments and fancy door frames. The later part of the Victorian era turned away from clutter and replaced the fancy layered and upholstered furniture with natural wood furniture. Soon cheaper materials took the place of extravagance. You can still see Victorian homes when you drive around the bay area today. My favorite collection of Victorian houses is in History Park in San Jose. You can walk around a preserved part of San Jose that is open to the public. The website for the museum is

Thank you for reading my blog, Catherine.

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1 comment:

Squerl said...

The bright colors used on Victorian homes was a reflection of the invention of analine dyes that were the rage of Victorian fashion. Great blog. Squerl