Queen Anne c.1880 – c.1910

The standard for domestic architecture during the Victorian era in the United States, the Queen Anne style is difficult to define, encompassing a wide range of architectural elements and borrowing and combining features from multiple stylistic traditions. The initial inspiration came from England, but developed into something uniquely American. During the second half of the nineteenth century, English architects led by Richard Norman Shaw developed and published house plans inspired by Elizabethan cottages and manors with their varied, asymmetrical forms and medieval-inspired half timbering.  Shaw and his contemporaries were reacting against urban industrialism and used architecture to promote the ideal of simpler country living. 

American architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), aware of Shaw’s movement, designed the first Queen Anne home in the United States in 1874, the Watts-Sherman House in Newport, Rhode Island. The style also gained popularity as a result of exposure at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, promotion in the country’s first architectural magazine, The American Architect and Building News, and in new plan books available by mail order nationwide. Advancing technology also played a role in spreading the Queen Anne style across the country, with pre-cut architectural details readily available and affordable thanks to mass-production and railway distribution. 

Shaw’s original designs were meant to be executed in brick, but his ideas were mostly reinterpreted in the United States in wood. Half-timbered construction was generally replaced by the balloon frame, with a multitude of applied decoration. The defining feature of the American Queen Anne style is the use of varied wall planes and forms using bays, towers, overhangs, wall projections, and multiple wall materials and textures to avoid any flat or plain expanses. No single example exhibits all the varied elements and features associated with the Queen Anne style.     For example, in some examples spindle work, or gingerbread ornamentation was used to embellish porches, gables, and overhanging walls.   There are often some reference to classical architecture incorporating even some version of the Palladian style.     The amount of variety was endless reflecting the availability of many options out in the market of brackets and windows and ornamental styling. 

Geographic Range: 

Queen Anne homes are nearly ubiquitous throughout the country, particularly west of the Appalachians and prominently in California from San Diego to San Francisco, with both townhouses and free-standing examples. 

Typical Features: 

  • Asymmetrical two or three-storied, multifaceted form  
  • Complex intersecting gabled or hipped roofs  
  • Projecting upper floors  
  • Bay windows, often cut away from upper stories  
  • Extensive porches and verandas with turned porch posts and balustrade spindles  
  • Irregular floor plans  
  • Towers, turrets  
  • Multitude of applied features such as brackets, roof cresting, and ornamental chimneys  
  • Mixing of stylistic details from various architectural styles including reinterpreted classical forms  
  • Textured wall patterns including decorative shingles typical  
  • Lacy ornamentation around porch entries and at gable ends common  
  • Large 1:1 window; upper panes often edged with leaded or colored glass  
  • Rich, bold paint color schemes  
  • Usually wood framed; sometimes first story of brick or stone masonry with wood frame above