Design from A to Z

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style

by Quelcy Kogel

When I was in second grade, my oldest sister took me on a summer trip to Cape May, NJ. As we took in the spectacularly detailed historical architecture of the beach town, she taught me the term “Victorian.” This in turn led to my obsession with Samantha, the American Girl doll representing the Victorian era. I read all the books, visualizing the fancy parlors, sweeping porches and ornate details of the houses. This was my first foray into architecture, and it planted the seeds that would one day lead to my decision to study architecture.

Naturally, when it came time to claim the letter Q in our ongoing series of Design from A to Z, I, Quelcy, jumped at the chance. Q is that letter that is often neglected, left out of alphabet decor or dreaded in games of Scrabble, but today, I’m celebrating the letter Q in the form of the Queen Anne Style of Victorian architecture.

The term “Queen Anne Style” is a bit of a misnomer. Named for the 18th-century monarch, the style was popular from 1860-1890 in England and later in the United States. The key identifiers are the steeply pitched roofs, prominent, forward-facing gables, partial or full-width porches, towers or turrets, long and narrow windows, and highly decorative and colorful brickwork. But mostly, they are the features of my second-grade dreams. —Quelcy

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

PGH / Digs is an art and architectural documentary project by Pittsburgh graphic designer and illustrator Mundania Horvath. Scrolling through the digital house illustrations is like flitting about Pittsburgh’s history, and the characteristic Queen Anne details really come to life with Mundania’s bold color interpretations.

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

If you’re lucky enough to preserve a Queen Anne Style Victorian, like this Pittsburgh home belonging to Shawn Aversa and Jamie McAdams, care and attention to the home’s history can reveal stunning details like this hallway’s woodwork.

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

Cape May, NJ is where my love affair with Victorian architecture began. I’d love to revisit the source of my obsession and stay at this “Painted Lady,” which is available to rent on AirBnB.

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

The Queen Anne Style is characterized by its ornate detailing such as fish scale shingle siding in various patterns and cuts, as well as spindle work, bay windows and bump outs. The Albert Stevens Inn (circa 1898) in Cape May, NJ exudes those details in cheery tones.

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

When building his Eureka, CA home in 1884-1845, lumber baron William Carson mused, “…if I build it poorly, they would say that I was a damned miser; if I build it expensively, they will say I’m a show off; guess I’ll just build it to suit myself.” That he did, but you can feel better about ogling his vision because this baron had a reputation for treating his workers fairly. Today the house is privately owned by a club dedicated to its preservation, but you can tour the interior online.

Photo by Don Forthuber courtesy of Humboldt County CVB

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

If you want to spend the night living like a lumber baron’s son and up your #DSPink Instagram game, stay at this late 1800s home, The Pink Lady. William Carson, who owned the previous home, gave this Queen Anne Style Victorian to his son, Milton, as a wedding gift. It’s nestled picturesquely along Humboldt Bay and the Eureka Harbor in California.


Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

You might not expect to see the Queen Anne style in the more compact cityscape of Brooklyn, but “Victorian Flatbush” is host to a number of these beauties. With the development of rail lines, what was historically farmland was divided into one of the first iterations of suburbia and became an alternative to the “cliff dwelling” of Manhattan apartments.

Photo by Andrea Mohin for The NY Times.

Design from A to Z: Q is for Queen Anne Style via Design*Sponge

Another Brooklyn Queen Anne. Many concerned neighbors and historical groups, like Six to Celebrate, are working to preserve these houses and their ornate character, as well as prevent development from encroaching upon them. To which I say, keep up the good work! I hope this is a style that will be enjoyed and appreciated for centuries to come.


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