Queen Anne style architecture in the United States
In America, the Queen Anne style of architecture, furniture and decorative arts was popular in the United States from 1880 to 1910.1 In American usage "Queen Anne" is loosely used of a wide range of picturesque buildings with "free Renaissance" (non-Gothic Revival) details rather than of a specific formulaic style in its own right.
Queen Anne Style buildings in America came into vogue in the 1880s, replacing the French-derived Second Empire as the "style of the moment." The popularity of high Queen Anne Style waned in the early 1900s, but some elements, such as the wraparound front porch, continued to be found on buildings into the 1920s.
The "Queen Anne" style that had been formulated in Britain by Norman Shaw and other architects arrived in New York with the new housing for the New York House and School of Industry2 (Sidney V. Stratton, architect, 1878) at 120 West 16th Street. Gabled and domestically scaled, it is of warm, soft brick enclosing some square terracotta panels, with an arched side passage leading to an inner court and back house; its detailing is largely confined to the treatment of its picturesquely disposed windows, with small-paned upper sashes and plate glass lower ones. There are triple windows of Serlian motif and a two-storey oriel that projects asymmetrically.3 The Astral Apartments, built in Brooklyn in 1885-1886 to house dock workers, provides another similar, and larger, example of red brick and terracotta Queen Anne architecture in New York.
The most famous American Queen Anne residence (see photo left) is the William Carson Mansion of Eureka, California. Newsom and Newsom, notable builder-architects of 19th Century California homes and public buildings, designed and constructed (1884–1886) this 18-room home for one of California's first lumber barons. All styles described below as well as others are present in this example of American Queen Anne Style.
Distinctive features of American Queen Anne style (rooted in the English style) may include an asymmetrical facade; dominant front-facing gable, often cantilevered out beyond the plane of the wall below; overhanging eaves; round, square, or polygonal tower(s); shaped and Dutch gables; a porch covering part or all of the front facade, including the primary entrance area; a second-story porch or balconies; pedimented porches; differing wall textures, such as patterned wood shingles shaped into varying designs, including resembling fish scales, terra cotta tiles, relief panels, or wooden shingles over brickwork, etc.; dentils; classical columns; spindle work; oriel and bay windows; horizontal bands of leaded windows; monumental chimneys; painted balustrades; and wooden or slate roofs. Front gardens often had wooden fences. 4
Within the American Queen Anne Style, there are also the Eastlake and Shingle Styles:
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The Eastlake Style, of the Eastlake Movement, is named for Charles Eastlake (1836–1906), an Englishman whose Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details (1868) was influential in American design, by translating John Ruskin and William Morris' ideas into a decorative vocabulary for the carpenter and builder. The Eastlake style's importance is delineated by the use of geometric shapes made possible by modern machine techniques of the era. By making these intricate shapes with machines, it was possible to repeat complex patterns exactly, and in unusual places, such as the inside plates of a hinge. Eastlake always had emphasized "simple, elegant motifs" rather than the florid decoration of high Victorian style, and many items labeled "Eastlake" appalled him, as he frequently wrote during his lifetime. This is particularly evident in the United States, where basic Eastlake motifs were usually multiplied into a geometric mandala of Victorian intricacy.
As the 20th century approached, there was then a revival of old forms in furniture under the name of the Queen Anne, although it was frequently spoken of by dealers as Early English. While the articles made according to Eastlake's instructions may be considered a reform, and the Neo-Jacobean a fashion, the revival of the Queen Anne was a large enough movement to be regarded as a style. Poets and artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris may have been influential in this revival, and it bears traces of Italian fancy and English quaintness characteristic of their work. 5
Its introduction was associated with a revival of Queen Anne forms in architecture, such as the Dutch-style country house with red brick trimmings and curved gables, to be found in the latter years of William and Mary, qualified by new invention and modern taste. It did meet with opposition and criticism, not least because it seemed to have sprung into notice full grown, rather than in answer to a need. Animated discussions concerning its merits and demerits took place in the meetings of the architects and others interested in such things, various voices declaring that nobody would credit Queen Anne's epoch with any style at all, and that if the epoch had a style, it was not this; that this was a mongrel, violating classic rules while pretending to be a form of classic, and yet really not unsuited to Gothic surroundings; and that, being an attempt to unite the truthfulness, variety, and picturesqueness of the Gothic with the common sense of the Italian, it should be called the Free Classic, for it was in reality only a Renaissance, less strict and refined that the old Renaissance. A writer in The Builder said: "We are now offered in some quarters the revival of the furniture of the Queen Anne and Georgina Period, of which Chippendale and Sheraton were the leading makers. This type of furniture revels in curved lines and surfaces really unsuitable, as we have before said, to wood construction and which, in fact, seem designed to create difficulties of execution in order to overcome them." But it is not typically this bombe furniture, with its curved lines and surfaces, that was chosen for the archetype of the new Queen Anne. It is true that Chippendale and Sheraton produced such designs, but they also produced others more characteristic of themselves and of the period. The first portion of Chippendale's One Hundred and Sixty Plates has examples in the Rococo style, but the rest is more simple and elegant; and what resemblance there is between the Chippendale furniture and the Queen Anne is confined to the latter portion of his illustrations and the articles manufactured from those designs.5
The revived Queen Anne, like the English (rather than Continental) elements of the original style, features no curves but rather is severely square and straight. Its lines are a rebound from the curves of two centuries. All of its articles stand well off the floor, on strong supports, the construction apparent, the corners sharp, the panels many and small. It carries much plate glass, cut always with a deep bevel, and much relief carving featuring fruit, flowers, foliage, birds and animals, depicted either realistically or in idealized suggestions. It uses little metal in its heavy articles, but does embellish with brass sconces and candelabra, rare china and numerous small mirrors. Its mantelpieces feature sculptured columns, capitals and friezes. Some traits of the Elizabethan occasionally appear in the carving of the cabinets; there is even a hint of the Louis Quinze in the long, reedy legs that now and then uphold some light, square object. Generally it is eclectic, with reminiscence of the Gothic in the tops of sideboards, buffets, and cabinets and also with a general character of the Louis Quinze throughout the whole. Queen Anne American domestic furniture is prized for its quaintness and picturesque quality, its simplicity and quietness of old work, and lack of pretension.5
The Shingle Style in America was made popular by the rise of the New England school of architecture, which eschewed the highly ornamented patterns of the Eastlake style. In the Shingle Style, English influence was combined with the renewed interest in Colonial American architecture which followed the 1876 celebration of the Centennial. Architects emulated colonial houses' plain, shingled surfaces as well as their massing, whether in the simple gable of McKim Mead and White's Low House or in the complex massing of Kragsyde, which looked almost as if a colonial house had been fancifully expanded over many years. This impression of the passage of time was enhanced by the use of shingles. Some architects, in order to attain a weathered look on a new building, even had the cedar shakes dipped in buttermilk, dried and then installed, to leave a grayish tinge to the façade.
The Shingle Style also conveyed a sense of the house as continuous volume. This effect—of the building as an envelope of space, rather than a great mass, was enhanced by the visual tautness of the flat shingled surfaces, the horizontal shape of many shingle style houses, and the emphasis on horizontal continuity, both in exterior details and in the flow of spaces within the houses.
McKim, Mead and White and Peabody and Stearns were two of the notable firms of the era that helped to popularize the Shingle Style, through their large-scale commissions for "seaside cottages" of the rich and the well-to-do in such places as Newport, Rhode Island. However the most famous Shingle Style house built in American was "Kragsyde" (1882) the summer home commissioned by Bostonian G. Nixon Black, from Peabody and Stearns. Kragsyde was built atop the rocky coastal shore near Manchester-By-the-Sea, Massachusetts, and embodied every possible tenet of the Shingle style.
Many of the concepts of the Shingle Style were adopted by Gustav Stickley, and adapted to the American version of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Additionally, there are several other notable styles of Victorian architecture, including Italianate, Second Empire, Folk and Gothic Revival.
- McAlester, Virginia & Lee, A Field Guide to American Houses, Alfred H. Knopf, New York 1984 p. 262-287
- The New York House and School of Industry was absorbed in 1951 by Greenwich House, a more extensive privately funded social services agency.
- Christopher Gray, "Streetscapes: The New York House and School of Industry; Where the Poor Learned 'Plain and Fine Sewing'", New York Times, September 6, 1987 Accessed 19 August 2008.
- Queen Anne Style
- "Elizabethan and later English furniture". Harper's New Monthly Magazine 56 (331): 18–33. December 1877.