This Misnamed Style Created a Dazzling, Fun, and Picturesque Architectural Design
It took over a century to name a style after Queen Anne, whose short but memorable reign spanned just 12 years. And while the style bears her name, in no way does it mirror the Renaissance-inspired and formal architectural designs during that period (1702-1714).
In actuality, the misnamed Queen Anne style falls under the broad umbrella of Victorian architecture and is “based on a premise of ‘decorative excessand variety.” Popularized in England in the late 19th century by Richard Norman Shaw and other English architects – who referred to their work as Queen Anne – the style combines a number of designs and stylistic features from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.
An asymmetrical facade, irregular rooflines, covered porch, turret, chimney, spindles, and decorative detailing on the windows are some of the Queen Anne features of this storybook 2-story, 2-bedroom, 2-bath Victorian home on 1462 sq. ft. of space. (Plan #157-1483)
And, thanks to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia – the first "World’s fair" held in this country – the U.S. got its initial glimpse of the Queen Anne style – by way of the British exhibits of buildings constructed in that style. The earliest American architect to adapt the Queen Anne to the American sensibility was Henry Hobson Richardson with the Watts-Sherman house in Newport, Rhode Island.
Let’s explore this style, which has been described as the most fascinating, elaborate, and imaginative of the Victorian forms.
The Queen Anne Style in America
The Queen Anne style became fashionable in the U.S. from 1880 to 1910 in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. Here, it was – and is – called Queen Anne Revival. Its ironic that a colorful, decorative, and romantic style thrived in a setting where technology and machines were on the rise.
But these exciting developments, including a novel building technique called balloon framing, made it possible to create complicated house shapes. The technologies, plus an expanding railroad system, facilitated the transport of factory-made, pre-fabricated architectural components – doors, windows, roofing, decor accents – across the country.
In addition, pattern books and architectural plan books – with illustrations of spindles, turrets, steep roofs, wraparound porches, intricate chimneys, and other ornamental accents –were available to the rich and the emerging middle class.
As a result, Americans clamored for these interesting homes with the quirky and fanciful touches. The wealthy built lavish mansions and the country folk created scaled-down versions of innovative, elaborate, and fun homes – complete with all of the traditional Queen Anne embellishments. Architects and builders were also caught up in the excitement of the "craze" – including Frank Lloyd Wright who designed a number of Queen Anne Revival homes in the Chicago area.
Considered one of the masterpieces of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the Watts-Sherman House in Newport, Rhode Island, took a year to build (from 1875-1876). The original 2.5-story mansion included a first floor with a pink granite facade and upper floors of brick, shingle, and half-timbered stucco, massive chimneys and diamond-panel windows grouped in horizontal bands. The roof is steeply gabled, with a broad single gable in front and several sharp gables to the rear, all shingled in wood. This National Historic Landmark became the prototype for the design that evolved into the Shingle Style. Today, the Watts-Sherman House is owned by Salve Regina University (photo credit: William Watts Sherman House by Dms1788 under license CC BY-SA 4.0).
Features of the Queen Anne Revival Style
As the Queen Anne Revival style stepped away from the early English designs and became distinctly American, certain innovations were added. Patterned shingles replaced the half-timbered exteriors; ornate trims and other details were added.
But whether it’s one of San Francisco’s “Painted Ladies” or the more restrained versions in major cities and in country settings, the Queen Anne Revival’s unique elements remained the same. You can identify a Queen Anne Revival home by these whimsical fairytale designs and other – sometimes eccentric – features, including multiple gables, wide overhanging eaves, multiple chimneys, painted balustrades, wooden or slate roofs, and more.
The signature asymmetrical exterior and irregular roofline are illustrated in this Queen Anne Revival style home in an Illinois historic district. Check out the front-facing gables and the extensive detailing on the windows and porch. The fanciful tower window brings images of fairytales and storybook characters (photo credit: Rexy L. – The Plan Collection)
1. Asymmetrical Facades
Unlike some of the more classic, traditional styles that come in rectangular or square shapes (Georgian, Colonial, and Cape Cod), the typically unconventional Queen Anne Revival features complex asymmetrical exteriors.
2. Irregular Rooflines with Gables and Dormers
From asymmetrical facades, the Queen Anne Revival style moves to complex rooflines with a number of gables, dormers, towers, turrets and chimneys. At least one of the gables is front-facing.
3. Round or Square Towers and Turrets
Towers and turrets are distinct characteristics of the Queen Anne Revival style that are loved by designers and architects – and add to the fairytale whimsy of the style. Towers usually extend the full height of the home; turrets are small towers on the upper level.
Unlike the typical “Painted Lady” of San Francisco row houses, this one is built on a detached lot. Full of character, colorful and embellished with ornate decor touches on the windows and front porch, this 2-story Queen Anne Revival home with the steep roof pitch and the traditional asymmetrical facade includes a turret, 2 chimneys, porch columns, spindles on the railings, and a front-facing gable (photo credit: Rexy L. – The Plan Collection).
4. Pedimented Porches That Wrap around the Front and One Side
Basic elements of the Queen Anne Revival style, porches can be framed by columns, brackets, and other ornamentation. Some Queen Anne Revivals may also feature a second-story porch.
5. A Fanciful Mix of Siding
Ranging from half-timbering and stucco to decorative stone panels, bold paint colors, and patterned shingle, brick, and clapboard, out-of-the-ordinary siding choices define the exterior look of Queen Anne Revival homes.
Stop and take a second look at this fascinating 2-story Queen Anne Revival style home in an old neighborhood in the Midwest. There is an ornately decorated porch pediment, red-trimmed dormer windows, an interesting roof of fish-scale shingles, a huge front-facing gable, wood columns, and a color scheme of dark-brown-red-turquoise in the stone steps and porch surround (Photo: Rexy L. – The Plan Collection).
6. Porch Spindlework
One of the wonders of technology and mass-production at the height of the Industrial Revolution was spindlework – the decorative trim around a porch – that included side brackets, porch posts and railings, and pendants. Builders and architects during that period purchased spindlework through the many mail-order catalogs available.
Top: The spindlework on this Queen Anne Revival porch is stylish, intricate, and so precise and clean in the details (as shown in the wood balusters on the porch). While mass-produced – instead of hand-made – during the late 19th century, the decorative trims are gorgeous and unique. Bottom: In full display are the decorative trim on the front door and the porch, side brackets that attach the trim to the porch posts, and pendants (photo credits: Rexy L. – The Plan Collection)
7. Decorative Windows
Windows, like bay and the smaller oriel types, in Queen Anne Revival homes can also be decorative elements. Typically, the lower sashes of Queen Anne Revival windows have just a single pane of glass. The upper sash can have either one or several small square panes. The high-style Queen Anne Revivals may feature ornate or stained glass windows.
Wrap-around porches with large columns gave Queen Anne Revival homes – and the space on the porch – an air of elegance. In high-style Queen Anne Rekvals, the columns are usually the classic variety and are commonly paired and sit on pedestals. Often, there are decorative turned-wood columns on the porch.
This delightful “Painted Lady,” with its gable-style roofline, shows off its pretty blue and red hues, overhanging eaves, decorative trim, ornamentation in the glass on the upper windows, a first-floor bay window, spindlework, and white columns (photo credit: Rexy L. – The Plan Collection).
This charming 1,837-sq.-ft. 2-story, 3-bedroom Contemporary Farmhouse style home features Queen Anne Revival characteristics: a wrap-around porch with tall columns, a tower, a fancy brick chimney, gables, and multi-pane windows. Inside, there is a family room with a fireplace, Great Room, home office, and second level master suite with a walk-in closet and sitting area (Plan #126-1355).
Queen Anne Cottage
Throughout its peak popularity in the U.S., Queen Anne Revival style homes were being constructed for the middle class in both urban and rural areas across the country. Many of the homes carried the fanciful elements and decorative touches that made Queen Anne Revival so appealing.
But not all Queen Anne Revivals are mansions, manor homes, or lavishly decorated and embellished. There were smaller and some not-so-decorated ones called Queen Anne Cottage for those who wanted a simpler and less embellished home.
The William G. Harrison house in rural Nashville, Georgia is one of the first such Cottages in the country. It was built for Harrison, a local lawyer and businessman. The Harrison Cottage is now in the National Register of Historic Homes.
A historic 1-story Queen Anne Cottage in Nashville, Georgia, the William G. Harrison House was built in 1904 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It is an intact example of the American Queen Anne Cottage with Folk Victorian elements (photo credit: William G. Harrison House, Nashville, GA, USA, by Judson McCranie under license CC BY-SA 3.0).
Just one story – compared with the conventional two-to-three-story Queen Anne Revival homes – the Cottage style had these distinct characteristics:
square layout with gables
hip main roof
This charming 1-story, 3-bedroom Country Ranch home exhibits some of the features of the Queen Anne Cottage style: wrap-around porch with spindlework, columns, stonework, gables, and dormers. The home has 2029 sq. ft. of living space and includes a Great Room with 14-ft.-tall vaulted ceilings and a corner fireplace, kitchen with an island, dining area, and master suite with a 12-ft.-high vaulted ceiling, his-and-her walk-in closets, and a private porch (Plan #138-1002).
Offshoots of the Queen Anne Revival Style
Iconic American residential architectural design prototypes like Shingle, Arts & Crafts, and even Bungalow styles trace their roots – or evolved from – the Queen Anne Revival style. Here’s a quick look at the Bungalow and Shingle styles.
A very popular style from 1905 to 1930, the Bungalow is found in many older American neighborhoods. In Pasadena, California, there is a 16-block area called Bungalow Heaven that features more than 800 homes built during the Arts and Crafts era.
Bungalows are generally one- to 1.5-story brick, wood, or stucco structures with large eaves and small porches with columns set in brick bases. (Read more about Bungalow styles.)
Take a look at this lovely 1-story Bungalow Cottage, with its gable roof and inviting front porch with the massive columns set on brick pedestals. The home has 1800 sq. ft. of living space and includes 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a Great Room, and a main floor master suite (Plan #142-1079).
A combination of the English influence and the simplicity of Colonial architecture brought the Shingle Style to prominence around 1882 to 1887 with the construction of large-scale “seaside cottages” for the wealthy families in Newport, Rhode Island, and Long Island, New York. While it is a New England residential plan, the Shingle style is also popular from coast to coast.
The Shingle Style turned away from the highly ornamented and decorative patterns of the Victorian and Queen Anne Revival styles – and patterned their designs after the plain shingled surfaces of Colonial homes. Shingle style plans range from small bungalows or cottages to luxury homes.
Aside from being covered in shingles on the exterior, Shingle style homes have these distinct features: sweeping rooflines, gable or gambrel roofs, turrets, bay windows, and a horizontal band of windows that allow a lot of light and soft breezes from the ocean. (Read more about Shingle Style House Plans.)
Sweeping rooflines and a gable roof with asphalt shingles make this 1.5 story, L-shape home a stunning sight. The Shingle Style home has an exterior facade of rock/stone and shakes, 3071 sq. ft. of living space, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, a covered front porch, a family room, a main level master suite, and a laundry room (Plan #198-1002)
The Queen Anne Revival Style – like most classic architecture – is timeless and memorable. If you love character, whimsy, fairytale charm, and versatility in a home, a “Painted Lady” or a restored Queen Anne Cottage may be in your future.
Footnote: The lead image in this article is a stunning and luxurious 2-story, 5-bedroom Victorian style home with 6,065 sq. ft. of space. For details on this home, which features a colorful asymmetrical façade, an irregular gabled roofline, a turret, and chimney go to Plan #195-1161