Queen Anne Architecture Style and History Explained

Queen Anne architecture is a historical style popular in England and the United States from the 1880s-1920s. It featured key characteristics that make it a recognizable and distinctive style.

According to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Queen Anne architecture, known for its decorative details and striking colors, represents the style of the Victorian age. Yet Queen Anne buildings have features that make them unique among other Victorian structures.

The Development of Queen Anne Architecture

Queen Anne Architecture
Image from @godzilla1950

The Queen Anne style is one of the most recognizable of the Victorian era. It features decorative woodwork, stained glass windows, and turret-style towers. Many people equate all Victorian architecture with the Queen Anne style. In reality, Queen Anne is just one of the prominent styles of the Victorian era.

Queen Anne architecture has features similar to certain medieval or Renaissance styles of the late 1500 and 1600s. Even though people referred to this style as Queen Anne, it is a misnomer. Queen Anne herself reigned 100 years later, from 1702-1714. The buildings during her reign were known as English Baroque Queen Anne and featured more symmetry.

In the late 1800s, British Architect Norman Shaw introduced the later Queen Anne style of architecture. While the architecture prevalent during the reign of Queen Anne featured a bilateral symmetry, this later style, also known as Queen Anne Revival, featured asymmetry and eclecticism, keeping with Tudor architecture popular in the Arts and Crafts movement in England.

The Queen Anne style of architecture made its way to the United States in the mid-1870s. One early example was the design for the New York House and School of Industry. One of the first Queen Anne homes in the United States was the William Watts Sherman House. Henry Hobson Richardson designed and built it from 1875-1876.

The new style was popularized through pattern books and architectural magazines like “The American Architect and Building News.” It took on a unique American flavor made possible through technological advances like the mass production of woodwork trim, introduction of new materials, and mass transportation made possible by railroads.

American Queen Anne style homes took on regional variations. While there are prominent examples of Queen Anne style homes in the Northeast, some of the most popular regions of Queen Anne homes are in the western and southern regions of the United States. These areas were expanding in population, and the new Queen Anne style was popular with people eager to display their new wealth and sophistication.

Exterior Details of Queen Anne Architecture

A Queen Anne style house is one of the most recognizable forms of Victorian architecture. Here are some of the key features of the exterior, though one home may not have all of these design elements.

  • Asymmetrical design for exterior facades for American and later British homes
  • Steep-pitched roofline with cross gables and/or large dormers
  • Expansive porches sometimes wrap around or double porches and balconies
  • Decorative wood trim
  • Round or polygonal front tower with a conical roof
  • Distinctive wall surfaces like half-timbering, relief friezes, or shingles
  • Cheerful painted exteriors often featuring multiple colors
  • Projecting bay windows
  • Stained, beveled, or etched glass detailing

Interior Details of Queen Anne Architecture

The interior of Queen Anne homes have ornate and decorative detailing.

  • Rooms that open into one another rather than rooms separated by hallways
  • Multiple fireplaces throughout the house surrounded by decorative tile work
  • Intricate wood trim and paneling
  • Ornate hardware like knobs and handles
  • High ceilings and large windows
  • Decorative wall features including friezes, wainscot, wallpaper, and stencils

Variations of Queen Anne House Styles

One of the most interesting things about Queen Anne architecture is that there are no two homes alike. It’s an eclectic style with endless opportunities for variation and distinction. Yet, there are four main types of classic American Queen Anne style homes. These are defined by the detailing on their exterior: spindlework, free classic, half-timbered, and patterned masonry.

Spindled Queen Anne Homes

A Spindled Queen Anne style home features delicate woodwork like turned columns and balusters. These homes also have delicate lacy woodwork, sometimes called “gingerbread.” You can spot this woodwork on porches, gables, beneath bay windows, and wall ornamentation.

Another term for this woodwork is Eastlake. It’s named after the English furniture designer Charles Eastlake.

Free Classic Queen Anne Homes

Free Classic styles have columns shaped in the classical style. These columns are often raised on stone or brick platforms and grouped in pairs of two or three.

These homes have other elements of classical architecture, including Palladian windows and decorative dentil molding.

Half-Timbered Queen Anne Homes

Half-Timbered Queen Anne houses feature a visible wall of wood timbers with brick or plasterwork. You can also find this detailing in Tudor-style homes. Queen Anne homes feature this half-timbered facade in the gables mixed with other exterior features like decorative woodwork.

Patterned Masonry Queen Anne Homes

These Queen Anne homes feature stone, terracotta, and brick facades. As the name suggests, these homes feature patterned masonry but not as much decorative woodwork.

You can find patterned masonry Queen Anne homes in cities rather than rural environments.

Differences Between Victorian and Queen Anne Styles

The Victorian age features several different architectural styles, including Neo-Gothic, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Second Empire. When people think about Victorian architecture, they picture Queen Anne homes because they are such a recognizable style. But there are important differences between the other Victorian-style homes and the Queen Anne style.

Features Common to Other Victorian-Style Homes

Queen Anne houses have a distinct decorative style that borders on the ornate. Other Victorian homes showcase styles that are more simple in design.

  • Flat roofs were common on Italianate homes rather than high gabled roofs of Queen Anne homes
  • Simple single porches rather than double and wrap-around porches
  • Symmetrical designs, unlike the asymmetrical designs of Queen Anne styles
  • No bay windows compared to the extensive use of projecting bay windows in Queen Annes
  • Square towers like those on Italianate rather than rounded towers in Queen Anne homes