The peak period for Queen Anne-style architecture was 1880 to 1900, although the style persisted until around 1910. The style was named and popularized in England by the architect Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) and his followers. The term inaccurately implies aesthetic ideas from the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). However, it’s based on earlier English buildings, mainly those constructed during the Elizabethan (1558-1603) and Jacobean (1603-1625) eras.
H.H. Richardson’s Watts-Sherman house, built in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1874, was an American architect’s first notable expression of the style. But many Americans were first introduced to the Queen Anne style at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1875, where the British government built several houses in that style.
As with other ornate Victorian-era architecture, the Queen Anne style shines in detached, single-family homes that showcase its sculptural shapes and ornamentation. These houses are typically constructed of wood, allowing the designer unfettered artistic expression in the patterns and details that define the style.
Bold and unconventional color schemes are a Queen Anne trait, examples of which can be seen in San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies. The decorative details on most Queen Anne-style homes in Washington, DC, and other large eastern cities tend to be more subdued because of the urban preference for patterned brick and carved stone.
Thanks to a building boom during the late 19th century, many Queen Anne townhouses were built in DC; fortunately, many still survive. Round towers, broad decorative gables, and elaborate Queen Anne chimneys, dormers, and windows are showcased on homes in Capitol Hill, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and elsewhere.
You’ll find many highly decorative examples of Queen Anne homes on Newark Street and in the Cleveland Park area. The historic district around West Montgomery Avenue in Rockville, MD, also boasts excellent examples of Queen Anne homes built on generous lots.
Eclecticism, asymmetry, contrast, and downright indulgence are the hallmarks of Queen Anne. Various surface textures, elaborate motifs, decorated gables, and spandrel panels adorn every Queen Anne building.
Designers achieved the Queen Anne look with an array of materials, including patterned brick or stone, wood shingles and clapboard, slate, stucco, and terracotta panels. Builders frequently set decorative stone panels and colored, custom-molded bricks into the wall, allowing some variation and detail. With the right design and some paint, wooden Queen Anne buildings showcase a full range of gorgeous colors.
Steeply pitched and complex, Queen Anne roofs provide visual interest and variety with gables, dormers, turrets, and towers, often all in one building.
Queen Anne towers — square, round, or polygonal — were a favorite feature among architects designing homes around the turn of the 20th century. Sometimes instead of a tower, a turret supported by a corbel projects from the second floor. The towers and turrets of Queen Anne homes are often capped with a conical, tent, domed, or other artfully shaped roof and finished off with slate shingles and a copper finial ornament.
Queen Anne homes are typically embellished with bay windows and oriels, sometimes as part of a turret. Lower window sashes usually have only one pane of glass. The upper sash may follow suit or feature multi-paned glass. More elaborate window sashes feature stained glass in a transom or the upper portion of a double-hung window. Curved glass is a unique Queen Anne detail, occasionally found in round bays and towers.
Front doors may have delicately carved decorations surrounding a single large pane set into the upper portion of the door. Single-story, wrap-around porches are also an essential feature of Queen Anne-style homes. The porch is frequently framed by decorative columns, brackets, or applied ornamentation. Townhouses in urban areas often featured a second-story porch, sometimes recessed into gables or towers. Several good examples of upper-level porches can be found along the 600 block of East Capitol Street NE on Capitol Hill.
Are you interested in learning more details about Queen Anne-style architecture? Check out more architecture terminology!
Queen Anne is one of the most distinctive historic styles, loved for its bright colors and whimsical, eclectic features. If you’re lucky enough to live in a Queen Anne-style home, you may be ready to expand the kitchen, add a bathroom, or replace the floors. Team up with Wentworth, and we’ll help you update your home for the 21st century without losing any historic charm. Here are some of our specialties:
Check out this Queen Anne townhouse remodel that Wentworth recently completed, and browse the rest of our portfolio for more ideas. Then, contact us to discuss your home renovation!
This task requires specialized knowledge and a highly customized window, but Wentworth is up to the challenge. We partner with some of the best window suppliers and are confident we can do the job. You can expect improved energy efficiency and lower utility bills with new windows.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Americans began switching from wallpaper to painting interior walls. The “germ theory of disease” was becoming common knowledge, and the general public feared that wallpaper could harbor germs. On the other hand, paint could be washed, and lead paint, in particular, could be scrubbed vigorously with soap and water. Lead-based paint was also standard on exteriors to prevent wood rot and rusty metal. So if your Queen Anne home still has some original paint or was remodeled before 1978, lead-based paint could be present.
If the patterned brick, stone, or wood on your home’s exterior shows its age, our specialists will assess whether these elements can be restored or if it’s best to replace them. Either way, rest assured that our dedicated craftsmen are experts at recreating historically accurate exterior enhancements.
As you can imagine, an art deco ceiling pendant would look out of place in an accurately appointed Queen Anne-style building. Yet older homes needing restoration can quickly end up with mismatched lighting that post-dates the rest of the architecture. Fortunately, it’s easy to stay true to the style if you know what to look for, such as intricate bronze chandeliers and glass shades etched with delicate motifs. Don’t worry — our team will suggest beautiful, functional light fixtures that blend seamlessly with the rest of the interior.