Queen Anne Architecture: Characteristics & Style

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Turrets and towers, shingles and stained glass: Have you ever seen a home that looked like a gingerbread house? In this lesson, explore the characteristics of a style known as Queen Anne architecture.

What Is Queen Anne Architecture?

Some architectural styles celebrate excess. Have you ever seen a house embellished with lots of decorative flourishes? You might have been looking at at example of Queen Anne architecture, which seems to express the idea that more is better.

Queen Anne architecture was a style found from around 1880 to 1900. It began in England and then became very popular in the United States, lasting in the western states until around 1910. When you hear someone talking about Victorian architecture, chances are this is the style that comes to mind.

The style was christened 'Queen Anne' by several English architects. But the name's a bit of a misnomer, because it was based on several medieval and early Renaissance architectural styles from the late 1500s and early 1600s. In reality, the actual Queen Anne didn't rule until at least one hundred years later, in the early 1700s. Nevertheless, the name Queen Anne stuck.

Example of Queen Anne architecture from England
English Queen Anne structure

In England, Queen Anne architecture is often seen in brick structures. As the style moved to the United States, it became even more eclectic, picking up other decorative flourishes and adding a little bit of everything. Printed pattern books--publications full of illustrations--helped spread its popularity and show builders, carpenters, and craftspeople how to add elements of the style to various structures.

So, what does Queen Anne architecture look like?

Characteristics of Queen Anne Architecture

Queen Anne structures vary greatly, but several key characteristics make the style easy to identify. Buildings are often asymmetrical with more than one story, and they usually feature a large wrap-around porch. External surfaces often use multiple materials like stone, brick, or wood. On some buildings, you might see more than one material used, one right next to the other.

Queen Anne building with large wrap-around porch and wood shingles
Queen Anne architecture example

And those external surfaces are full of contrasting textures, like patterned stone and brick. Sometimes the brick might be colored or custom-molded. Especially in the United States, Queen Anne buildings often have lots of wood decoration, like wood shingles with curving edges that resemble fish scales. You might also see sections of half-timbering and of clapboard paneling, long thin wood strips that overlap slightly. Porches and railings might include lots of fancy woodwork.

Queen Anne architecture often features towers and turrets, usually found on a building's front corner. Towers might be round or polygonal. A polygonal shape is one that has three or more sides. The towers might be topped by roofs with a conical or bell shape. A turret is a small tower that thrusts upward from a building's roof or upper story.

Queen Anne building with tower and front-facing gable
Queen Anne architecture example

Queen Anne buildings have deeply-pitched roofs with irregular shapes, often with one or more front-facing gables. A gable is a roof section with two sloping sides that meet at a ridge line, creating a triangular vertical wall section below them. On these roof sections, you might see large dormer windows. A dormer is a window extension that sticks out from the side of a roof, usually with a gable top.

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