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Queen Anne Architecture: Definition & History

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.

Have you ever seen a house that resembled a real-life gingerbread house? You might have been looking at an example of Queen Anne architecture. In this lesson, learn what Queen Anne architecture is and explore its history.

What is Queen Anne Architecture?

Have you ever driven through a neighborhood full of houses with colorful towers and turrets, lacy wood porch posts, gabled roofs, and elaborate decorative chimneys? What do such things have in common? They're all found in Queen Anne architecture.

Queen Ann architecture was an elaborate architecture style popular during the Victorian age in the United States, from roughly 1880 to 1900. It was often used on wooden residential buildings and featured lots of ornamentation; buildings sometimes included a variety of different patterned shingles on the exterior of a single structure. The challenge with Queen Anne architecture is that you can't really use one distinct set of elements to identify it. It's a little of everything, often used to decorative excess.

Example of a house done in Queen Anne architecture, ca. 1895
example of Queen Anne architecture

The amount of ornamentation in Queen Anne architecture reflects the industrial age; some of it was easily available as factory-made, pre-cut architectural parts. Companies produced pattern books filled with of illustrations of architectural decoration that people could buy and add to their homes.

Think of it this way: the more decoration on a Queen Anne house, the better.

Example of a hotel done in the Queen Anne style
hotel done in Queen Anne architecture

History of the Queen Anne style of architecture

But where did Queen Anne architecture come from? It didn't have anything to do with a contemporary British monarch, despite the name.

Queen Anne architecture developed in England in the 1860s, thanks mainly to a Scottish architect named Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912). Shaw coined the phrase ''Queen Anne'' for a style he created, one that was an eclectic mix of earlier British architectural styles. He chose the name Queen Anne because he thought it reflected an aesthetic sense connected to a much earlier Anne Stuart, who had served as Queen of Scotland, England, and Ireland in the early 1700s. But Shaw combined elements of Elizabethan, Tudor, and Renaissance architecture (all found in England around the 1500s) and mashed it all up into a new style.

Examples of Queen Anne architecture first appeared in the United States at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 when the British government built a few houses to showcase the style. From there, the style spread across the country. In fact, it held on a little longer in the Western states and declined in popularity in places like California and Colorado by 1910.

Example of Queen Anne architecture from California, ca. 1902
Example of a Queen Anne house in California

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