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Queen Anne Style
Queen Anne Style: Capturing the American Imagination
Queen Anne-style houses are arguably the most charming and picturesque of all Victorians, writes noted preservationist Janet W. Foster in "The Queen Anne House: America's Victorian Vernacular," her homage to a great American art form. When most of us picture a "Victorian," it is a Queen Anne that we have in mind.
Romantic and evocative, Queen Anne architecture takes many forms. The style is characterized by an asymmetrical shape, towers, turrets, large decorative porches and balconies, elaborate woodwork and stained glass. You often find a steeply pitched, complex roof line, as is so impressive at Golden Gate Villa. The style encourages the designer to be completely individualistic, so that there is an element of surprise to a Queen Anne home, where rich decorative detail combines in imaginative and unexpected ways. The end result makes a stunning visual impact.
Architectural features of a Queen Anne House
The Queen Anne was introduced to America at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where the British government constructed several buildings in the style. It quickly became enormously popular in the U.S. and dominated domestic architecture from the 1870s until the turn of the twentieth century.
Post-Civil War building tastes were elaborate and flamboyant, very much fueled by new industrial society. Queen Anne captured the imagination of America, and became the style of the "Gilded Age," making an unequivocal statement of solid success in a socially competitive era. An 1885 book, "Exterior Decoration," (F.W. Devoe & Co.) declared the Queen Anne style gave the "opportunity for the greatest display of taste in coloring and exterior decoration."
Nineteenth century architect Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), considered the father of the Queen Anne style, led an evolution in domestic architecture when he broke with contemporary Victorian traditions to design the first more eclectic Queen Annes. Shaw's style was given two very distinctive American features: an extensive use of wood, for shingle, cladding, verandahs and decorative facade details, and novel, asymmetric planning.
As at the Villa, a Queen Anne exterior often features decorative patterned wood shingles in varying designs such as "fish scale." They may be painted in several colors to highlight the different textures and trim; some of the most famous Queen Annes are the psychedelic "Painted Ladies" of San Francisco. The fashion at the time was for rich, deep colors, what today we call earth tones: burnt sienna, forest green, and oxblood--the original exterior color of the Villa.
Inside a Queen Anne, one often finds a cluster of reception rooms around an impressive central hall, as at the Villa. Elaborate scrolled and spindled woodwork is also typical: beautiful examples are seen in the fretwork of the Golden Gate Villa's Billiard Room, as well as many of its fireplaces.
The term itself is somewhat a mystery or misnomer, as Queen Anne architecture has little to do with the 18th century Queen Anne or the formal Renaissance architecture of her reign (1702-14). The style is thought to have taken its name from Thackeray's novel, "The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne," which was widely read at the time the Queen Anne style was coming into vogue.
Queen Anne is truly one of the most interesting and beloved of American styles, according to architect Fred Becker who has written extensively on the subject. These homes are generally considered the most stunning in almost any neighborhood. Many have been turned into gracious bed and breakfast inns, some are historical landmarks that are open to the public. They delight anyone who appreciates a beautiful home.
The Golden Gate Villa is one of only several remaining Queen Anne Victorian Mansions in of significance in California, perhaps the only one overlooking both the ocean and the city it resides in, making it unique.