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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Run For Your Lives, It's Queen Anne

I guess we're going to have to explain ourselves right up front.

I'm not exactly sure how to explain Queen Anne architecture properly. It doesn't really have anything to do with Queen Anne, for starters. In America, we'd call furniture and architecture related to Queen Anne's salad days as Jacobean, or William and Mary style. Queen Anne is a Victorian era style, just to confuse things further. And to place the capstone of intellectual delirium tremens on this edifice of misnomers, Queen Anne architecture means something different in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

From about 1880 until World War I, Queen Anne was the pre-eminent style of architecture in America. It supplanted Second Empire. It had all sorts of subtypes, including generally the style we featured yesterday: Stick.

That's the Haas-Lilienthal House in San Francisco right there at the top of the page. It's a Queen Anne on steroids. I have older pictures of it, too, without the Volvos in the picture, and there's another Victorian wonder next door instead of the bland, shabby box you see off to the right.

Here's a closer look at the fabric of the place. The visual density of the wall surfaces is very high. You can see how there is a kind of dynamism of the grouping of the interior rooms that show through to the outside, rippling along the facades, jutting out and retreating here and there, each wrinkle or bulge an opportunity for embellishment. The houses look like they're dancing around on the foundation. How far we'd come from the staid rectangular symmetrical assemblages of rooms and the chaste Greek and Roman themes of the colonial styles:

We've lost the knack for laying on decoration like this. It's really hard to get it all on the house like that. Each layer of filigree is like upping the ante; and the proportions, placement, and prominence of each design elements affects the whole thing. It's like playing a piano. It's easier to be interesting playing with all ten fingers, but much harder to do than chopsticks.

We've lost all sorts of other knacks besides embellishment, too. The wrap around porch is a lost art, for one.
So we'll talk about Queen Anne for a few days. We'll have to divvy it up into Spindle Style, and Free Classic, and Mock Tudor, and Shingle Style and... well, pull up a chair. A Queen Anne chair, if you've got one.

2 comments:

Patsy said...

Can't wait for days on end of Queen Anne! My favorite place in the world was the home I raised my kids in--a great old 1906 Queen Anne with a great wrap around porch (circular) and a maze of rooms inside. Would you like a picture?

I'm still searching for another one now that I've lived in a box (albeit a very nice box, with wonderful park-like landscaping and the garage properly located in the back)for the last 15 years.

The Queen Annes hold a big chunk of my heart--if I can't find another I'll take a little thatched cottage. With hollyhocks all around.

SippicanCottage said...

Yes, please send me a picture.