December 8, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When most people think of “Victorian” architecture, they likely envision the ornate and fanciful late era of Victorian architecture known as “Queen Anne.”  In fact, strictly speaking, “Victorian” covers many sub-styles, including Italianate, French Second Empire, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne, all styles common in eastern Nebraska that came and went during the 70-plus-year reign of England’s Queen Victoria.

The Queen Anne style became popular in the United States after its introduction at the 1876 Exposition in Philadelphia. By the late 1880s, ornate Queen Anne homes were becoming the choice of both Omaha’s rich and its emerging middle class. The beautifully restored home of Micah and Jennifer Evans, built in 1890 at 1109 S. 33rd St., would have been considered a fairly modest and muted example of the style.

In time, Americans found fancy to be fussy. Queen Anne’s excesses inspired the simple lines of the Arts and Crafts movement to come.

A Queen Anne Field Guide

  • The main distinguishing factors of Queen Anne are ornamentation and embellishments at a level unseen in most any other style on American soil. This is not by accident: The Industrial Age allowed for the inexpensive and quick production of complicated shapes. As more and more became possible, more people added more details to their homes.
  • Specifically, full-blown Queen Anne style houses typically have towers, dormers, oriel or bay windows, hanging eaves, and corbelled chimneys. Decorative, wrap-around porches are another telltale sign, as are fish-scale siding, classical columns, and clapboards. Rooflines are most often irregular.
  • The Queen Anne movement began in England two decades before its appearance in the United States. The design’s origin is most often credited to English architect Richard Normal Shaw, who considered the reign of Queen Anne, from 1702 to 1714, as a much simpler time when workmanship was prized over superficial detail. Of course, after a few years in the hands of American homeowners with access to inexpensive embellishment, “Queen Anne” came to embody something very different than understatement.
  • Queen Anne style houses were most popular in Nebraska from roughly 1890 to 1910 (about a decade past the reign of Queen Victoria). There are likely two major reasons the style caught fire in America: As automation swept through American manufacturing, woodworking mills could mass-produce turned porch posts, moldings, and other trimmings. This meant that an emerging American middle class could, for a reasonable price, build a house only the upper class could have built just 20 years before. So, as is often the case with the newly wealthy, some excess ensued. 

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