Many people think that “Victorian” refers to a certain architectural style. It is, in fact, more correctly identified as a period in history from 1837 until 1901 when Queen Victoria reigned in England. Homes built during that time period fall into this category.
There are many different types and styles of Victorians: Folk Victorian, American Foursquare, Queen Anne, Italianate, Georgian, Shotgun Style, Gothic Revivial, Stick-Eastlake, Second Empire Style, Richardsonian Romanesque, American Gothic, Shingle Style.
The Industrial Revolution changed the way that homes were built. Because siding could now be mass-produced, it became more affordable. Square cedar shingles, ragged mitre-cut shingles, half-cove pattern shingles, as well as just the standard clap-board siding could now be used by many builders, and more often than not, many different cuts were used on the same house.
With the advent of pattern books, builders were able to borrow a piece from one blueprint, add a different piece from another blueprint, and the most popular Victorian designs were able to spread quickly. Often a conglomerate of different styles, homes built during this period will generally have at least one aspect of the above styles, but many of them integrate bits and pieces of several styles.
We look at Victorian homes as unique, but often they were ‘tract homes’ at the turn of the century. Builders would use the same floor plan when establishing a neighborhood of homes, reverse the floor plan (flip it) from one home to the next, and then change an architectural detail on the outside so that each house appeared unique, but they were often just ‘cookie-cutter homes.’
Because so many of these homes were built without a kitchen or a bath, you will often find several additions to the original structure that eventually housed these rooms. Since there was no running water, the large stoves were used to heat water for baths and washing dishes.