When you picture a Victorian house, you might envision a colorful dollhouse, or maybe an imposing haunted house comes to mind. Both are quintessential Victorian style homes, but Victorian architecture technically refers to the era and not a specific style.
That era was, of course, the time when Queen Victoria reigned in Great Britain, from 1837 to 1901. As Grant Marani, a partner at New York’s Robert A.M. Stern Architects, explains it: “Victorian means different things to different people.” But generally, the styles that are most strongly associated with this time period “emphasize verticality, decoration, and a mix of materials and colors,” Grant says.
“What is most frequently called Victorian in America today is an exuberant version of the Queen Anne, with its roots in Great Britain,” Grant says, “or what is more properly termed Italianate.”
These styles of homes surged in popularity in the United States in the mid- to late-19th century, spurred on by the 1876 Centennial International Exposition (the first official World’s Fair).
The advancement of building techniques, the increased accessibility of diverse materials and ideas via new railroad systems, and more widespread house pattern books also further popularized these home styles as well.