Victorian Houses

So you may have noticed that things have been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. Recently my husband and I decided to do what we have thought about doing for ages–moving into a smaller house. The month of March is the single busiest month of the year at the day job, which of course means it was also the month full of home repairs, cleaning, painting, and packing  all our crap clutter so we can sell our house.  I had high hopes for April, but it wasn’t much less chaotic.

I live in a Georgian Colonial style house built between 1916 and 1920 (we found a 1916 newspaper stuffed in the door jamb), which has a center hall and is, for the most part, symmetrical on either side. It features ornate crown molding which was all cut by hand on site, and nine foot ceilings. We love the house, but it’s far too big for us, so we are searching for something smaller. Which has not, of course, stopped me from looking at all kinds of houses no matter how big they are. It’s probably no surprise that I love Victorian era houses, with their nooks and crannies and gorgeous wood trim. Cleveland had a building boom in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, so fortunately for me, most of the housing stock in the suburb where I live dates from this period.

London Bridge, 1859. Image scan by Philip V. Allingham.

So with old houses in mind, I started wondering what house hunting and moving was like for the Victorians. (Doesn’t everyone?)  The population of England grew from 9 million people in 1801 to 36 million in 1911, which meant lots of new houses were built in the same period–6.5 million of them. With the easier transportation and the growth of the middle class that characterized the Victorian era, many of these homes were on the outskirts of cities, allowing families to move away from the overcrowded chaos that was London, into the clean air of the suburbs.

Many of these homes were terraces–what we call townhouses in the U.S.–rows of uniform connected smaller homes. In middle-class neighborhoods, these homes were well-built, with interesting architectural features.

In lower income areas, many of the rows were built back to back, with access only through a front door. These areas saw the erection of many apartment buildings as well, often cheaply built with little regard for safety or comfort.

Wealthy families built much larger homes with greater variety. In the U.S., Victorian houses included the Queen Anne style, with towers and turrets (in San Francisco this style of home was painted in many different colors, and became known as a Painted Lady); Italianate style, reminiscent of an Italian villa; Gothic Revival, with medieval features; and Octagon houses.

Take a look at this site for pictures and more information on these and other Victorian houses.


I could go on forever, but I suppose I ought to get back to work. What’s your favorite style of house?





15 Replies to “Victorian Houses”

  1. Too funny, we’re doing the same. In Philadelphia, we have rowhouses (terraced houses) and twins (semi-Ds) in abundance. Our twin was built in 1920, and at 2300SF is sort of mid-sized for our neighborhood. Our dream house is now a tidy, open, mid-century ranch. Mostly because the older houses of earlier adoration have broken our hearts with maintenance and repairs, so we want something easy to fix/clean/modify. Oh yeah, and live in.

    Happy hunting!

    1. Good luck with your search! I hope you find it easier to sell your house than we are and find something else. At 2700SF, ours is on the big side for the neighborhood, although there’s a $1.7 million “country estate in the city” for sale around the corner. Cleveland is a crazy place!

  2. I was born in and grew up in an old Victoria home — remind me at our next meeting and I’ll show you a photo. It’s pretty cool — listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Good luck with the move!

  3. I love Victorian-era homes. I grew up in the city of Buffalo, which also enjoyed a boom during that era. In fact, I’ve set my three Steampunk Romances in Buffalo and had a wonderful time infusing them with the contrasting splendor and poverty of that time. I grew up in a house originally built by a family who operated a coal & coke delivery service–they used to send the coal down into people’s cellars via a big chute. Can you imagine the dust?

    1. Buffalo and Cleveland are similar cities in many respects. My house has an old coal chute, which we fortunately don’t use any more!

  4. You had me at ‘Victorian.’ I love these old homes. I’ve lived in several over the years. The farm house I live in now, and have for several decades, was built in that era. Wonderful post! I think you should get a Victorian house.

    1. Wonderful! I would love to live in a Victorian house. We’ll see if we can find one that suits us. 🙂

  5. Fascinating research. I lived in a Georgian colonial and it was big, beautiful, and drafty. We have great memories of that home and living there and finding that home gave me a lifelong interest in architecture.

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