Introduction to Queen Anne

In the late 1800s, a new style of architecture swept the nation, including Oakwood. Known as the Queen Anne style, it featured a fascinating profusion of house shapes, forms, details, textures and colors. Round and octagonal towers, balconies, bay windows, wraparound porches, interesting roof shapes, and stained-glass windows were introduced to an amazed public.

The term “Queen Anne” is a misnomer, in that nothing remotely like these houses was seen during her reign in Britain from 1702 to 1714. The prevailing fashion in those years called for simple, symmetrical houses, sometimes characterized by alternating bands of red brick and pale stone. 150 years later, during the Victorian period in Britain, this brick-and-stone banding again became popular, but interesting shapes and textures were added: bay windows, towers, gables, balconies, stained glass, and elaborate carving. One can see hundreds of buildings in this style in the posh west end of London. The style was named Queen Anne because of the brick-and-stone banding, but by the time the style migrated to America around 1880, the brick-and-stone banding was abandoned and only the interesting shapes and textures were retained. Of course, Raleigh was about a decade behind the times architecturally speaking, and Oakwood’s earliest Queen Anne houses were built around 1890.

412 Oakwood Ave. (c.1901) (Richard & Cindy Urquhart) is an outstanding example of the Queen Anne style. It has a steeply-pitched cross-gabled roof, an octagonal tower, turned columns, and tiny panes of stained glass in the tower, front doors and transom. All of these are typical of the style. The half-timber and stucco in the front gable, and the delicate carved details thereunder are less common, but also characteristic of the Queen Anne style. The profusion of deep rich paint colors is also typical.

504 N. East St. (c.1899) (Phil & Linda Corbin) is another superb example. It has a steeply-pitched hip roof with projecting gables; this is the most characteristic Queen Anne roof form. The roof is sheathed in slate shingles, which predominated during this period. Under the gables are cutaway bay windows, so called because the corners appear cut away from the gables above them. This is opposed to the bay windows of earlier Italianate or vernacular houses, which projected out from the gables above them. Also typical of the Queen Anne style are the turned columns and “spindlework” frieze on the porch. The scalloped siding in the gables was a Queen Anne feature that became especially popular in Oakwood. And of course the octagonal tower is typical.

These houses share the two most salient identifying characteristics of the Queen Anne style: 1) woodwork turned on a lathe, and 2) a steep roof pitch.

Although the wood-turning lathe had been in existence for thousands of years, it was its combination with the steam engine that enabled it to mass-produce pieces. Englishman Charles Eastlake’s book Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, etc., published in 1868, demonstrated the decorative capabilities of turned woodwork. By the 1880s (1890s in Raleigh), turned woodwork replaced the chamfered and sawn woodwork previously in vogue on house exteriors and interiors. The style of woodwork on most Queen Anne houses is often referred to as Eastlake. The Governor’s Mansion has Raleigh’s best Eastlake-style woodwork.

The steeply-pitched roof was a luxury that came with increasing wealth in the Victorian age. It kept the house cooler in the summer, shed snow more easily in the winter, and created a larger attic to store the ever-increasing trove of possessions created by advancing industry.