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Five Popular Types of Historic Victorian Homes

Have you ever noticed that Victorian homes can look wildly different from each other? That’s because “Victorian” actually refers to a time period and not one specific style of home. There were many architectural styles that became popular in the United States when Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain (1837-1901).

Each of these styles draws inspiration from European architecture and is showcased in homes built in America during this time period. During this period, new machines were invented to mass-produce building materials and furniture. The ornate details on homes of the wealthy were now accessible to more people and they filled their homes with these intricate details.

Victorian style occured during Queen VIctoria's reign in Great Britain between 1837 to 1901
Queen Victoria of Great Britain

The Historic Old West End in Toledo is one of my favorite neighborhoods to walk through and admire old, historic homes. You can find every type of Victorian-style home within a few blocks from each other and each one has a unique story. Today, I am sharing five popular Victorian homes designs and their key identifiable features. These include Gothic Revival, Queen Ann, Folk Victorian, Italianate, and Second Empire styles.

I totally geek out when it comes to learning about history and even started listening to a podcast about Queen Victoria. This useful guide is sure to earn you some points at your next trivia night!


1 | Gothic Revival Style

Gothic Revival Key Features

  • Pointed arches
  • Stained glass windows
  • Steeply pitched gables
  • Quatrefoil and clover shaped windows
  • Battlements & shaped parapets

Gothic Revival homes often have castle-like features. The style draws inspiration from architecture during Medieval times. This style was most popular between 1840-1880 is popular with many churches and cathedrals.

Rosary Cathedral in Toledo Ohio - gothic architecture
Source | Rosary Cathedral

The Barber house located in the historic Old West End Toledo neighborhood is a mix of gothic and colonial revival styles.

Victorian home in Toledo's historic Old West End | Building Bluebird
Victorian home in Toledo's historic Old West End | Building Bluebird
Gothic style home in Toledo Ohio
Source | Old West End

2 | Italianate Renaissance Style

Italianate Key Features

  • Deep overhangs with ornamental brackets
  • 2-3 story homes
  • Made of brick or clapboard
  • Low pitched roof
  • Tall narrow windows (often arched above)
  • Porch with decorative columns

The Italianate style is one of the most popular Victorian styles of the era. This style drew its inspiration from villas in Italy and became popular in the US after the Civil War. You can find this style on commercial buildings on many Main Streets of historic downtown areas in the Midwest.

My friends purchased this historic Italianate home that was close to being demolished and completely restored it! This home has many of the key features, like the deep overhangs and ornamental brackets, for instance. They were nice enough to let me write up two blog posts filled with details on the exterior restoration and interior renovation of their historic home.

Victorian Itialianate style - Bosler House in Denver, CO
Bosler House – 1875 Italianate home in Denver, CO

Toledo, Ohio is home to many historic homes that are affordable to purchase. The Italianate home below was listed for $6,000 and included many original features inside the property. It required many repairs and updates, but it included one of a kind features that can’t be found in homes built today.

Italianate historic home in Toledo Ohio Vistula district

Most older downtown areas have a similar look and feel and that is because they are often the Italianate style.

Italianate architecture on St. Clair St. in Toledo
Source | Toledo Blade

3 | Queen Ann Style

The Queen Ann style was popularized by the architect Norman Shaw in the 1880s. This style is what most people think of when they imagine a Victorian home. The Queen Ann style also inspired the Arts & Crafts style movement that came later in the early 1900s.

This historic home in Toledo’s Old West End is a mix of Queen Ann style and Colonial Revival.

Queen Ann architecture

Queen Ann Key Features

  • Asymmetrical & eclectic ornamental detail
  • Steep pitches & irregularly shaped roof
  • Patterned roof shingles
  • Multiple gables and dormers, sometimes towers or turrets
  • Differing wall textures
  • Typically built with wood (not brick)
  • Wrap around porches

Below is another beautiful Queen Ann-style home (get the full tour here) in Toledo’s historic Old West End. My cousins own this home and there are just as many incredible details inside the home as there are on the outside.

Queen Ann historic home
Queen Ann style home in Perrysburg Ohio

The painted Ladies in San Francisco are probably the most recognizable Queen Ann-style homes in America.

Painted Ladies - The most well known Victorian Queen Ann style  homes

4 | Second Empire/Mansard Style

Second Empire Key Features

  • Mansard Roof
  • Patterned shingle roof
  • Dormers in the roof for light on top floor
  • Pavilion one story porches
  • Tower (sometimes)
  • Quoins

The Second Empire style draws its architectural inspiration from France. Also called “General Grant Style” as it gained popularity after the Civil War. in the 1860s-70s. Similar to the Italianate style, the Second Empire style sometimes includes a tower.

Second empire Victorian style home - mansard roof

Second Empire style homes are always the easiest for me to identify because of the mansard roof.

Mansard style Victorian home

5 | Folk Victorian Style

Folk Victorian Key Features

  • Modest detailing
  • Affordable to the masses
  • Symmetrical design (typically)
  • No towers or turrets
  • Ornate detail primarily on the porch

Folk Victorian-style homes are like if Queen Ann and a farmhouse had a baby. From 1870-1900 you saw the folk-style homes popping up all over the United States. This style includes ornate detailing on the exterior similar to Queen Ann. The difference between Queen Ann and folk style came from the interior design. The interior of Folk Victorian homes was built for function and as a result, more modest in detail.

Folk Victorian style home in the Midwest

There are many different architectural types of historic homes, but Victorians will always be some of my favorites! What is your favorite type of historic home?

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Your guide to the 5 most popular Victorian style homes - Gothic Revival, Queen Ann, Italianate, Second Empire, Folk Victorian #historichomes #victorianhomes