Victorian architecture is a broad and diverse classification including Gothic Revival; Italianate; Second Empire; Queen Anne; Stick style; Romanesque style; Folk Victorian; Octagon style; and Shingle style among other architectural styles spawned during the Victorian era. Historians debate whether some styles fit into the Victorian style or are considered their own distinct architectural styles.
This post will focus on the styles of Victorian architecture exemplified in Essex, NY.
Essex was undergoing a shaky economic time during the Victorian Era, so few new houses were built. There was a brief surge in new construction from 1890-1910, but the majority of construction that occurred during the Victorian Era were modifications to existing houses (Essex: The Architectural Heritage. 42). With Victorian renovations and embellishments primarily undertaken within residential interiors, much of the Victorian architecture in Essex is not readily visible.
The Victorian period is in itself rich and extremely diversified, there are so few Victorian structures in the village [Essex] that it is impossible to establish clearly any trends within the period. (Essex: The Architectural Heritage. 42)
Victorian interiors aside, some Victorian architecture exterior features are evident such as steep roofs, bay windows, and intricate iron fences that can be seen on the exterior of some buildings to denote that style (Essex: The Architectural Heritage. 41-42).
Victorian Architecture Visible in Essex, NY
Several Essex buildings exhibit Italianate, Gothic, and Eastlake architectural details. When buildings are described as spindled or having “gingerbread” details with delicate turned porch posts and lacy, ornamental spindles, “this type of decoration is often called Eastlake because it resembles the work of the famous English furniture designer, Charles Eastlake” (About.com Architecture). This design is often used as a facet of the Queen Anne style. Rosslyn Boathouse incorporates Eastlake design elements. The Edwards Store includes gingerbread detailing in the roof molding possibly suggesting a Carpenter Gothic influence.
Several Essex buildings include Gothic features or ornamentation.
Most Gothic Revival homes were romantic adaptations of medieval architecture. Delicate wooden ornaments and other decorative details suggested the architecture of medieval England. These homes did not try to replicate authentic Gothic styles. (About.com Architecture)
An example of the Italianate style, the Noble Clemons House stands in marked contrast to other prominent historic homes in the village of Essex.
With their nearly-flat roofs, wide eaves, and massive brackets, these homes suggested the romantic villas of Renaissance Italy. The Italianate style is also known as Tuscan, Lombard, or bracketed. (About.com Architecture)
According to Essex: The Architectural Heritage (42) the following Victorian features are utilized on properties in Essex, NY:
- Bay windows
- Steep pitched roofs
- Shutters and blinds removed. A trend of painting trim and siding the same color began.
- Fences often removed. Farmers began fencing in their lands, so homes no longer required fences to keep roaming livestock out. If a fence remained, then it was usually a detailed iron fence.
- Interior and exterior hardware was often replaced with more fashionable and intricate designs (usually in iron).
- Fireplaces had gone out of fashion, but made a comeback in a more ostentatious style; made not for practicality but for ornamentation.
- Interior partitions were removed to create larger rooms as needed to accommodate the larger, more opulent Victorian furnishings.
Buildings Exhibiting Victorian Details in Essex, NY
- Harmon Noble Schoolhouse (Gothic & Italianate)
- Rosslyn Boathouse (Eastlake Design, facet of the Queen Anne style)
- Edwards Store (Victorian roof)
- Old Stone Church (Gothic windows)
- Greystone (Shingle style watertower)
- Noble Clemons House (Italianate)
- Essex Community Church (Italianate)
- St. John’s Episcopal Church (Gothic)
- Wilder House (Second Empire)
If you know of any more buildings in Essex that have some Victorian architectural features please share your insights in the comments!
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