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Portland architecture: Queen Anne rules the Victorian style

Remnants of this late 19th-century architectural movement still stand in neighborhoods across Portland.

A Queen Anne style mansion painted dark blue with white trim, a conical current topped by a porch, and bay windows.

The Johan Poulsen House in Portland’s Brooklyn neighborhood was built in 1892.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

In the realm of the Rose City, the American Craftsman home may dominate the architectural playing field by sheer quantity, but it’s the Queen Anne that reigns over pomp and pageantry. Often cloaked in bold colors and bedecked with intricate ornamentation, the Queen Anne is, by popular vote, the unapologetic royal heir of the Victorian architectural era.

Royal(ish) roots

“Queen Anne” and “Victorian” are not exactly synonymous; rather, the Queen Anne is one of many subsets within the Victorian style, though it arguably typifies the broader movement. Misleadingly named for the last Stuart monarch who ruled Great Britain and Ireland from 1702 to 1714, Queen Anne architecture got its start in England and became an American darling by the mid-1880s thanks to trends in print media and more affordable nail prices. The style evolved in the US, unique from its English origins, and spread throughout the country until its popularity waned shortly after the turn of the century.

Like most of the US, Portland employed the Queen Anne style for residential use rather than commercial buildings. The larger Queen Anne homes were built for the wealthy and their in-vogue maximalist lifestyles, though middle- and working-class families had smaller, L-shaped cottages or “folk” variants bearing some of the characteristic decorative details. Many Victorian-era homes were demolished as Portland’s downtown core expanded and trends changed, but a number of well-maintained homes featuring original exteriors can still be found sprinkled across Southeast and Northwest Portland.

A slideshow of photos showing several different Queen Anne Victorian homes across Portland.

Look for Queen Anne architecture in the Alphabet District, the Goose Hollow and Brooklyn neighborhoods, and near Southeast Belmont Street.

Photos by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Spot the style

If it’s asymmetrical, eclectic, and has a storybook air about it, there’s a good chance it’s a Queen Anne. But the style is wide-ranging (sometimes even regional) and no two Queen Annes are quite the same — in fact, one of the unspoken rules of the style appeared to be not copying what your neighbor built while incorporating as many contrasting surfaces as possible.

Here are some common Queen Anne attributes to look for:

  • Steep roof with ornate cross gables, large dormers, and/or conical turrets with finials
  • Stained-glass picture windows and angled bay windows
  • Wooden spindlework on porches and gable trim
  • Contrasting shingle shapes, especially on the exterior of the second floor
  • Colorfully painted brick
  • Asymmetrical front facade
  • Large porch
  • Decorative trim
A stately Victorian house at night with people milling on the front lawn beneath the glow of string lights.

The historic Victorian Belle Mansion in North Portland is a popular wedding venue.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Like it? Live it

If you like what you’re hearing, check out some Queen Anne homes on the market today.

1890 Victorian near Ladd’s Addition | $599,900 | 4BD, 2BA | 2,529 sqft | Original features with modern updates, a chef’s kitchen, and views of the West Hills

1894 cozy Victorian near south waterfront | $650,000 | 3BD, 3BA | 1,840 sqft | Plenty of charm and easy access to OHSU, John’s Landing, and downtown

1906 Victorian in the Brooklyn neighborhood | $725,000 | 2BD, 1.5BA | 2,130 sqft | Colorful and whimsical urban sanctuary with a Japanese garden

1894 commercial-use Victorian in Southeast | $750,000 | 5BD, 3BA | 2,389 sqft | Professional office space with a private backyard

Read other articles in our Portland architecture series.