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Queen Anne Visits Tacoma

Written by Corin Fayé

Originally published in the Eureka Times, 2009 Spring issue

Updated for blog publication in 2020 by: Holly Stewart, Program Manager

This is the last in a three-part series about Tacoma's Victorian architectural styles, especially in the Old Town neighborhood. The first post is available here. The second post is available here.

The Fogg House built in 1890 at 620 N C St is an example of Tacoma's Queen Anne architecture.

Tacoma has numerous Queen Anne style homes in the Stadium-Seminary Historic District.

Queen Anne Architecture

Queen Anne, to my knowledge, never visited America in her lifetime. She lived in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when America was just a ragtag collection of colonies that hadn't yet thought of dumping taxed tea into Boston Harbor. Queen Anne had a short reign (1702-1714) during the sunset of the baroque era.

Many architectural historians consider the Queen Anne style, as expressed in its heyday in the 1890s, to have little to do with the style of architecture and furniture popular during her actual reign. Be that as it may, let us consider the popular Queen Anne style to be her late Britannic Majesty's long-overdue visit to her former colonies. We seem to have received her well.

Queen Anne houses, famous for their eclectic, asymmetrical look, are the epitome of the Victorian and Romantic sensibility: whimsical, fairy-tale-esque, crowned with turrets and balconies, decorated with spires and scrollwork. Tacoma's North End has many fine examples of Queen Anne architecture. Although more sedate than the San Francisco Victorian style, Queen Anne herself may have approved of Tacoma's version of this architectural style.

This Victorian home was originally built in 1886 along Tacoma Avenue near Wright Park. Source: Tacoma Public Library

In 1913, shipbuilder Edward E Johnson moved the building to its current location in Old Town.

You can find peek-a-boo views of this Victorian home nestled in the center of the block near N 26th and Starr Streets

in the Old Town neighborhood.

Victorian Floorplans

The Victorians themselves, however, were very restrained. No tea tossing for them! The interior of a Victorian house is a time capsule of the late nineteenth century's obsession with protocol and decorum. These homes usually have an enclosed entryway, however, small and cramped. The entryway gives onto a formal parlor where a middle or upper class family would receive visitors. Formal rooms and informal rooms were very distinct in form and function. Polite visitors would be received in the formal room, which would be carefully and rather stiffly decorated. Only intimate friends and relations were allowed into a more comfortably furnished sitting room. Visitors would be "screened" in the entryway, meaning that a servant -- which even middle class families often had in the nineteenth century -- would greet the visitors and according to the homeowner's preferences, either admit them to the formal room or else say that the family was "not at home," and take the visitor's card.

Many Victorian houses have been altered to open up the floorplan, removing the strict, compartmentalized nature of the original floorplan. By the dawn of the 20th century, societal values were changing. Conservative Victorianism was wearing off, and houses became less compartmentalized and -- ironically -- far more restrained in outward appearance. Tacoma has many beautiful houses from the turn of the century, a time of colonial and neoclassical revivals, Tudor revivals, and Spanish revival architecture.

These historic homes on N Starr Street were designed by architect Charles Darmer in 1906. They have a Dutch Colonial exterior, but a Victorian floorplan. On the first floor is an entry hall, side stairs, kitchen and pantry on one side with a dining room and living room on the other side. The second story consists of three bedrooms and a bathroom. They have been home to several generations of Croatian immigrant families.

Craftsman Architecture Takes Over

Then came the Craftsman era, which left an indelible stamp on cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Portland. Many of the neighborhoods of these cities are singularly dominated by the elegant simplicity of these houses. Typically smaller in size but with a more spacious and open floor plan, the Craftsman house elevated the vernacular to a respected style in itself. Homes of this era emphasized a relaxed, informal style reflecting changing family and societal relationships. Mail order Craftsman style homes were more accessible to the masses through mail order services such as the Sears catalog.

These Craftsman bungalows on N 26th St were constructed in 1910.

The homes were built for Swedish immigrants who worked at the mills on the Old Town Tacoma waterfront.

While Tacoma and many other Northwest cities have an abundance of Craftsman homes, take a walk through Old Town and Tacoma's North End to see fine examples of Victorian architecture including Italianate, Vernacular, Stick Style, and Queen Anne homes.

Sources

Delehanty, Randolph. In the Victorian Style. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991.

Sommer, Robin Langley. The Victorian House. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1999.

Swope, Caroline T. Classic Houses of Seattle: High Style to Vernacular, 1870-1950. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc., 2005.

About the Author

In 2008, the museum welcomed Corin Fayé as a new volunteer. He came to the museum through his volunteer work with AmeriCorp where he spent his days working with kids who struggled to read. With his love of research, reading and writing -- combined with his BA in English from Whitworth University -- he was a perfect fit to spend some of his evening hours working as our "library lion." We were fortunate to have him as a regular research contributor.

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