Queen Anne Style 1880s - 1910


History of the Style

The Queen Anne style, popular in American from 1880 to 1910, evolved out of the Colonial Revival style; the two styles were fashionable at the same time. The Queen Anne style was imported by English architects who were inspired by the half-timbered walls and patterned masonry of Medieval and Jacobean style-buildings. In Queen Anne buildings, there was an emphasis on the playful use of different building materials; the first floor may be brick, the second floor stucco or wood-frame, the roof was often an intersecting gable roof, with opportunities for dormers or turrets, the windows were often multi-paned and stained-glass; wooden spindlework, now more affordable as the mill technology improved, was applied at entryways and porches. In an effort to make the building look somewhat half-timbered and medieval, the architects placed a greater emphasis on the second story and drew attention there by applying several layers of different shaped shingles.

The playful character of this style is also represented in the floor plan. In earlier American styles, like the Greek Revival style, the interior floor plans were very boxy and symmetrical. In the Queen Anne style, the box has now been pulled open and apart: rooms now flow from one another, in an asymmetrical pattern, often around the significant central family staircase. Oddly, the name of this style is historically inaccurate: while the name “Queen Anne” refers to the English queen of 1710, these buildings are actually based on 12thcentury to 16th century designs.

historic Queen Anne buildings at Presidio
NPS. The Queen Anne elements of the Presidio officers’ quarters:
1. Different styles of decorative wooden shingles at 2nd floor
2. Multi-colored stained-glass windows
3. Pairs and triplets of double-hung, multi-pane windows
4. Wrap-around porch & simple post millwork

Queen Anne Buildings at Golden Gate

The army’s version of the Queen Anne style is less elaborate and exuberant than comparable buildings found throughout the country. During its popularity, the Queen Anne style was highly-decorated and a bit feminine; the style was probably not the most suitable style choice for a working, male-dominated army post. The buildings at Fort Mason and the Presidio have one or two decorative shingles patterns at the second level, unlike some of the fanciful San Francisco buildings which would have four or five patterns. The army’s Queen Anne buildings are of a single building material (in this case, wood-frame); none of the buildings have turrets and or extensive wooden tracery. But they do have wrap-around porches, asymmetrical floor plans and some wooden spindle work.

historic photo of Presidio Queen Anne building
During the 1880s, the Presidio and the City of San Francisco were engaged in disagreements about boundary issues. In response, the army deliberately built these four imposing Queen Anne residences directly at the post's front entrance to remind San Francisco that they had no intention of moving or giving up any land. PARC, GGNRA.

The two Queen Anne buildings at Fort Mason are located on Franklin Street and were both constructed in 1891 for $1,255.00; one was built for a non-commissioned officer and the other built for the hospital steward (the non-medical supervisor of the army post hospital). Each building has horizontal wooding siding and a decorative wooden frieze that runs along the building at the 2nd story. On both buildings, the frieze on the north elevation is interrupted by a tall, 4-over-4 double-hung window.

Queen Anne style buildings at Fort Mason
These Fort Mason Queen Anne style buildings, while smaller than the Presidio Queen Anne buildings, still exhibit the same elegant playfullness with different building decorations and shapes. NPS.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Last updated: August 2, 2019