Is That Minneapolis Duplex A Painted Lady?

said on November 20th, 2009 categorized under: Architecture

Typical Queen Anne

Typical Queen Anne

Woodwork. Investors, owner occupants and single family home buyers all go crazy for woodwork.

And for whatever reason, we all think woodwork is found in those grand two story Victorian homes  and duplexes.

Ironically, when most people think of built-ins and woodwork, they say the word Victorian, but in their heads? They’re actually thinking Craftsman.

For today, let’s talk about what constitutes a Victorian property.

The Victorian age happened in the 1880s and 1890s, during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria. There wasn’t a set, specific kind of house or duplex.

The age was more about an attitude, about out-doing your neighbor, and going over the top. In fact, these homes are often called “Painted Ladies” for the highly expressive and brilliantly-colored paint schemes they once boasted.

 The construction of the era consisted of many styles that shared certain common characteristics.

Most Victorian building occured between 1880-1910. These properties were among the first to feature full basements and tend to have more complex roof shapes. They often featured gas lighting, a wood or coal furnace and  (I’ve seen this in both the northeast and Seward neighborhoods), cisterns for their water supply.

There weren’t a lot of duplexes built in the era. However, those that were share with their single family counterparts high ceilings (10-12 feet on the first floor, nine feet on the second) and in the higher end properties, ornate details like leaded glass, occasional built-in buffets with scrolls and floral patterns, and pillars with scrolls at the top.  Hardwood floors are a given, as are the headers at the top of every door; straight, capped with a little ledge, almost like a lid on the frame.

Common categories of Victorians include Neoclassical, Queen Annes And Shingle. The Neoclassical Victorians tend to grand two-story columns on the front.  

A Queen Anne is the kind of house most of us think of when we think Victorian. They’re the ones with all the personality.

Queen Anne’s often feature turrets, wild shingle styles on the face of their gables, brackets that seem to draw attention to overhangs, spindlework, lace-like brackets, decorative stone or brick and sections of wall that hang out away from the house.

What’s often referred to as a Shingle house is a third category of Victorian. These duplexes tend to have towers that blend into the house, steep, gabled roofs, clusters of three windows and shingle cladding on the walls (hence the name of the style).

Having said all that, if you’re looking for a Victorian, it’s important to be knowledgable of history. Cities tended to spring up along easy access points to waterways, with early settlers positioning themselves close to river travel and the channel of supplies it often carried.

With the city of St Paul founded in the 1840s and Minneapolis ini 1855,  you’ll find the oldes properties closest to the places it was easiest to get off the boat. Coming forty or fifty years later, Victorians were once part of a new development, back from those access points.

In Minneapolis, think downtown, northeast, Seward and Powderhorn. In St Paul, think the West 7th, Dayton’s Bluff, Riverview/Cherokee and Crocus Hill neighborhoods.