Victorian houses are asymmetrical, narrow, 2-storey buildings, typically set low to the ground (as they lacked central heating). They often have a prominent bay on one side that may ascend to the roof, which is typically a gabled one. A half-porch sheltering the front door sometimes supports a small deck space for the upstairs. Highly decorated surfaces, especially fish-scale shingles, are typical in gables and on dormers, as are elaborate fretwork brackets on porches, bays, and under eaves. The style is rare in Vancouver outside of Strathcona as earlier examples from the downtown and the West End have mostly been demolished.
The Victorian era lasted from 1837 – 1901, named for the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria. However, only styles from the last decades of her reign are classified as ‘Victorian’. In this era, industrialization and the expansion of the railways allowed for the development of lighter framing methods, which changed the character of housing design and construction. The influence of these changes filtered down to Vancouver, where timber proliferated and local mills mass-produced intricate detailing. This meant that inexpensive decor such as gingerbread could be applied to all kinds of house forms. The result is an elaboration of shapes and details on Victorian buildings. Like Gabled Vernacular homes, they usually have front-gabled roofs, but asymmetrical facades and prominent bays distinguish Victorian houses in Vancouver. Their narrow form made them well-suited for city lots.
- Usually front-gabled with cross gables
- Steeply pitched roof
- 2 to 2-1/2 stories
- Asymmetrical facade
- Prominent bay on one side
- Half-porch with classically inspired columns
- Elaborate fretwork braces on porches, bays, under eaves
- Decorated surfaces – e.g. shingles in gables
Many Victorian homes feature patterned shingles (ie. fishscale shingles), which are often applied in gables or bays. Multiple textures and colours are common. Gingerbread detailing is used under the eaves and along porch roofs. Porch roofs can be supported by ornamental turned columns while doors are usually heavy wood with a glass panel.