Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Victorians Project

In which we celebrate our neighborhood in pictures

As if I needed another hobby. I've decided to begin photographing some of the most interesting architectural details of the Victorians in my neighborhhod. I'm doing this because (1) I like taking pictures and (2) because stick Victorians tend to burn down and, when they do, they are often lost forever. I can remember large and beautiful Victorians burning, but I can now barely remember what they looked like. I want to keep a record of some of my favorites.

Victorian vs. McTorian
Of course a Victorian is a house or other structure from the Victorian era, though many buildings labelled Victorian were actually built in the Edwardian era or even later. Many were built after the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. In San Francisco, Victorians are predominantly "stick" -- that is, made of wood. The three main styles are Italianate, San Francisco Stick (sometimes called Stick Eastlake) and the turreted and gabled Queen Anne. The arabesque turret pictured above is a superb example of a detail from a finely restored Queen Anne apartment house.

A McTorian is my name for a modern house or building built to resemble, in some way, a genuine Victorian. This carbuncle, across the street from my garret, is a fine example of 1980s McTorian architecture, with its slapped-on gingerbread, flimsy-looking windows and violent paint job.
Victorians were lavish with decorative detail, and took great pleasure in riotously mixing styles. Many of these details were pre-fabricated and chosen by the buyer out of catalogs offered by the builders. Victorian house-holders could literally mix and match whatever details they wanted and could afford. Although they seem almost exquisite to modern eyes, these details were usually milled by machines and were thus a by product of the early industrial age. Many critical observers at the time considered this kind of machine-made ostentation a bit garish. And it's true, some details were certainly more elegant than others. Take, for example, this oval arch that decorates the front door of an apartment building on Grove Street.

This detail, which was certainly machine milled, decorates an enormous Queen Anne restoration on Fulton Street.


Post a Comment

<< Home