Historic Houses: Victorian vs. Craftsman or Bungalow Style

Historic Houses, Architecture
and Society

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Architectural style is not as simple as building a taxonomy of form. A full deconstruction should take into consideration the conscious efforts of professional designers, the practice and technology of the house builder and the whims of the person who paid for the house. You should also think about the cultural and economic events of the time.

The other problem is that the study of architecture and the primary focus of preservation movements are too frequently reduced to the story of "Great Buildings" or "Great Architects." More important in my mind are people and society, neighborhoods and streetscapes.

This is why I include in my discussion the social context rather than the features of a house alone. It is also why I have as much interest in modest houses as in Grand Mansions layered in fine woodwork.

My approach also deemphasizes the many sub-categories of 19th century architecture because to my mind they didn't change all that much. While you can distinguish Federal details from Neo-Colonial (a subject of great importance to interior decorators), the lifestyle and meaning of Victorian houses to the people living in them was virtually constant across many decades.

That is, until the late 19th Century which saw the arrival of industrialization, modern design, the Arts & Crafts movement and rise of the middle class. This was also a period in which designers rethought the meaning of architecture and rather than trying to achieve a "correct" design that went back to European or Grecian ideals, took as inspiration "native" and nationalist values and natural materials. They layered this with a more middle class philosophy of family, hearth and home. See in particular the article by Ray Stubblebine on Gustav Stickley and The Craftsman Home.

I apologize for the brevity, but the story is more complex and more interesting

than my time here allows. The subject also deserves more pictures...

Denver Metro area Historical Background

Colorado boomed following the civil war primarily due to the rush for gold, plus the commerce feeding the mining industry. The heavy emphasis on natural resource extraction and farming/ranching lasted until the economic downturn of the 1980's, when Colorado's economy finally became more diversified to the point where it now depends primarily on tourism, and industry (in particular, high technology and computers).

Early Denver grew up as a commercial/transport center, initially being much smaller than Leadville. It has only a few houses dating from before the 1880s, but the population grew dramatically from the 1880's through the 1920's, which is evidenced in all quadrants of the City by large neighborhoods consisting of row upon row of Victorian and Craftsman Bungalows. The wealthier neighborhoods where you see a preponderance of grand victorian mansions are clustered from the Capitol building to the East and South of downtown.

As a "late-bloomer" Denver lacks some of the variety of Victorian styles that you get in the Eastern cities.

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