ArchitectureMuseum Blog

Architecture Styles – Queen Anne

Architecture is an ever-changing field, filled with many different styles. Cañon City has examples of a variety of architecture styles, especially since the turn of the 20th century. One such style is Queen Anne, popularized in the mid to late 1800s by English architects, especially Richard Norman Shaw. The style seems to have first appeared in the United States by the 1870s and was spreading across the country through pattern books by 1880s. The style was not favored by architects but the general population embraced the style through pattern books and mail order house plans, spread more rapidly with expanding rail networks.[1]  

To identify a structure as Queen Anne, there are a few characeristics to look for. A steeply pitched roof, often with an irregular shape is commonly seen. The façade is usually asymmetrical with a porch. Walls are generally designed to prevent a smooth-walled appearance with cut away bay windows, patterned shingles, and other architetural elements. Spindlework, decorative trim often called gingerbread ornamentation, is commonly found on porches and other places around Queen Anne houses. Gables, the area of a wall in between the edges of a pitched roof, will often be decorated with patterned shingles or decorative motifs.

Towers are a frequent occurrence in Queen Anne houses. They may be round, square, or polygonal and are typically placed in a front façade corner. Square towers are the least common shape for Queen Anne architecture.  They can start from ground level or a higher floor and be of varying heights. A tower is not an identifier of Queen Anne without other elements, as towers are also found in other architectural styles.

Scattered within Cañon City are examples of Queen Anne architecture. The most well-known example is the Deputy Warden’s house located at 105 W. Main Street. The structure was built in 1901 and designed by Charles C. Rittenhouse, a prominent architect in Cañon City. Deputy wardens lived in the home until 1954, when it became the home for the business manager of the prison. Beginning in 1975 the structure was used as a short-term holding facility for various offices including probation and youth services. Eventually, it was put into use as offices for the prison.   

The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 2001 as it is architecturally significant as a distinctive local interpretation of the Queen Anne style.[2] Defining characteristics of the structure include:

  • An asymmetrical façade
  • A mix of wall materials and other elements such as bay windows to avoid a smooth-walled surface
  • A tower on the corner of the front
  • A wrap-around porch

Moving east to Greenwood Avenue, the 400 block of the street showcases Queen Anne architecture. The home located at 417 Greenwood was built before 1890 and was, at one time, the home of Judge Morton S. Bailey, judge of the 11th Judicial District of Colorado around the turn of the 20th century. Queen Anne elements include:

  • A tower on the front corner
  • An asymmetric façade
  • Spindlework on the porch and balcony
  • An irregularly shaped, steeply pitched roof

Looking across the street, another Queen Anne house can be seen. This home, 420 Greenwood Avenue, was built sometime between 1890 and 1895. The first known owner was James M. Ragsdale, the owner of a real estate office, Ragsdale & Sons. Queen Anne elements of this home include:

  • Two towers on either side of the front entrance
  • A wrap-around porch
  • A steeply pitched roof of irregular size

The Deputy Warden’s house is not the only Queen Anne from Cañon City listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Atwater House, at 821 Macon Avenue, was added to the National Register on March 7, 1996 due to its architectural significance. Construction of the home began in 1890 and was completed the next year. It was built for Samuel H. Atwater who was involved in land development and real estate. Significant Queen Anne elements include:

  • A large square tower on the front corner
  • Asymmetrical façade
  • Covered front porch with a gable
  • Steeply pitched, irregularly shaped roof
  • Bay windows and a mix of materials on the walls to avoid a smooth-walled appearance

Cañon City is home to a variety of architectural styles with Queen Anne being just one of the many. Keep an eye out for more blogs highlighting other styles of architecture found throughout the city!

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

[1]  Virginia Savage McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 350. 

[2] Niki Moore, “Deputy Warden’s House,” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2001), Section 8.

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