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Annmarie Adams on The Queen Anne Revival Style

17 December, 2020

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (1992) review The Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture, Material Culture Review, No.35 1992, 72-73

In 1876, a paper on the Queen Anne style of architecture was read to a group of British architects. As the lecturer finished, according to decorators Agnes and Rhoda Garrett, an irate professor asked the speaker where one might find examples of the so-called style, ‘with a sneer in the pronunciation of the last word which it is not possible to express by any form of print’. Toronto, Charlottetown, or Kamloops might have satisfied the professor’s curiosity, according to Leslie Maitland’s The Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture, al­though he probably expected directions to Chelsea or South Kensington.

The professor’s hesitation to call Queen Anne buildings a style was typical of the period; architects practising in that mode often found themselves under fierce attack from their col­leagues. As Maitland notes, the buildings had little to do with Queen Anne, the seventeenth century British monarch. Rather, the architects of the large brick houses of the late nineteenth century – with crisp white window frames, turrets, porches, and rambling, open plans – actually combined aspects of many other styles, particularly motifs from the Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movements. It was this absence of stylistic ‘purity’ to which the pro­fessor, and many others, objected.

Maitland’s The Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture is a significant contri­bution to the scholarship on this international movement. Although there are relatively few studies of Queen Anne buildings, the two major works are both deservedly classics in the field of architectural history. Mark Girouard’s Sweet­ness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement 1860-1900 (1977) and The Shingle Style and he Stick Style (1955; revised ed., 1971) by Vincent Scully were both, at the time of their publication, innovative interpretations of Queen Anne architecture in England and the United States respectively. Both scholars included brief chapters on buildings in the other’s country; nei­ther author mentions the pervasiveness of the style in Canada… .

The field of architectural history has gone through enormous changes in the last 20 years; before the revolutionary work of the 1970s (pioneered by historians like Girouard), archi­tectural historians most often explained build­ings in terms of style, as a succession of observ­able patterns in the way things looked, fol­lowing the sequence established by art his­tory. Since then, buildings have been seen by most historians as enterprises very different than paintings and sculpture, with complex relationships to economics, class, and social structures. As a result, most architectural his­torians are far less dependent on the facades of buildings, but rather analyse the contexts and plans of buildings for keys to their social sig­nificance. While the decision in 1990 to base a book on an isolated style is old-fashioned, in this sense, it is much harder to understand why the photographs show only the buildings’ front elevations. The Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture documents 116 Cana­dian buildings. Only one floor plan appears in the whole book and very few of the photos show the buildings’ contexts.

Annmarie Adams on The Queen Anne Revival Style

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (1992) review ‘The Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture’, Material Culture Review, No.35 1992, 72-73