By Vanessa Brunner
For most people, the term "Victorian architecture" defines a diverse but singular style. The reality is that this term encompasses several architectural house styles, all of which were used during the mid to late 19th century. The name, of course, comes from the reigning British queen at the time: Victoria.
Victorian homeowners were very social; dinner parties took place several times a week and consisted of pre- and postmeal activities. For these socialites, having a house that was impressive and built in the latest style was key. (The ornate look was soon spurned, however, by the development of new construction technology, particularly the availability of affordable wood and the ability to incorporate steel into buildings.)
Although Victorian architecture is rooted in England, it quickly spread worldwide as British architects started to emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Eventually, improved communications in the 19th century began to inform international architects of the latest and greatest styles and trends, and the Victorian influence in houses grew.
Still, what's considered the Victorian period differs from country to country, along with the names of its architectural styles. In the United States, the Victorian style was generally popular from 1860 to 1900. San Francisco in particular is well known for its Victorian style houses. In Australia, the Victorian period is recognized as 1840 to 1890. Melbourne's world-heritage Royal Exhibition Building and Rialto Building are both good examples of classic Victorian architecture in Australia.
Many Victorian-era homes combine several different styles and features, but the following is a basic guideline for the most common Victorian architectural styles.
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