September 26th, 2014
One architecture stands out in Northern California: The Victorian home. From the famous Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco down to Pacific Grove near Monterey, Victorian style homes are a staple. And who could forget the most famous one of all: The Winchester Mystery House.
The architectural style was made famous during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). And when we say style, it’s really more of an interpretation. with influences from the Middle East and Asia. There is a great attention to adding in decorations like gingerbread along the sides and pretend ornate cobwebs in the corners. This could also be referred to as “gothic revival.”
In Scotland, the architect Alexander Thomson was a pioneer of the use of cast iron and steel for commercial buildings, blending classic conventionality with Egyptian and Asian themes to produce many beautiful structures.
Here in the US, we had a few different flavors of Victorian Architecture:
One thing to remember is that the construction varies tremendously depending upon when and where the home was built. Specifically look at the floor joists to see if they used framing material that was too small. If you want to do any remodeling, you will be required to bring this up to code first.
Secondly, have a good look at the foundation. If it’s degraded, then you may need to replace it, and that can get costly. If the builders put it on a brick foundation, you will definitely need to replace it because it won’t withstand earthquakes.
In California, Victorians were typically built from redwood which is resistent to termites, and is a very long lasting wood.
Internally, though, you should check for dry rot. When the houses were built, there was no plumbing and electricity like there is today, and the contractor who put them in may not have done the best job.
You may need to upgrade the insulation, as the homes can get pretty damp and chilly.
Check the fireplace to see if it’s still in good shape and if it still works.
And as with all homes, find out the last time time roof was repaired or replaced, and how much time you have left on it.
Do you own a Victorian home? What’s your favorite part of it?