During the Victorian period there was an explosion in the scale of houses, as well as the varieties of house design. This was particularly true for St. Louis' mercantile class captains of industry who had made fortunes in manufacturing, and wanted their houses to be a reflection of their economic success. The Victorian period witnessed the development of private streets with larger lot sizes to accommodate these grander houses.
During the Victorian period the well-to-do moved farther and farther away from the city center. This was made possible by developments in transportation: the horse drawn omnibus was first eclipsed by the cable car, and soon after by the electric street car. Because of industrial expansion, land in the core became less desirable for residential living, and large segments of the population began to move west of Grand Avenue.
Second Empire Style
The Second Empire style arrived in St. Louis in the 1870's, and quickly overwhelmed previous architectural styles. The defining element of the style is the mansard roof: a double-pitched hipped roof whose upper slope is very flat, while the lower slants sharply down to a decorative cornice. Dormers are often present on the steep roof, which is covered with slate shingles, sometimes in an ornamental pattern. Many Second Empire houses had stone veneered front facades; less elaborate buildings imitated the look with cement stucco. Second Empire houses can be found in numerous neighborhoods east of Grand Avenue, and most prominently, in Lafayette Square.
The house at 2115 Park Avenue, in Lafayette Square, exemplifies the Second Empire style. The three-story brick house has a limestone front, with a string course separating the first and second stories. Tall dormers mark the slate mansard roof. The entry has a small porch with granite columns supporting a classically inspired cornice.
Romanesque Revival Style
The Romanesque Revival style, which had previously appeared in church design, began to be used in large detached houses during the Victorian period. The Romanesque Revival house presents a variety of arches at windows, doors and cornice, and is usually constructed of red brick.
The house at the corner of 2317 S. 13th, in the Soulard neighborhood, is a typical Romanesque Revival design. The two and a half story, red brick building is asymmetrical in massing, with high hipped roof and projecting circular bay. The entry is recessed beneath a one-story porch with round arched openings and brick balustrade. The large windows of the front facade are set beneath transoms and have rough-faced sandstone surrounds.
Queen Anne Style
The Queen Anne style began to appear in St. Louis in the 1880's. The style is named for Britain's Queen Anne, during whose reign the style became popular in England. In many parts of the United States, the Queen Anne style is used with frame construction; however, because of the City's fire ordinance, the availability of brick and the skill of local masons, most houses of this style in St. Louis are brick. The most obvious features of Queen Anne houses are asymmetrical facades, projecting bays and turrets, and extensive use of decorative brick. Queen Anne houses are found in the Central West End, east of Kingshighway, in Compton Hill, and in Carondelet.
3522 Hawthorne is built in the Queen Anne style. The three-story brick house has a variety of roof forms, with several gables on front and side elevations. Sited on a corner, the house has a projecting bay which thrusts forward at an unusual oblique angle from the front facade, and a two-story tower capped by a high conical roof. An exuberant variety of decorative brick appears around windows, dormer and at the roof line.
Richardsonian Romanesque Style
The Richardsonian Romanesque style was popular nationally and in St. Louis from the 1880's to the 1890's. It is named for influential Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who developed the vocabulary of the style in his own work. Richardson designed three houses in St. Louis; unfortunately two have been demolished, and the third altered and enlarged. Richardsonian houses are defined by the use of rough-cut stone, deep window openings and large, dominant arches. Typically Richardsonian buildings are asymmetrical, but unified by the use of wide expanses of wall and roof planes, and by large scale ornament. There are many examples of Richardsonian buildings in both Compton Heights, and the private streets of the Central West End.
The house at 3120 Hawthorne is in the Richardsonian style. The three-story limestone house has large areas of rough-cut stone that alternate in wide and narrow courses. The entry is deeply recessed beneath a large round arch, and at the corner, a circular tower is capped by a conical roof. Large, hipped dormers project from the high pitched gable roof.
4447 Westminster Place is another example of the Richardsonian style. The house is built of rough cut stone, the openings deeply recessed, creating a massive appearance that is typical of the style. The entry is set under a corner porch, its heavy stone lintel supported by a large column with pillow capital. Windows are multi-light and articulated with stone mullions.
Shingle style houses came to prominence in the last decades of the 19th century. The style first appeared in wealthy resort communities on the east coast. These houses are primarily characterized by the extensive use of wood shingles on exterior facades; they also display asymmetrical facades and steeply pitched roofs, generally with a front gable. Shingle style houses are found in few places in St. Louis owing to restrictions on frame construction. The only examples are in the Academy neighborhood, the Central West End, and in Clifton Park.
The house at 6015 Cabanne Place was designed by Charles K. Ramsey in 1889. It is sheathed in dark brown shingles. A large projecting gable at the front facade, a two-story rounded projecting bay and a recessed entry porch are the defining features of the style.
Renaissance Revival Style
Towards the end of the 19th century, house designs inspired by Renaissance buildings began to come into fashion throughout the United States. The primary reason for its re-emergence was the growing influence of French architectural designs exhibited at the World's Fair, held in Chicago in 1893. Renaissance Revival houses can be found in the Central West End.
The three-story house at No. 17 Westmoreland Place was designed by the Boston firm of Peabody, Stearns and Furber, in 1892. The symmetrical pink granite building has lateral projecting wings connected by a small center loggia. Windows have classical cornices and surrounds, and the low hipped roof is sheathed with tile. It is interesting to compare this house and with the Shaw City House of 1851. Although they are similar in stylistic treatment, the scale of the Westmoreland house is far greater than its mid-century counterpart.
With the wide variety of Revival architectural styles of the Victorian period, it is not surprising that many houses exhibited a mixture of several styles. Since Victorian styles were less formal and rigid in their requirements than the earlier Federal or Greek Revival designs, many turn-of-the-century architects felt free to borrow individual elements from different styles to create their own particular designs.
4382 Westminster Place is a mixture of Richardsonian and Shingle style elements. Designed in 1892 by W. Albert Swasey, the lower portion is built of Roman brick, a long narrow brick with fine mortar joints. The recessed entry, arched with rough cut stone, is typically Richardsonian; however, the shingled second story, dormers and stair tower are taken directly from Shingle style models.
The house at 2031 Park Avenue also features a mixture of architectural styles-in this case, Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne. The massing of the two and a half story limestone house is certainly Queen Anne, as are the projecting semi-circular bays at either end. But the first story sheathed with rough-faced ashlar limestone and a prominent arch is placed above the entry, a Richardsonian characteristic.