The Queen Anne Style – Our Neighborhood Namesake

Ankeny House, 2003

Our Society is frequently asked, “why is our community called Queen Anne?”  It does seem strange for a pioneer western city to name its most prominent geographical feature after a relatively obscure 18th century British monarch.  The short answer is that we are not named after the Queen, but are in fact named for the architectural style of the first houses built up the south slope of our hill.  The longer answer shows how centennials can shape our view of the world.

In the 1870s, in England, architect Richard Norman Shaw introduced the Queen Anne or Free Classic residential design.  It was intended to evoke domestic architecture of some 200 years earlier.  The British public loved it, perhaps tiring of the demands of empire and nostalgic for a simpler past.

In America, our own first centennial was then approaching, and at the huge Philadelphia Centennial Exhibit in 1876 two model houses were built in the Queen Anne style.  Americans, experiencing a wave of centennial-induced nostalgia for their own colonial past, immediately took to the style.  Henry Hobson Richardson, an American architect, began shaping the Queen Anne to American uses.  Half-timbered and tiled exterior features were replaced by textured and shaped shingles, so abundant in our West.  Building magazines,like American Builder reproduced Queen Anne designs and spread them across the country.

In pioneer Seattle, the city was moving north.  The large area north of Seattle’s city limits was known as North Seattle.  It stretched from Howell Street, just south of Denny, to Salmon Bay, and included the large, unnamed hill we live on.  Thomas Mercer platted the southeast slopes in the 1870s and called it Eden Addition.  Jacob Gaylor later built on top of the hill and there were references to “Galer’s Hill”.  In 1883 North Seattle, north to McGraw Street, was annexed into Seattle, and the population surged.  The population of 3,533 in 1880 rose to 15,727 in 1889 and to 42,837 in 1890.  Yearly counts were made as part of the push to have Washington made a state in the union, and not just a territory.

Marble House, 2003
Marble House, 2003

The new middle-class citizens who built in North Seattle wanted to be in the mode, and built their homes in the newly-arrived Queen Anne style.  Thus, coincidentally, the English Queen Anne style, caught up in the American centennial fever, arrived in Seattle just in time to spring up on the slopes of our hill.

Edmund S. Meany, in his 1923 book Origin of Washington Geographic Names, describes how, “about 1880, such citizens as Clarence Bagley, F.H. Osgood (and others) built homes in the then prevailing Queen Anne style of architecture.  Rev. Daniel Bagley jokingly asked folks if they were not ‘going out to Queen Anne Town?’  The name has persisted as to the hill, causing wonderment to newcomers.”

The name Queen Anne Town appeared around 1885, mainly in real estate promotions.  The first regular school on the hill was named Queen Anne School in 1890 (today’s West Queen Anne).  By 1900 the “town” had been dropped, and the area was simply called Queen Anne Hill.

Most of the houses built in the Queen Anne style have long since been replaced by larger and more modern houses or by apartment buildings. There are a handful left, such as the Marble House at 520 W. Kinnear Place, the Ankeny/Gowey House at 912 2nd Ave W, and the Riddle House at 153 Highland Drive.  The Queen Anne architectural style lasted only two or three decades, being replaced by Colonial Revival and other styles in the 1900s.

Riddle House, 1899
Riddle House, 1899

Queen Anne houses have steeply pitched roofs of irregular shape and often hipped, usually with a front-facing gable; patterned shingles and other devices to avoid a smooth-walled appearance; asymmetrical facades, usually with large partial or full-width porches; and frequent use of round towers.  They can be half-timbered or partially brick or stone, but in Seattle are usually all wood.  There will be considerable decorative touches such as porch columns and spindle-work borders, with textured or patterned shingles above windows and doors.

If the Queen Anne style was devised in the 1870s, what about the real Queen Anne?  Queen Anne reigned from 1702 to 1714.  She was the last of the Stuarts.  None of her 17 children survived her, and upon her death at age 49, Parliament was forced to turn to the Hannoverian side of the royal family and George I.  This is the ancestor of today’s Queen Elizabeth.  To see a true Queen Anne house you could visit Mompesson House in Salisbury, England.  Built in 1701 and maintained by the National Trust, it is a true house of Queen Anne’s period.  The only common feature seems to be the hipped roof.

Original article written by John Hennes, former Queen Anne Historical Society board member and a 1951 graduate of Queen Anne High School.