By Don Beecher
Learning about the architectural styles of Glebe houses adds a whole new dimension to wandering our wonderful streets. Among them are the many homes in the Queen Anne Revival style, a flamboyant Victorian creation promoted in England by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) beginning in the 1860s.
So why was this new eclectic architectural style named in honour of good Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart line, who died in 1714? The answer seems to be out of desperation for a new royal period name after all the more suitable ones had been taken. Queen Anne revival houses are, above all, a late Victorian style, featuring turrets capped with cones, prominent front dormers, high hip roofs with corner braces, elaborate wrap-around verandas with spindled balustrades, columned porticos leading to entrances with their low triangular roofs or pediments on top (resembling the façades of Greek temples), tall chimneys and white, lacey finishes, often with fish-scale siding or patterned shingles – there are several examples of fish-scale siding on Second Avenue just west of Bank.
In Canada, the Queen Anne style arrived around 1880 and remained popular until 1910 as a versatile, turn-of-the century design. It was adapted to our chillier climes with brick siding and more confined floor plans to conserve heat and to fit on smaller city lots. But many of the telltale features were retained, though less ornate, less wedding cake and lace.
Glebe examples are typically asymmetrical with front entries to one side. They are sure to have a large, overhanging dormer window on one side of the third floor, typically in the gambrel or “Dutch roof” design with two slopes making for more headroom. There is often a smaller dormer on the opposite side. Large porches or entry porticos are de rigueur features, with their columns, sometimes beautifully fluted, supporting an entablature (the crossing lintel) as embellished as the owner could afford and crowned by the now familiar low-pitched gables or pediments. The eaves are broad and occasionally have dentils under the soffits – little square ornamental blocks thought to resemble teeth – or larger ornamental blocks more widely spaced (199 Second Avenue is a nice example). Look, too, for bay windows, many of them “stacked” or two storeys high (First Avenue just west of Bank offers over a dozen). Sometimes there are bay windows that do not touch the ground; rather, they sit on braces or corbels of stone, wood or metal built solidly into the walls. These are oriel windows. Stroll through the intersection of Powell and Lyon and you’ll see a very fine wrap-around veranda – quintessential Queen Anne gentility and commodiousness, the perfect vantage point from which to look out over a Victorian garden.
My leading specimen, though, is the striking example at 299 First Avenue. It was built in 1911. For its first 50 years, it belonged to John McLeish, chief clerk of statistics in the Department of Mines. In the 1960s, 299 for the next 48 years became the much-loved and carefully maintained home of Clyde and Penny Sanger and their four sons. In 2018, it changed hands again with a sympathetic restoration of the façade in faithful keeping with the heritage style. The first thing you will notice is the splendid corner turret, finished at the top in period-style shingles. The one-storey porch is nicely restored with white columns and an open pediment over the stairs leading to the massive original front door (the pediment is “open” because the base of its triangle is incomplete). Take note, too, of the large gabled dormer with stucco and half-timbering (inspired by Tudor-period houses with dark timbers and white panels between) and the fine leaded windows original to the house. The handsome second-storey bay window over the porch is likewise typical of these homes. You may also spot an oriel window on its corbel on the west side.
Queen Anne homes were designed for large and sometimes extended families and were typically divided into smaller rooms where everyone, including a domestic or two, could have a private space. As children left home, extra rooms could be rented to lodgers or interior walls could be moved to make larger living spaces. The McLeishes created a sitting room on the second floor. The bow window lent itself to the creation of a three-sided settee for enjoying the sun, and the big walk-in pantry was converted into a small downstairs washroom. During the Sanger years, the grand verandah across the back of the house looked out on a garden of lilacs and a fishpond; today, it overlooks a pool and bath house, all in keeping with the origins of the style as an integration of house and garden according to Victorian tastes.
These fine old homes are such a pleasure to see and compare. The more you look, the more you will find eclectic features and variants on the same basic design. Examples are abundant in the first blocks of the avenues on both sides of Bank Street.
For more information about heritage homes in our neighbourhood, you can contact the Glebe Community Association Heritage Committee.
Donald Beecher is a professor in the department of English at Carleton, a Renaissance specialist, and, most recently, the editor of Ogilby’s Aesop’s Fables (1651), with scholarly trimmings and reproductions of all 87 of the original copper-plate illustrations!