Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Queen Anne" resolved

In re “Queen Anne”
I don’t feel quite so stupid anymore, except that I ought to have suspected the usual bestrewing of epithets.
I knew about Queen Anne tables and chairs.  My grandfather, though not formally schooled in history of interior design, knew a California version of  “Queen Anne” and showed me the legs and feet and arms.  And of course sometimes you see the style on one or the other of the Antiques Roadshow: lovely stuff, of the nicest hard woods and of a refinement that makes it like a living thing.
And I knew fin de siècle furnishings, which it would be polite to call Italianate, found in houses, rather more than a century old now, in Oakland, CA, and San Francisco, where the architecture itself was often fanciful to the last degree.  From Edward Hopper, who had favorite ones that he painted, I knew that they also existed in what he’d call the West; his House by the Railroad is one such.  We called this sort of house, brilliantly exemplified by the Carson Mansion in Eureka, CA, “Late Victorian”—not, we made haste to explain, that Victoria was our queen, but “gilded age” wouldn’t do very well since the “robber barons” didn’t use it regularly. 
When the person who wrote up the Baton Rouge Reiley-Reeves house called it untutored Queen Anne, I was puzzled, since the house (which I admire) seemed to me to have nothing of the maniera of the “painted ladies” (to give the most elaborate ones that I knew from California our favorite nickname).  These, though, were the type of house that the McAlester Field Guide (see Basic Reading list in Post for January 28) called Queen Anne.  In the usual way of the internet (and don’t blame the Wiki, which tries to avoid such copy-and-paste), the words Queen Anne keep appearing later for our house; can they have come from any legitimate source?
How did the name given to chairs and tables of the same period as the chinoiserie of Chippendale and French Louis XV come to be given to domestic architecture (indeed the American Vernacular of Late Victorian) two centuries later and, so far as I could see, unrelated?
It may be dangerous to trust another far-western source (for I swear that in the San Francisco Bay Area I had never heard the usage), but the web site of the Seattle, WA, Queen Anne Society (http://www.qahistory.org/queen-anne-style.html), paragraph 2,  has the answer.  Using this moniker, as I suspected, is a bit of architectural merchandising, and Richard Norman Shaw was responsible for it.  Yes, it is what the McAlesters also call Free Classic (so, I may add, do Sears, Roebuck, et al.).  Note, in Wikpedia, s.v. Queen Anne, that the Australian dialect, so to speak, of QA is most like the US American.
In his Outline, Nicholas Pevsner used the façade of a “Queen Anne House” to illustrate the names of its parts.  Period.  It looks sort of “Federal” to me.  No wonder I didn’t know QA as a label for an architectural style!  I am a child of the generation that read Pevsner.  But look, s.v. Richard Norman Shaw in Wikipedia, and you will find, ‘Richard Norman Shaw's houses soon attracted the misnomer the "Queen Anne style"’.  I don’t know who said that, but the relationship seems plain.  His work is very attractive, very sound, but he was hardly a “pioneer of modern design”.  It was only a happy chance that made me suggest that using Queen Anne’s name was like our using Kate Greenaway’s, since Shaw in fact designed Kate Greenaway’s house

Anyhow, let me go back to Baton Rouge’s house on Park Boulevard at Cherokee.  First, it is too late to be like the houses of the 1880s and 1890s.  “Untutored” seems a bit impolite.  It seems to me the kind of house that a man born in New Jersey, who had made his way socio-economically on the west side of the Mississippi, over towards Lafayette, wanted as his town house in the state capitol.  And it wasn’t as if Baton Rouge or Lafayette, LA, had quite the sort of house that he may have remembered from New Jersey.  Of course, he knew what plantation houses were like, but this was for town.  The result is hard (nay, impossible) to simply label, but it is handsome and it is well built, very well built, solid after just over a century.  As my consultants up in Missouri said, it is more graceful without the added roof over the veranda, as in its first photo.  And its doorway is very elegant indeed. I don’t know whether Baton Rouge ever had more pre-WW I town houses of this size.  So much has been replaced. 

Personally, I owe to this house the education (such as it is) that I have been forced to acquire about the usage “Queen Anne”.