The Victorian era in America was one of garish displays of wealth and influence, and the Victorian home offered a beautiful canvas. The combination of styles found in England, including the Romanesque, Shingle and Queen Anne, made for a distinctly American version of this popular architectural style.
Built primarily between 1870-1900, the these Denver homes were a monument to wealth and prestige. Grand entrances, turrets, gables, buttresses, stained glass windows and parapets ran rampant. Most Victorian homes were two or three stories tall and included parlors for men and women, ball rooms, music rooms, libraries, butler's pantries, servants quarters and nurseries. Elaborate gardens and outdoor spaces made for pleasant venues to take tea.
Not to be outdone by wealthy neighbors, many middle-class families built smaller versions of the grandiose homes found nearby.
The newly implemented balloon-framing allowed for a freedom in home plans not before enjoyed. No longer restrained by strict timber framing, these homes allowed for irregular floor plans, sweeping overhangs, and other elaborate details. The use of machine cut mouldings, courtesy of the industrial revolution, led to even higher decorative style. Gingerbread, finials, grand staircases, and intricate interior trim are all necessary in the "proper" Victorian home.
While in other parts of the country, most Victorian homes are frame built with painted wooden exteriors, those in Denver are brick. After a fire wiped out a young Denver in 1863, the "Brick Ordinance" was instituted, requiring all new structures to be built of brick or stone. The ordinance was in place until the 1940's.
The Victorian style met its demise as desirable Denver real estate after the Silver Panic of 1893. Those that had spent fortunes on the elaborate homes were broke. Future homeowners chose the Craftsman bungalow, Denver Square or Tudor-revival styles in consideration of their more reserved architecture.
Denver has managed to save many of her architectural "Grand Dames". Many of these have been converted into office buildings, apartments or bed and breakfasts. However, some are still single-family homes. Examples of these early Denver homes are easily found in the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, Highlands, City Park, Five Points, and Whittier with a few sprinkled around Wash Park.