QUEEN ANNE ARCHITECTURE:

8 WAYS THE OLLER HOUSE IS THE PERFECT SYMBOL

When you see an elaborately decorated home with “gingerbread” features and its own turret, I bet you immediately think Victorian. You could actually be looking at a Queen Anne house, which is often misidentified as Victorian. The Queen Anne style became popular during the reign of Victoria, the Queen of England from 1837-1901. Similar to the infamous Victorian home, the Queen Anne style exuberantly boasts decorative excess.

Waynesboro, Pennsylvania is a small-town with a population of 10,860, that lies about two miles north of the Mason-Dixon line. The town was setted in 1749 and has had a storied past with involvement in both the French & Indian War as well as being under Confederate rule for 15 days during the Civil War.

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Because of its significant past that was ripe with industrial millionaires, Waynesboro consists of many elaborate homes. One of these historic gems, known as The Oller House, is the perfect example of Queen Anne architecture in both characteristics and style. Local architect D.F. Good designed the home which began construction in 1891, and was completed in 1892. The owner of the home, Joseph J. Oller, was an industrialist, financier and philanthropist who had the 17-room home built for his family consisting of he and his wife Myrtle and their three children. The Oller’s oldest daughter, Rello (which was Oller spelled backwards) donated the home to the Waynesboro Historical Society in 1989.

The Oller House stands proudly on West Main Street in the small town and currently houses the Waynesboro Historical Society, which provides tours of the home and includes an extensive genealogical library.  Touring the Oller House is essentially like walking through a “Characteristics of Queen Anne Architecture” textbook.

1 | the more roof lines, the better!

When we talk about Queen Anne style architecture, it is appropriate to begin with one of the most recognizable elements of the style-the decorated, multi-gabled roof. Typically in Queen Anne buildings you will notice deeply-pitched roofs with irregular shapes, often with one or more front-facing gables. A gable is known as a roof section with two sloping sides that meet at a ridge line, creating a triangular vertical wall section below them.

Often in Queen Anne architecture, these gables are decorated with some kind of texture that adds depth to the structure. This element is easily observed on the Oller House by simply peering up at its multiple gables, each one decorated with eye-catching East Lake styled wood panels laid out in a cross-hatch design.

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2 | Every Little Girls’ Dream... a Tower!

A second and equally recognizable element in Queen Anne architecture is the typically present turret. A turret is best described as a small tower that thrusts upward from a building’s roof or upper story. And in many cases, is involved in every young girl’s daydream when imagining her future life as a princess.

The Queen Anne style was originally named by several English architects from around 1880-1900. Even though it was named at this time, the architectural style was actually based on several medieval and early Renaissance architectural styles from the late 1500’s and 1600’s. This likely contributes to the castle elements observed in the style.

Queen Anne towers can be square, round or even polygonal, and were a definite favorite feature in the design of Queen Anne homes. The Oller House proudly displays this element with a cone-capped round tower, finished with a decorative finial. The turret is finished with fish scale slate shingles, following in line with the varying texture motif of Queen Anne architecture.

In the home’s heyday, the third floor turret room served the purpose of a children’s playroom. Being on the top floor in the servants’ quarters, the children could play while being supervised by the house servants. The top level of the turret in the Oller House continues to be decorated in a children’s play room motif. When Mrs. Rello passed her house on to the Historical Society, she left her distinct wishes that the room should forever be a playroom.

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3 | Symmetry is Boring!

Queen Anne was actually Anne Stuart, who reigned over England, Scotland and Ireland in the early 1700’s. During the time of her reign, art and science flourished. It would be nearly 200 years after her reign that the Queen Anne style received its name and oddly enough, at least one element of the style contradicts the time in which Queen Anne ruled. During Anne’s ruling years of 1702-1714, Europe was in the midst of the Baroque period in regards to art, architecture and music. Architectural design during the Baroque period was formal in nature and included strict symmetry. The Queen Anne architecture style that followed some 180 years later, is marked by abundant asymmetrical features.

The roof lines and front porch are part of what lends to the asymmetrical theme of the exterior of the Oller House. Not to mention the use of wood and slate shingles collaboratively with brick. Along with of course the round turret that provides some order within the asymmetry. This theme continues throughout the interior of the house with a floor plan that seems to rebel against symmetry. Gone were the days of perfectly square, uniformly sized rooms that were spaced neatly side-by-side.

The first floor of the Oller House begins with a foyer that contains the intricate chestnut-laiden staircase. Pocket doors open into the two parlors, followed by a pass-through china cabinet. On the other side of the built-in cabinet lies the kitchen as well as a kitchen bath and two pantries.

The second floor opens up with a foyer of sorts as well, however in true asymmetrical Queen Anne form, it contains a hallway that links the rooms; in direct opposition to the first floor layout.

oller house waynesboro interior pocket doors
oller house waynesboro interior
oller house waynesboro interior china cabinet

4 | WRAP AROUND PORCH

When you think of wrap-around porches, you probably picture yourself on a wooden porch swing, sipping lemonade on a hot, southern summer’s day. Or maybe that’s just me? But the popularity of this ultimate relaxation space can be contributed to the Queen Anne style. During this design era, the front porch was an important feature that was often treated as an outdoor room. It would have been typical to find wicker furniture, houseplants and rockers on the wrap-around porches. Although the porches were meant to serve as a family space, they also were built to be admired and further accentuate the Queen Anne asymmetrical design. 

The Oller House follows suit with its expansive wrap-around porch, which seamlessly curves along the first floor turret room.

Further on the porch topic, the Oller House boasts an open-air porch on its second level, which was added in 1910. The porch was added at the time when the Tuberculosis epidemic ran rampant through the country. Fresh air and sunshine were thought to be cures during the epidemic so the porch was added to provide these natural cures.

Today, it is a bright and surprisingly warm sun porch that showcases a model train set and local art pieces. It also serves as a medical history of the time period in depicting the severity of the Tuberculosis scare.

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oller house waynesboro porch outside
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5 | A Window to Queen Anne’s Soul

The Queen Anne style was one of excess in most areas, except windows. There was an abundance of windows included in the design to provide ample light but the windows were typically very simple. Shutters were very rarely used on Queen Anne homes, further lending to their simplicity. Large, full-length facade windows often occurred in groups.

The Oller House fits smoothly in this mold as it contains simple, one-over-one double-hung windows. There is a lack of shutters surrounding the pine window frames of the home. Speaking of windows, the Oller House includes one very unexpected window. Have you ever actually seen an interior window?

This window can be found in the stairway on the third floor and was built to allow natural light into the servants’ quarters on the top floor. The window is a surprising element to come across and is situated next to one of the few remaining gas-turned-electric lights in the home.

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oller house waynesboro gingerbread house

6 | You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the Gingerbread House!

Most often when one thinks of Queen Anne architecture, they visualize a Spindled Queen Anne. This label describes your typical gingerbread house with turned porch posts and ornamental spindles. Many refer to this particular style as “Eastlake” due to its similarity to the stylings of Charles Eastlake, a famous English furniture designer. “Bric-a-brac” or “gingerbread” have come to describe Queen Anne homes due to the use of intricate trim on most exterior surfaces.

 

The Oller House once again falls in line with its display of gingerbread-esque dentils and bracketing that spans the upper and lower levels of the house. These delicate touches definitely remind observers that the Queen Anne style celebrated nothing short of excess.

 

Also typical to the Queen Anne style was the use of turned porch posts and ornamental spindles. When the Waynesboro Historical Society obtained the Oller House in 1992, renovations were made to preserve the architectural integrity of the home. One of these renovations included the removal of the original turned porch spindles and decorative spandrels, which were replaced with plain porch supports and railings. According to the “National Register of Historic Places” registration form certified in 1996, this renovation only “slightly diminished the accents which define the house’s Victorian character.”

oller house waynesboro staircase spindle
oller house waynesboro staircase
oller house waynesboro staircase wood

7 | Stairway to Queen Anne Heaven

One of the main interior elements of Queen Anne architecture include elaborate main staircases and intricate woodwork. This use of finely crafted woodwork lends to the continuation of the decorative excess that is typical of the Queen Anne style. These homes often acted as a showcase of the owner’s wealth and details in woodwork were not easily glanced over.  The most striking sight upon entering the foyer of the Oller House is the beautifully crafted chestnut staircase. The woodwork throughout the house remains original and one can only imagine the number of hands that have trailed along the intricate banisters.

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oller house waynesboro china cabinet interior

8 | asymmetry in floor plan

As I mentioned earlier, asymmetry is definitely represented in Queen Anne architecture. One factor that seems to celebrate this is the lack of a main hall in Queen Anne floor plans.

Prior to the explosion of this design style, there typically was a hallway leading to each room on floor plans. The Queen Anne style brought to light the use of inter-connected rooms that would require one to walk through one room in order to advance to the next room. This Queen Anne specific floor plan is apparent in the first floor of the Oller House especially. The front parlor opens into the rear parlor, which then leads to the rear stairway vestibule and then the kitchen.

The Oller House, sitting on the Main thoroughfare of small town Waynesboro, Pennsylvania is a shining example of the Queen Anne architectural style. The home does not disappoint in its grandeur and detail and remains beautifully preserved. In fact, when a new cooling system was added, it was carefully placed in the third-floor in order to not disrupt the historic integrity of the home. The Oller House is a visit to the past and a perfect representation of the Queen Anne style.

 

During the current time of COVID restrictions, The Waynesboro Historical Society currently provides private visits to the home. Additionally, the Oller House contains a library of resources such as genealogical records, manuscripts and books that help to preserve the history of the town and its inhabitants.

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Jessie Ellis

Jessie Ellis

Wife, friend and dog mom with 18+ years of education and 12+ years as a commercial design professional. Always inquisitive, creative and empathetic; trying to live each day with intention.

“Queen Anne Architecture: Characteristics and Style,” Study.com, accessed January 20, 2021, https://study.com/academy/lesson/queen-anne-architecture-characteristics-style.html.

“Queen Anne Architecture in the USA: Reigning Style of America’s Industrial Age,” ThoughtCo., accessed January 26, 2021, https://www.thoughtco.com/queen-anne-architecture-in-the-usa-176003.

“Queen Anne Style Architecture (1880-1910),” Guide to Architectural Styles, accessed January 20, 2021, https://www.wentworthstudio.com/historic-styles/queen-anne/.

“Queen Anne, 1880-1910,” Old House Web, accessed February 6, 2021, https://www.oldhouseweb.com/architecture-and-design/queen-anne/1880-1910-part-1.shtml.

 

“Queen Anne (1880-1920),” Architectural Patterns, accessed February 6, 2021, https://www. roanokeva.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1473/Architectural-Patterns—Queen-Anne-PDF.

“National Register of Historic Places Registration Form,” Penndot.gov, accessed January 21, 2021, https://gis.penndot.gov/CRGISAttachments/SiteResource/H102214_01H.pdf.

The Waynesboro Historical Society, “Discovering the Oller House” booklet.

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Nancy Harder
Nancy Harder
6 months ago

Beautiful House! Nice post 👍🏼