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Warm Summer Eaves

The architecture of the Eureka Springs, Arkansas is just as diverse as the town and the people that reside here featuring variations of over twenty styles of architecture that were popular from the 1870s through the 1960s. The predominant character of the city's built environment is Victorian, representing the peak of its growth from 1880 to 1910. Although many of the buildings are classified as Plain Traditional, most of these have Victorian detailing.

Victorian builders used gingerbread trim to transform simple frame cottages into one-of-a-kind homes. (Gingerbread trim is combinations of fancifully cut and pierced frieze boards, scrolled brackets, sawn balusters, and braced arches.)

Queen Anne style home

North America's romance with gingerbread trim started out simple with a steeply pitched roof line or maybe a decoratively carved gable trim and dates to the 1830s and '40s, when builders began to interpret the masonry details of Europe's Gothic Revival architecture in wood.

Other popular early-Victorian exterior embellishments included vertical sawtooth siding, "stickwork" trim reminiscent of exposed timber-frame construction, board-and-batten shutters, and pronounced pediments.

With the invention of the scroll saw and the development of steam-powered mass-production facilities, architectural elements once made by hand could be made more quickly and affordably by machine. Today, scroll saws are used mainly by furniture makers.

A scroll saw also shaped this dormer's graceful gable plaque as well as its astral balcony balusters.

Characterized by towers or turrets, irregular shaped steeply pitched roofs, dominant front-facing gable, textured shingles or other devices to avoid a smooth-wall appearance, the Queen Anne style house also features extensive one-story porches highlighting the asymmetry of the front of the house. Thirty-four houses in the district are considered excellent examples of "high style" Queen Anne architecture. Built in the prime of Eureka Springs, these Queen Anne style houses were generously decorated with the ornamental elements of the style. Most of the Queen Anne style houses in Eureka Springs are frame and utilize color as a decorative element.

211 Spring Street

One of the district's oldest two-story Queen Anne style house is located at 211 Spring. The house was built for former Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton in 1881 and features a tall corner tower, ornate spindle work, cut-away gable corners and other wood ornaments.

Below, scroll-sawn brackets and balusters team with this porch's beveled posts to create a decorative frame for the structure's floor-to-ceiling windows.

Subtle colors and skillful carving give this dormer's pinnacle, bargeboard, cornice trim, and incised window panels an authentic Bavarian flavor.

Authentic Bavarian

Beaded spindles and scroll-sawn cutouts are partnered in this porch's late-19th-century fretwork.

Beaded spindles and fretwork

The most elaborate of the Second Empire style houses in Eureka Springs is Penn Castle at 36 Eureka Street. This house features many of the decorative elements typical of the Second Empire style including color in use of materials such as slate and stone, elaborate cornice with brackets, and hooded dormer windows. Constructed of stone block, Penn Castle is distinguished by a distinctive two-story tower on the northeast corner with metal cresting atop its steep roof. Slate covers the mansard roof which features hooded arched dormer windows on the tower.

Penn Castle

Queen Victoria's Influence

Although people often incorrectly refer to a Victorian-era house as a Victorian-style house, 'Victorian' actually refers to the time frame of the reign of the popular British Queen Victoria (1837–1901).  She reigned for over 63 years during years of heavy immigration to America.  She was of German decent and was influential throughout Europe, Canada, and the US wherever immigrants settled.  She was best known for bringing 'morality and values' to the Royal family.

As you can see, houses of this 'era' have a “style” of Gingerbread trim, and a variety of home styles borrowed from every country and every era in history.  The large number of immigrants contributed to the diverse architecture of the 1870's and on.  They built structures which were eclectic, incorporating leaded glass, balconies, over-hanging eaves, and towers. 

The paint industry after the Civil War also contributed to this unique architecture when paint was mass produced.  Spindle detailing, wrap around porches, rounded towers, and gables are typical embellishments of the Victorian home --a style often referred to as decorative excess.  The expansion of the railroads allowed elements to be manufactured on the East coast at low cost, in standard sizes, and shipped to the building site.  Starting around 1910, Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs offered house 'kits' which were the original pre-fabricated homes.  Many included house plans with ornate embellishments.

The paints used on ornate houses accentuate the asymmetrical style and highlight the patterns and textures.  Homes having three or more bold or contrasting colors are often referred to as "painted ladies".

Unfortunately, the same ornate and spectacular trim which made the Victorian era the most flamboyant and memorable era, was also was the downfall of that style.  The time, upkeep, and detail work needed to preserve the ornamentation was costly and time consuming.  Soon the decorative elements fell out of favor with the middle class.  The onset of the Depression of the 1930s and the onset of World War II rationing brought down the most exciting architectural style in a century. ❤


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