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1860 - 1890: Stick Style

Victorian Builders Recreate Medieval Ideas


Stick Style Victorian houses have exposed trusses, "stickwork," and other details borrowed from the middle ages.
Physick House in Cape May, New Jersey

The Physick House in Cape May, New Jersey is a hallmark example of the Stick Style. Frank Furness, architect.

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The house shown here is an especially fine example of Victorian Stick architecture. Designed by architect Frank Furness, the house has "stickwork," or decorative half-timbering, on the exterior walls. Other features include prominent brackets, rafters, and braces. These details are not necessary structurally. They are decorations that imitated architecture from the medieval past.

On first glance, you might confuse Stick houses with the later Tudor Revival Style. However, most Tudor Revival houses are sided with stucco, stone, or brick. Stick Style houses are almost always made with wood and have large, prominent brackets and corbels.

Common Features Found on Victorian Stick Style Homes:

  • Rectangular shape
  • Wood siding
  • Steep, gabled roof
  • Overhanging eaves
  • Ornamental trusses (gable braces)
  • Decorative braces and brackets
  • Decorative half-timbering
  • Jerkinhead dormers
About the Stick Style:

The most important features of Stick Style houses are on the exterior wall surfaces. Instead of three-dimensional ornamentation, the emphasis is on patterns and lines. Because the decorative details are flat, they are often lost when homeowners remodel. If the decorative stickwork is covered up with vinyl siding or painted a single solid color, a Stick Style Victorian may appear plain and rather ordinary.

The Palliser Company, which published many plan books during the Victorian era, called stick architecture plain yet neat, modern, and comfortable. However, Stick was a short-lived fashion. The angular and austere style couldn't compete with the fancy Queen Annes that took America by storm. Some Stick architecture did dress up in fancy Eastlake spindles and Queen Anne flourishes. But very few authentic Stick Style homes remain intact.

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