The 13 Best Victorian Architecture & Pattern Books of 2019

The 13 Best Victorian Architecture & Pattern Books of 2019

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Architectural plan books, pattern books, and catalogs became popular during the Victorian era, an age when industrialization made it possible to mass produce building parts and house plans. Pre-cut architectural details were shuttled across the country - the railroads allowed industries to produce and transport en masse anywhere in America. Wholesaling came to America.

Some local builders followed published plans faithfully. Some mixed ideas borrowed from several plans and added special flourishes of their own. Several publishers have reprinted historic pattern books with original drawings. While historic house plans don't contain the detailed specifications required by modern builders, they are a valuable resource for anyone who wants to recreate Victorian styles. Here are reprints of many of the books from that era.

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Bicknell's Victorian Buildings

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Amos Jackson Bicknell published Bicknell's Village Builder and Supplement in the 1870s. It combined designs for cottages and villas, store and bank fronts public buildings, schools, churches, and even stables under one cover - everything for a complete village. The success of these publications has kept A. J. Bicknell's publications in a mix of books, even under the name of William T. Comstock. An array of Victorian buildings is like today's new urbanism from a different century. A. J. Bicknell gives us an outline for the 19th century.

02of 13

American Victorian Cottage Homes

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Palliser, Palliser & Co. was a leading publisher of house plans during the Victorian era. Reprinted from their 1878 catalog, American Victorian Cottage Homes contains floor plans, elevation drawings, and practical designs for classic Victorian cottages of the 1800s.

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Turn-of-the-Century Houses, Cottages and Villas

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Subtitled, Floor Plans and Line Illustrations for 118 Homes from Shoppell's Catalogs, this older Dover publication is often found on the public library's book sale table. Nevertheless, Robert W. Shoppell's catalogs from the late 1800s have continued to entice the home builder for generations. Get a hint at what's in this book by taking a look at R. W. Shoppell's Modern Houses Beautiful Homes from 1887, available for free on Internet Archives. Modernity is relative.

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Late Victorian House Designs

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Subtitled 56 American Homes and Cottages with Floor Plans, this is one of the many 19th century publications put out by "local" architects - architecture was America's new profession. Michigan-based architect D.S. Hopkins presents his ideas in this slight (58 pages) volume.

05of 13

Late Victorian Houses and Cottages

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Originally published in 1897, this house plan catalog has drawings, floor plans, and descriptions of 40 Victorian houses and cottages. It contains dimensions, exterior materials, interior finish, and 120 illustrations.

06of 13

A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide

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You can read the original book online for free at the Internet Archive, but here's a handy, unabridged reprint of Woodward's National Architect of 1869. With specifications for dozens of structures, ranging from humble cottages to an ornate brick villa, and with more than 580 illustrations, A Victorian Housebuilder's Guide by George E. Woodward has been reproduced many times. Although the inside content may be a facsimile, it's been republished with many different covers, so check to see if you don't already have this popular book in your home library. Also check out Woodward's Country Homes on Project Gutenberg.

07of 13

Victorian City and Country Houses

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Another reprint from George E. Woodward, the noted American planbook architect of the Victorian era, this publication by Dover reproduces an 1877 edition, with plans and elevation drawings of what was "contemporary" for the day.

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Victorian House Designs in Authentic Full Color

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Seventy-five plates are reproduced from the 1886-1894 Scientific American Architects and Builders Edition. The book is colorful and non-technical, with plenty of floor plans and detailed drawings.

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American Country Building Designs

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Subtitled "Rediscovered Plans for 19th Century Farmhouses, Cottages, Landscapes, Barns, Carriage Houses & Outbuildings," this book by architect and author Donald J. Berg is not simply a reproduced book in the public domain. Berg has compiled more than a hundred historic etchings and building plans for this 160-page paperback. Also find information about planbook architects and 19th century architectural trends - Berg has done the research.

10of 13

1000 Turn-of-the-Century Houses: With Illustrations and Floor Plans

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"Allow the lady of the house to have considerable say-so in the floor arrangement especially," says architect Herbert C. Chivers. "She lives in the house day and night. A poorly-planned house is usually more expensive than a modern practical plan." This Dover Publication is a reprint of the 1905 Artistic Homes by St. Louis architect Herbert C. Chivers (1869-1946). Read the original for free, but purchase the paperback for posterity!

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Sloan's Victorian Buildings

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Samuel Sloan was a well-respected Philadelphia-based architect whose 1852 book The Model Architect can now be perused in public domain archives online. His most famous building is arguably Longwood, the antebellum octogan mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. In this reprinted book you can find a protoype for the iconic cupola at Longwood.

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Victorian Wooden and Brick Houses with Details

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The original copy of this 1875 Amos Jackson Bicknell & Co. publication is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Wooden and Brick Houses with Details is Volume I, which is what you get with this Dover publication.

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Old House Measured and Scaled Drawings for Builders and Carpenters

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And how do we care for all of these old Victorian homes? This reprint of the classic 1911 manual has 183 authentic, measured and scaled drawings for a wide range of architectural features. William A. Radford's architectural firm out of Chicago created what became known as Radford's Portfolio, and it may just be what today's preservationist, rehabilitationist, restorationist, and reconstructionist need to figure out building methods from the 1800s.

Victorian Designers and Mrs. Howard's Farmhouse

Who drew the plans for these charming Victorian homes? Most were drawn by successful designers and builders of the day. Because these pattern books are often in the public domain, many of the originals are available on free online archives. However, many more designs were created by homeowners with a flare for design or, at least, the cleverness to adapt published plans to meet their own wishes and needs. Here's a country cottage designed by a farm wife. For an interesting peek into the past, take a look at Mrs. Howard's farmhouse design.


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