Instant House

A blog tribute to the manufactured, mass-produced, modular and kit homes that grace the American landscape.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bicknell's Victorian Buildings

Not Quite A Kit
In the late 1880s, there was a building boom of Victorian-style homes throughout the United States.  The country was industrializing, railroads were making the country smaller, suburbs were growing, and the "new rich" were building.  The upper-middle class had arrived, and they wanted their McMansions (sound familiar?).  Of course, this newly found wealth could not buy a Newport-esque mansion, but the style could certainly be copied on a smaller scale.  While the idea of your home arriving in pieces ready for assembly had not yet arrived, the idea of picking your home out of a catalogue had.  There were many "plan books" published at this time, usually by carpenters and suppliers of building material, with the ulterior motive being that you then bought their building material.  The examples below are from Bicknell's Village Builder and Supplement, published in 1878.

A Grand Victorian Home

This is, in many ways, a typical Victorian home.  Bay window on the side, large front parlor, servants quarters in the rear and possibly attic.  Check out the double-kitchen--the one in the basement, one on the first floor.  Usually, the cooking was done in the basement, since cooking required fires, and they can be messy.  It was also cooler down there, and perishable foods would keep longer.  Remember, no refrigeration.  There is only one bathroom for the entire house--and strangely, it's near the servant's quarters (above the kitchen).  Why no other toilets?  Think "chamber pot".

A Victorian Farmhouse

This is an interesting house, in that it is designed to house an entire working farm!  Nine bedrooms are on the second floor--four of which are in the "family" section of the house (front).  Some other telltale Victorian features of the home--the "Smoking Room" on the 2nd floor, the "Family Bed Room" (sometimes called a nursery or birthing suite), and the large central stair.  The double parlor on the first floor is another typical Victorian feature--one parlor for men, one for women.  Men and women did not socialize together at this time.  The rear part of the house also has a wash house, storeroom, and a "water closet" only accessible from the outside--think about messy farm shoes, and this actually makes a lot of sense.

A Victorian School

Yes, I know, this isn't a house, but as I am a teacher in my "real" life, I find the design of schools interesting.  This schoolhouse is very indicative of American schoolhouses in the late 1800s/early 1900s. While growing up, I took piano lessons at an Art Institute that was housed in a school like the one above.  The wardrobe or cloak rooms in each classroom, the teacher's "dias", the "Recitation Room", and the "Chapel"--yes, that's right, chapel in a public school--are all typical Victorian school features.  Anyone see what's missing?  Give you a hint....the bad students were usually delegated the responsibility of "tending to them".  

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