Architectural styles, like many trends and customs, often present contrasts that lead people to gravitate towards one pole or another. While some might prefer an elaborate building style with oodles of ornament and bright, contrasting colors, others appreciate a style that is simpler and more organic. The Shingle Style is a great example of this sort of contrast. Although it shares some design features and ornament with the elaborate and decorated Queen Anne, the Shingle Style is far simpler and reflects a contrasting aesthetic and mood.
The Shingle Style first appeared in the 1870s but became quite popular later the 1880s in the Northeast before appearing in the Midwest and West shortly afterwards. Like many architectural trends and building styles, it was popularized in national design and architecture magazines. It was never as popular as the Queen Anne and its design features weren’t often adapted to simple, vernacular housing. However, good examples can be found across the country in small towns and cities alike.
Even at a first glance the Shingle Style appears very different from the Queen Anne. While the Queen Anne uses different types of shingles, contrasting colors and trim to divide and delineate wall surfaces, the Shingle Style presents more sculpted, planar surfaces covered with shingles and lap siding. That is not to say the Shingle Style has a simple shape because it, like the Queen Anne, typically has irregular massing with cross gables, dormers and bays with complex roof lines. However, unlike the Queen Anne, there is far less emphasis on trim, spindles and brackets.
Although it is simpler than the high style Queen Anne, the Shingle Style does feature some ornament. Like many American building styles, builders adopted and adapted an eclectic mix of ornament and features found on other buildings. In her book A Field Guide to American Houses Virginia McAlester identifies three stylistic roots. From the contemporary Queen Anne it took wide porches, shingles walls and symmetrical massing. It took gambrel roofs, classical columns and Palladian windows from the Classical Revival. From the Richardsonian Romanesque is borrowed the irregular, sculpted shapes, round arches and rusticated stone.
Although far less common that its contemporary building styles, the Shingle Style is uniquely American and represents a change from the elaborate Victorian era towards the simpler, more organic aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts. The next time you are visiting an historic neighborhood, see if you can identify an example of the Shingle Style.