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History of Snohomish County Homes: The Victorian

Real Estate Agent with CENTURY21 Real Estate Center

Last week we discussed housing trends, how they evolve and are influenced by culture and economy. The financial atmosphere today greatly impacts home trends of tomorrow.

For example, in response to the current recession, we should expect to see more architectural practicality than extravagance in the next five years. Fewer “McMansions” and “Hummer Houses.” Master bedrooms will most likely shrink and great rooms will get . . . well, greater.

But what’s the story behind the Victorian ages of homes? What’s the deal with all the elaborate woodwork, turrets, scallops, and massive covered porches? Prior to the Victorian era (we’re talking late 1875-1900), homeowners could only dream about luxuries such as central heating, indoor running water, and artificial lighting. The comforts of home enjoyed in the late 1800s, early 1900s were brought about by a few key elements.

Money: Many Americans in the Victorian era had money—lots of it. The explosion of businesses, factories, and overseas trade created a world-wide demand for products such as wheat, cotton, iron, and steel.

Technology: Industrialization, sawmills, railroads, and factories. The availability of cheap, machine-produced nails, banisters, cornices, and pre-mixed paint opened the door to more lavish housing options. Historians also believe the scallops and finery of the Victorian age were a backlash to the plain, simple, practicalities of previous generations.

Pride: Not necessarily a bad thing, per se. On more than one front, Americans of 1899 led the world into the next century. The victory against Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898 rendered the US a world-class powerhouse, a political force to be reckoned with. Led by the aggressive and outspoken President Teddy Roosevelt, the Victorian-era Americans embarked on projects such as the Panama Canal and exploration of the North Pole. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie opened public libraries all across the United States. National pride became the national pastime and was reflected in hobbies, arts, and architecture.

Unfortunately, many of these Victorian houses became obsolete in the ensuing decades. They were costly to maintain, difficult to repair, and they lacked ever-changing technological upgrades such as better insulation and electricity. Today, we can still see a smattering of Victorian gingerbread houses throughout Snohomish County, especially in downtown Everett, Snohomish,  and Stanwood. With a little extra homeowner TLC, these 100 year old beauties add a unique element of charm and old-time nostalgia to any community.

My name is Joni Kerley, I specialize in real estate located in Snohomish County, Washington State. Are you a fan of all the foo foo finery of the Victorian era? For more information on Victorian houses for sale in our area, give me a call at 425-343-4545.

Photo © 2011 Joni Kerley