The Folk Victorian is a simple version of the more elaborate Victorian architectural styles. The folk Victorian (in fashion during the 1870’s thru the first decade of 1900’s) has its origin in the national folk house popularized during the period of around 1850 through the early 1890’s. It is defined by the presence of Victorian decorative detailing attached to the simple folk form house. Italianate detailing is also a frequent inspiration in the folk Victorian style.
The porches of these homes are the general areas in which detailing takes place. Porch supports are either turned spindles (as detailed in Queen Anne Victorians), or square posts with beveled corners (chamfered) as seen in porches of Italianate house plans. Lace-like spandrels are common and turned balusters are used as porch railings. Balusters are also used in suspended form (in the frieze) from the porch ceiling. Eaves may be open rafter tails or boxed with brackets along the cornice. Window surrounds are simple or either dressed with pediments above and examples of side gabled or pyramidal roofs often has a center gables with decorative detailing.
The widespread of Folk Victorian architecture was made possible due to the railroads. During the growth of the railroad and rail system connecting the states, wood working machinery became very accessible to local trade persons making it possible to produce inexpensive Victorian detailing. Also, the ability for lumber yards to stock prefab detailing from other mills was possible because of the rail system. Builders and homeowners were able to select from these options and add onto the traditional folk houses that were common to the local craftsman thereby giving the homes a distinct styling similar to Queen Anne Victorian houses.
The Folk Victorian is often confused with the Queen Anne style. While the two styles do have similar spindle-work detailing, the Folk Victorian is symmetrical and orderly in its design. It lacks the presence of towers, the elaborate moldings, textured veneer, and varied wall surfaces that are characteristic of the Queen Anne Victorian.