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(By Los Angeles (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Victorian Homes painted in multiple layers are often referred to as Painted
Ladies. You will find such a house in our newest mystery, The Vanished Lady.
What does the term Painted Lady mean?
term “painted lady” has a double meaning. It is often used to refer to “soiled
doves” or fallen women of the Old West, who painted their faces with makeup
when respectable women did not wear cosmetics.
Houses of that same era painted in a multi-colored scheme are also often
referred to as “Painted Ladies.” Though
the terms are believed to be unrelated, these lovely homes, like our more
flamboyant sisters, are the showy peacocks of architecture. Dating back to the mid to late 1800s, many of
these historic homes throughout the United States have been remodeled
and turned into bed and breakfasts.
Identify a Painted Lady House
many Victorian styles may qualify as Painted Ladies, the architectural style
most identified with the Painted Lady is the Queen Anne. The Queen Anne is usually a smaller home,
with three stories and which may have a tower or turret. Whatever the architectural style, which may
range from Greek Revival to Colonial, Painted Ladies can easily be identified
not only by their brilliant, rainbow hues but by the intricate detailing on
porches, shutters, molding around windows and eaves. The woodwork is often lacy in
appearance. Because of this detailing,
they are sometimes also referred to as “Gingerbread Houses”.
painted in brilliant colors, many of the old Painted Ladies were coated over
with a white or cream color in the early 1900s.
In the 1970s the Painted Lady
made a comeback and many were restored to their original color schemes and
to contemporary standards, to qualify as a true Painted Lady, the house must
meet three important criteria. The house
must be a balanced, harmonious blend of color and architecture, it must be
painted in three or more contrasting colors, and the colors must be used to
bring out the decorative embellishments of the house.
Many Painted Ladies are done up in brilliant,
contrasting colors. Any color can be
used, as long as it draws out the architecture of the house. Examples of startling, yet successful blends
of colors may be slate blue walls with contrasting sea green and mauve trim, or
perhaps rose-colored walls with
brilliant green and tan detailing. Some
more sedate painted ladies may have white or tan outer walls with trim of pale
pinks, blues, or mauves. The bolder
ladies may be done in shocking pink, blue and orange.
term Painted Lady, as it refers to houses, is a relatively new one It originated in the early 1970s when San Francisco residents
began painting their Victorian homes in three or more contrasting colors. The trend spread to other places, such as Colorado, where there
are a wealth of Victorian homes still standing.
Where to See
Painted Lady Houses
examples of this architecture can be found scattered in all parts of the United
States from the Northeast to the Southwest, many areas are known for their
lovely Painted Lady districts. A person
might come across a Painted Lady anywhere, from the East and West coast to the
Midwest, but they will be found in greater number in gold rush towns such as San Francisco where
Victorians settled to build. California has many
areas along the coast where Painted Ladies can be seen in abundance. Though many were destroyed by fire, or
demolished, San Francisco
has long been known as a place to view this type of architecture. A row of
Victorian houses on Steiner Street
in San Francisco
is one of the most popular areas for these houses.
and unique Painted Ladies are also prevalent in Denver,
Colorado and in the many small, neighboring
gold mining towns such as Georgetown. Loretta and I visited and photographed several of these old houses, which provided inspiration for our book about such a house with a secret.