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Old 04-04-2009, 08:17 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
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Victorian Homes-Why the Towers?

I live in a city where a good part of the houses were built before 1900. many of these old victorian houses have little tower-like rooms attached to the main house, complete with conical roofs and curver glass windows. These rooms inside are quite small-what were they used for? or were they just ornamenta? I can't see the untility of such a room-at best, it could be a plant conservatory or sewing room. and those curved glass windows-how would you replace one today?
Old 04-04-2009, 09:03 AM
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Well a short answer is that Queen Anne homes (the most lavish of the Victorian houses) were built when technology had just come available to mass-produce elaborate trims and curliques. So, people loved them and lots of homes were built with them. This doesn't really explain the towers, I know, but it heads you in the right direction.
Old 04-04-2009, 09:05 AM
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Here is something for you to read at
Old 04-04-2009, 09:55 AM
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I always thought they were wind towers, a primitive form of air conditioning.
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Old 04-04-2009, 11:30 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
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IIRC, in fishing towns, the turret of a house was for the wife of a fisherman. She could sit there and watch for her beloved coming home. Keep in mind, this is just from memory, and I could be wrong. I tried finding a cite, but my Googletsu is weak.

Old 04-04-2009, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Aug 1999
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I owned this house for a few years. Is that a cupola or a tower? I thought it should have had a window higher up -- sort of a Rapunzel feature.

The tower was purely decorative. Everything above the bottom of the roof line was attic and you needed a ladder to get up there, so we never used it, not even for storage. It was a great house, except that it cost a fortune to heat. What I liked best were the tall windows. They started about two feet off the floor so there was lots of light.
Old 04-06-2009, 10:34 AM
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Location: Connecticut, USA
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Originally Posted by Satellite^Guy View Post
IIRC, in fishing towns, the turret of a house was for the wife of a fisherman. She could sit there and watch for her beloved coming home. Keep in mind, this is just from memory, and I could be wrong. I tried finding a cite, but my Googletsu is weak.

I thought that that was the purpose of the widow's walk.

Wikipedia seems to agree:
A widow's walk (or roofwalk) is a railed rooftop platform, typically on a coastal house, originally designed to observe vessels at sea. The name comes from the wives of mariners, who would watch for their spouses' return. In some instances, the ocean took the lives of the mariners, leaving the women as widows.
Old 04-06-2009, 12:35 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
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It's no secret that some eras, trends, influences or styles are known for being 'utiliatarian' while others are known for being ornate. Crasftmen period/influence: about craftsmanship and joinery. Mission period/inlfluence: Simplicity and reliability.

Victorian? Lots of STUFF going on everywhere. Lots of ornate carving, trim details, flash and gaudiness. All the millwork and pressed plaster fanciness on the walls, ceilings, etc. The furniture was fancy, and decorative was the word of the day. Towers MIGHT have served a purpose, but when it comes to the Victorian style, the towers were likely to be ornate and decorative first and foremost...and if it added a few windows for air flow or additional light, then so be it as a side bonus. But one only need to look at the fireplaces surrounds and elaborate wood trim details around the railings to see when they were getting at: decoration.

Last edited by Philster; 04-06-2009 at 12:36 PM.
Old 04-06-2009, 12:47 PM
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
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One point to older homes now forgotten: solariums. In northern communities, a galssed-in room with southern exposure and with northerly winds blocked by the bulk of the house would get quite warm on spring and fall days, and in some areas even much of the winter. When one heated with coal or wood, and perhaps with fireplaces and not central heating, the idea of solar heat was a useful adjunct. It gave you one more place to go out of the weather during the cold seasons, a place to put house plants needing light but too delicate for the outdoors, etc. Some cupolas and towers were purely decorative, some provided a small added room or two (useful if you had a large family as many Victorians did). My grandparents had a glassed-in front porch -- their house faced south -- that was quite comfortable except in the coldest part of the winter; one half-house we rented had a small solarium on the southeast, sheltered from noreasters by the projecting front of the house. My kids rented an apartment in a house with a turret structure -- it provided the stariwell on the first floor, and a round room on the second floor where they lived. There was also another round room off the finished attic, which could have been converted into a beedroom if insulated or provided with a heat source.
Old 04-06-2009, 01:39 PM
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Not a Queen Anne-style house, but the White House has a solarium on the top floor, facing south:
Old 04-06-2009, 02:21 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 317
The Victorian era was also the period of the Pre-Raphaelite artistic movement, and much popular fascination with idealized "fairy tale" medieval tropes. I think a desire to make homes more "castle-like" is a likely manifestation of that.

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