Victorian Commercial Architecture

While everyone thinks of painted ladies there was a commercial side to Victorians too!

The Victorian Restorer

The Restorers Library


Victorian Antiquities and Design

 Restoration Planning for the Victorian Home

Restoration resources

The way they lived

Victorian Homes for Inspiration

  Victorian Travel Ideas


While everyone thinks of painted ladies there was a commercial side to Victorians too! Victorian era buildings were just as exhuberant in their exterior architecture as their residential sisters.

The introduction of cast iron work and tinwork allowed buildings in the victorian era to have as much detail as the imaginination, or pocketbook could afford.

This example shows an elaborate tin work cornice. These details were stamped then attached to a wood frame that was motared into brickwork. This example is a circa 1890 building.



Another detail found on commercial buildings is terra cotta work Because of environmental issues , often terra cotta can be badly deteriorated so fine examples are hard to come by.


This is an outstanding example. Terra cotta is really an artwork as this example shows.

Details were a big part of Victorian era Commercial architecture. Even mundane items such as fire escapes could be translated into works of art:

 This fire escape is over the top as is the building. With some remarkable terra cotta design work and columns.

Finding intact Victorian Commercial architecture is a challenge. As business needs and times changed, many commercial buildings appeared "dated" and many buildings were "modernized". With the advent of shopping malls many downtowns began to decay and in an attempt to compete many buildings were updated with new storefronts and inportant victorian detail was viewed as old fashioned and discarded. 

This corner building once had tinwork across the top but is now long gone.

An example of gross "modernization" of the building on the right. The center building has a more common first floor only update and the building on the left is relativly intact.

Many cities across the country are experiencing a rebirth of their downtowns as tourist attractions. Many buildings, long vacant, are now being revitalized. Programs such as Main are helping smaller towns "reinvent' themselves and many buildings are now under restoration as people realize the value in restoration of these structures.

 Detail is often hidden under several remodels as in this example which was basically just covered over.

Thoughtful planning and comprehensive redevelopment efforts have proven the viability of downtown commercial districts as people begin to realize the value of these historic structures.

Helpful resources