The historical changes that marked an end to the isolation of Utah Territory in the late 19th century are also reflected in the architecture of this period. The great variety of Victorian styles popular in other parts of the country appeared during the 1880s in and around Salt Lake City, and by the 1890s they also appeared in the rural areas of the state. Most of the styles popular during America’s Victorian age emphasized the conventions of the Picturesque, but two styles - Beaux Arts Classicism and Second Renaissance Revival - relied strongly upon bilateral symmetry.
The Picturesque characteristics of irregularity, intricacy, and variety present in the Gothic Revival and the Italianate styles discussed in the previous chapter were extended and elaborated upon during the latter decades of the 19th century. Domestic architecture best exemplified these characteristics. Late 19th-century houses were asymmetrical, complex compositions, often of disparate elements, their wall surfaces highly textured and usually intricate and their external surfaces extensively decorated. This conscious effort to achieve visual complexity was not usually achieved by the use of one style; instead, highly eclectic residences combined forms and elements from a number of stylistic sources. Indeed, much of this period’s architecture has been classified by some scholars as “Picturesque Eclecticism.”
A variety of different house types, some of which were carried over from earlier periods, contributed to this visual complexity. For instance, the larger houses of the Victorian period sometimes used the same side-passage plan popular in the Classical period.
At least one new form developed during the Victorian period: the “central block with projecting wings.” Roughly square in plan with projecting bays, this type was crowned by either a hipped or a pyramidal roof.
The Queen Anne and Eastlake are the best-known styles of the period, both influenced by 19th-century English architects. Indigenous to the United States are the contemporaneous Stick and Shingle styles; like the Queen Anne and Eastlake, these styles used wood construction and materials, yet Utah examples built of masonry are not uncommon.
The Queen Anne, Eastlake, and Victorian Eclectic were the most common styles in the state. The Victorian Eclectic style allowed builders and architects great freedom in selecting decorative motifs to achieve a high degree of picturesque intricacy and to enhance the irregular massing of their designs.
Church buildings most often used the Victorian Gothic—particularly the churches built for the LDS Church and the Presbyterian Church (whose buildings stand as artifacts of 19th-century Presbyterian missionary efforts among the Mormons.
Civic, institutional, and commercial designs often used the Victorian Romanesque Revival style, in part because of the extensive use of masonry construction in Utah. Masonry construction also contributed to the popularity of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with its Utah examples executed in red sandstone, Kyune sandstone, granite, or Sanpete oolitic limestone.
Much less commonly, architects designed in the Chateauesque style, which combines elements of French medieval architecture with those of the Italian Renaissance. As its name implies, architects mainly used this style in designing large residences for well-to-do clients.
When students of the famous French school of architecture, the Ecole des Beaux Arts, introduced Beaux Arts Classicism to the United States, it became very popular for institutional and commercial buildings. However, in Utah many of these designs lacked the sophisticated architecture principles adopted by the Beaux Arts-trained architect.
Near the turn of the 20th century, several Ecole-trained architects popularized the Second Renaissance Revival style. Like Beaux Arts Classicism it was commonly used in institutional architecture: libraries, college and university buildings, and private mens’ clubs.
Beaux Arts Classicism, the Second Renaissance Revival and the Neoclassical all involve, to a varying degree, the conventions and vocabulary of Classical architecture. The most original, monumental, and innovative use of Classical motifs appears in Beaux Arts Classicism, while the Second Renaissance Revival interprets the Classical by examining and reusing motifs generated during the Italian Renaissance by such architects as Palladio. In the Neoclassical, one finds the most conservative use of Classical motifs, in particular the use of the orders.
Across America, these styles reflected a new level of sophistication for both architect and client. Numerous magazines and stylebooks aided the promulgation of these styles. The availability of mass-produced millwork and decorative ornamentation affected stylistic developments on both the national and local levels. The former isolation of rural areas was no longer an obstacle to building well, due to the widespread dissemination of information and building materials.
Significant changes in architects’ education affected the sophistication and quality of design. Architect-builders could now study design on a formal basis through correspondence courses without leaving their profession. Opportunities for young persons who aspired to a career in architecture were developed in the drafting rooms of architectural firms. Those seeking a formal education in architecture could do so, based upon the Ecole des Beaux Arts curriculum, in one of twelve schools of architecture established at American universities by 1900.
Utah’s familiarity with this proliferation of styles proves the impact of these innovations, which coincided with periods of great economic growth and substantial increase in the state’s population.