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Victorian architecture developed during the period 1825 to 1900, roughly matching the reign of Queen Victoria of England, a period of British progress, prosperity, domination, and influence. British architecture moved away from stone and brick as building materials to wood, which allowed more and easier flexibility of form, and cheaper, quicker construction. Not only was there a change in materials, there was an increase in the speed and amount of information being distributed around the globe. For example, Second Empire style originated in France, not England, but quickly spread to Britain and the U.S. and is considered Victorian because of the timing of its appearance.

Victorian architecture has many expressions: High Victorian, Second Empire, Stick, Queen Anne, Shingle, Folk Victorian, and Richardson Romanesque. Homes were still being built in these styles into the early 1920s. The defining characteristics of the Victorian style are asymmetrical masses and liberal use of decorative elements, especially bay windows and spindle and cutwork trim. San Francisco is famous for its Steiner Street "painted ladies," Victorian homes painted in bright colors.