Architecture in Alameda - Sturdy Craftsman to Decorative Queen Anne

One of the things I like most about Alameda is the diversity of architecture on the island. There is so much history here, and you can learn so much about a neighborhood by the type of homes built on the land. Alameda architecture features many eras and types of home styles; here I am going to list the most prominent architectural styles you will see here:

Victorian (1837-1910)

According to Alameda Magazine, “it’s said there are more Victorian-style homes in Alameda, based on our population, than anywhere else in the country.” And, they say you can find about 3,000 Victorian homes in Alameda.

One of the most distinct home styles, the Victorian home is hard to miss. Many people picture the Painted Ladies from San Francisco or even the Winchester Mystery House when they think “Victorian.” Known mostly for its large size, ornate trim, scalloped shingles, and steep rooflines, this home style was born during the reign of Queen Victoria. Inside, ornate details such as wainscoting, picture rails, fireplaces, and decorative ceilings are common features.

Victorian house styles include Queen Anne, Stick, Shingle, and others. Give Victorian Homes Magazine on Facebook a follow to see some eye candy.

Queen Anne ​ (1870-1910)

The Queen Anne style home falls under the Victorian umbrella. It is known for its steeply pitched complex roofs and ornamental curvilinear turrets and towers. Inside, you’ll most likely find an ​ irregular and asymmetrical floor plan. Check out “The Charms of Queen Anne Houses” on This Old House to learn more.

Colonial Revival (1880 to 1960)

“Colonial Revival sought to follow American colonial architecture of the period around the Revolutionary War, which drew strongly from Georgian architecture of Great Britain.” (Wikipedia)

Prominent features of this stately home include: two stories, elaborate front doors (often with decorate crown pediments), columned porches, a symmetrical front facade with an accented doorway, and a medium pitch roof with narrow eaves. These features are borrowed from colonial period houses of the early 19th century. The most common siding is brick or wood clapboard.

Tudor (and Tudor Revival) (1890-1940)

“The Tudor-style home technically refers to medieval English (1485-1603) architecture; therefore, Tudor Revival is a more accurate name for this style of home built outside of that time period.” (Compass) This distinct style of home is said to have “storybook charm” and is known for its steeply pitched gable roofs, stucco walls, decorative stone and brickwork, decorative half-timbering, embellished doorways and tall mullioned windows. Tudor interiors “are often heavily accented in dark wood as well—from ceiling beams to intricate wall paneling.” (Yahoo)

“Tudor Style got a bad and largely undeserved reputation after World War II for being difficult to build, probably because the style didn’t fit well with the mass-production homebuilding techniques developed in the late 1940s and 1950s,” (RTA Studio blog post)

Craftsman (1905-Great Depression)

“In its original era, it was also a response to the ornamentation of the Victorian home.” (Compass)

Oh, the sturdy, chunky, well-built Craftsman. We sure do love a good Craftsman, with its no-frills style and pared down workmanship. The Arts & Crafts movement was the inspiration behind the Craftsman-style home. Craftsman homes are known for their porches with round or square columns, low-pitched gable roofs, wide overhanging eaves, built-in cabinetry, and large fireplace (often with previously mentioned built-in cabinetry flanking its sides.) Craftsman homes are found all over the island of Alameda, and enthusiasts will see fine examples of this architectural style throughout the Bay Area.

Sears actually sold craftsman homes from 1908 to 1940, offering over 400 different designs to choose from. “It sold approximately 700,000 kits that were shipped to buyers via boxcar and came with instruction books and 10,000 to 30,000 pieces.” (Compass)

Craftsman Bungalow (1900 – 1929)

“The terms “craftsman” and “bungalow” are often used interchangeably, though there is a fundamental distinction. ‘Craftsman’ refers generally to the Arts and Crafts movement and is considered an architectural or interior style, whereas “bungalow” is a particular form of house or building. Thus, a bungalow can exhibit a craftsman style, and many of them indeed did so.” ( You may have also heard the terms “California bungalow” or “west coast bungalow” to refer to this style. is an excellent resource for those who would like to read more about this style of home.

Mediterranean (1920-1930, 1960)

Built to stay cool in warm environments, the Mediterranean home style is popular in states like California and Florida. The home often features high ceilings, open floor plans, many windows, and access to various outdoor spaces. Other features of note: tile roofs - often red terra-cotta clay tiles - stucco siding, colorful and decorative tiles, curves and arches, ironwork, wooden doors, courtyards and balconies.

“Mediterranean style architecture is also an inclusive term that may include Renaissance, Neo Renaissance, Classical, Neo Classical, French Revival, Italian Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Moorish Revival, Mission Revival, Tuscan, Spanish, Vernacular and more.” ( You can learn more about the Mediterranean style home over at HGTV.

Mid-Century Modern (1940-1950)

Sleek and low, the mid-century modern home removed the frills and added in modern touches. This style of home features low-pitched roofs, clean lines, natural hues, expansive walls of glass. And, new to home design concepts, the mid-century modern home took indoor-outdoor living into account.

“The birth of midcentury modern was after the war,” says Sian Winship, president of the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. “The houses had open floor plans and giant sliding-glass doors, which encouraged people to go outside and be healthy.” (HGTV)

The ranch-style, split-level ranch, and contemporary home are included in this category. To read more about mid-century modern design check out this pocket guide.

Ranch Style (1920-1970)

Like the Compass blog states, “The ranch home personified an informal, casual living style.” The ranch style-style home focuses on backyard living. Think “sliding glass door” when you think about a ranch home. It has a level, horizontal footprint, cross-ventilation, a simple floor plan, and minimum decoration.

“The ranch house was everything a California house should be — it had cross-ventilation, the floor was level with the ground, and with its courtyard and the exterior corridor, it was about sunshine and informal outdoor living.” (NYT “The Man Behind the Ranch House)

Read “10 Advantages of the Humble Ranch House” on Houzz.


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