Historic Places

Painted Ladies

Grand Old Gals of the Victorian Era

Story by Barbara Torke. Photography by Paul McCreary and James Burke
All content © San Juan Publishing Group, Inc, All rights reserved.

painted lady
These grand old gals can be found in towns and cities around the country where there once was a display of the superfluous and ornamental. It recalls a time in our country’s history that was flamboyant, excessive, and just a little bit naughty. Click on the image above to see a slide show of Painted Ladies in Ouray, Silverton, and Lake City.

[SW Colorado] Colorful paint and fancy, “gingerbread” trim, much like the adornments of their nefarious “painted lady” namesakes (women entertainers in bordellos and other places of dubious reputation), gave these Victorian homes their nickname.
They appeared across the country in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Pattern books became available of the Queen Anne style architecture that characterized them. The railroads brought fancy trim by the carload to the west. When the Queen Anne style went out of favor in the 1910s and 1920s, the great mining boom towns were left resplendent with the color, texture, and pattern of the hey-day of that dramatic era.

Oddly enough, most women who lived in these homes would never have deigned to speak to a real “painted lady,” whose presence was rarely alluded to by the “good” people who lived on the proper side of town.

Click here to read full story.

Victorian house in Silverton, © James Burke