A couple weeks back we were able to get back down to California for a family visit. Of course California’s a big state and there’s more interesting and less interesting places to visit. Lucky for us it just so happens that my in-laws live on the Monterey Peninsula, basically right next door to Pacific Grove, one of the great standing collections of Victorian homes on the west coast.

Short story: I adore this place. Long story: there’s more than 1,200 structures on the town’s historic register, and six on the national register - most of which are still being used as they were originally concepted and built - some more than 125 years ago - as really spectacular residences in one of the most captivating parts of The West. More than 500 of these homes get to wear the special green plaques denoting the builder and the year. They’re quite easy to see on an easy walking tour. Basically walk anyplace north of Central Avenue in Pacific Grove - toward Lover’s Point and the ocean - between 19th St. and Forest Avenue - and you’ll see a seemingly endless array of gorgeous, daydream-inspired, period perfect Victorians that will have you contemplating a move. Am I sounding like a tour guide?

Victorians peaked in the US between 1860 and 1900, incorporating a variety of styles including Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Stick Eastlake, Italianate and more. The combination of revival styles, combined with middle eastern and Asian influences made for a gorgeous smorgasbord of design possibilities, eclectic add-ons, and artistic flourishes that defined a generation.

Fun fact: I’ve read at least some debate about the proper way to “appropriately” paint a Victorian to historical accuracy. In San Francisco, the colors went through an evolution. The bright, gaudy colors, of the Victorians (and later Edwardians) drew the ire of at least one critic of the period. Then during the Great War and Second World War, the “painted ladies” were adorned with surplus US Navy paint. Resulting in a less loud but equally beautiful, battleship gray color.

For those of you lucky enough to own one of these classic ladies, you might enjoy this handy glossary of Victorian architectural terms to match to your own historic Victorian.  My personal favorite term is the “dental crown”, not because it’s Victorian related, because it is not, but probably because of my own dental history. Another great company here in Portland is McCoy Millwork, a great resource that can accurately meet just about any need for your Victorian millwork and moulding needs.

And some more good reading on this history of this corner of Victorian history on the West Coast, if you’re so inclined.

Discover Pacific Grove

Monterey County Historical Society

Historic Pacific Grove on Pinterest (love this!)

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History