Courtesy BTHL

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, and trade publications. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization. Read more about the archive here.

From Dame Judy Dench as Queen Victoria in the 2017 film Victoria & Abdul, to Emily Blunt's 2009 depiction in The Young Victoria, to PBS’ current Masterpiece series Victoria, the ornate styles and formality of the Victorian Era continues to fascinate audiences more than a century later. Influenced by the technological advances made during the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian era—bookended by the queen's reign from 1837 to 1901—has become associated with opulent design as well as modernity.

This month, the BTHL chronicles the designs and innovations of hardware and building furnishings that continue to appear in pop culture today.

Real and Compression Bronze Builders’ Hardware for Private Residences and Public Buildings, Russell & Erwin Manufacturing Co., New Britain, Conn., 1875
This catalog provides detailed renderings of customizable hardware options available with elaborate metal plating in various finishes.

Illustrated Catalogue of Mantels & Grates, W.D. & A.S. Nichols, New York, 1880
The fireplace was a focal paint of the Victorian parlor, where families would often entertain guests and each other. As such, mantel design was integral to creating a welcoming space as a central feature. This catalog showcases fireplace mantels, grates, and gas logs.

Illustrated Catalogue, Jordan & Moriarty Furniture & Carpets, New York, 1880
Furniture makers took advantage of technological advancements to mass-produce ornamental woodwork with detailing that would have been too labor intensive to produce cost effectively during the previous era of handcrafted woodwork. This catalog shows the extensive use of ornamental woodwork and tufted fabrics for a typical Victorian era house.

Town and Country House Painting, Harrison Bros. & Co., Philadelphia and New York,1884
Offering 35 color palettes for residential projects, this catalog advertises Victorian-era paint schemes that emphasize a multi-colored exterior. Each option provides a detailed list of color selections for different components of a house, including the body, trimming, sashes, porch, and roof.

Shoppell’s Modern Houses, Co-operative Building Plan Association, New York, 1885
This large catalog features more than 400 house plans, primarily for single-family, wood-framed residences. The designs range from simple folk Victorian to elaborate Queen Anne and Eastlake designs—an aesthetic that utilizes elaborate wooden exterior ornamentation. While most of the plans feature integrated indoor bathrooms, some of the smaller plans still necessitated the presence of an outhouse.

Wire Screens, E. T. Burrowes & Co., Portland, Maine, 1892
Though the wire screen was invented in early 19th century, it became an essential component of residential design during the Victorian era. This catalog is filled with testimonials nationwide lauding designs that are “handsome in appearance, worked to perfection, and afford complete immunity from flies and mosquitoes.”

The Open Hearth: A Catalogue of Designs of Brick and Terra Cotta Fireplace Mantels, Fiske, Homes & Co., Boston 1897
Stone fireplaces were popular at the beginning of the Victoria era but by the end of the 19th century, fireplace mantels in brick and terra cotta gained prominence in residential design.

Ornamental Hardwood Floors: Parquetry, Borders, Strips, Floor Finishes, Weighted Brushes, S.C. Johnson & Co., Racine Junction, Wis., 1901
Wood strip flooring using a variety of species and patterns could transform the floor from a simple walking surface to an ornamental focal point. The designs in this catalog were offered in combinations of red and white oak, white maple, walnut, cherry, and mahogany.