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25. Gussie Moran House, circa 1891 25. Gussie Moran House, circa 1891
1323 Ocean Ave.

Gussie Moran House
photo by Michael Grandcolas

Roof detail

Gussie Moran showing her ruffled tennis undies

Queen Annes in a rainbow of colors

This Queen Anne style Victorian hints at the time when Ocean Avenue was a parade of Victorian homes in the 1880s and 1890s, when the industrial revolution was building up steam. North America was caught up in the excitement of new technologies. Factory-made, precut architectural parts were shuttled across the country on a rapidly expanding train network. Exuberant builders combined these pieces to create innovative, and sometimes excessive, homes.

All of this new technology allowed for a lot of individuality in home building. Victorian America had fashions in house design; they were highly status-conscious, and in Victorian America, nothing displayed your status like your house.

House fashions literally started at the dinner table. Most wealthy Victorians spent what would seem to us to be an incredible amount of time socializing: it was not uncommon for them to either attend or host a dinner party 2 to 5 times a week. Victorian dinners were formal and long, consisting of many courses served over as much as three hours. Afterwards, the gentlemen would retire to the game room for cigars, brandy, and billiards or cards, while the ladies would retire to the drawing room for needlepoint, possibly music, and have sherry or tea.

In short, your social circle saw your house a lot, so it was important that the house be impressive -- that is, designed in the latest fashion. The house of a successful Victorian family was more than merely a home; it was a statement of their taste, wealth, and education.

The Queen Anne Victorian dominated residential architecture from 1880 to 1910. The Gussie Moran house captures some of the style’s bewildering excess, including projecting bay windows, towers, turrets, porches, roof finials and crestings, terra-cotta trim panels, cantilevered upper stories, decorative trim, patterned shingles, elaborate brackets and chimneys on Queen Anne houses are spectacularly crafted, as the photo here shows.

This particular property was once owned by international tennis sensation Gussie Moran. In 1949, Moran competed at the Wimbledon Championships wearing a short tennis dress with ruffled, lace-trimmed knickers peeping out below the hem. The effect was electric — this was the first time in history that ladies’ knickers had been fully and intentionally put on broad public display.

In a tournament in Egypt nine months later, Moran defied expectations by wearing a pair of plain black shorts. Why the unexpected change, she was asked. Having gained 13 pounds, she explained, her white tennis attire no longer fit her.