PERIOD OF POPULARITY: 1860s – 1880s, most popular during the 1870s after the Civil War.
IDENTIFYING FEATURES: Basically Italianate style and massing with a Mansard roof. The Mansard is the key feature that typically allows for a quick identification. Often includes dormer windows in the upper floor, providing light behind the Mansard roof. Sometimes includes a square, central tower, decorative brackets, and molded cornice. Expect to see similar Italianate details on and around windows and doors. The floor plan often includes pavilions, which are outward projections of a building’s center or side.
BACKGROUND AND INSPIRATION: More formally referred to as French Second Empire, this was the first true style of the Victorian era in the United States, if we do not include the preceding Romantic era. The style was most popular in the Northeast and Midwest, but rare in the South. It also became known as the “General Grant style” due to its use during the Grant administration for public buildings. The term, Second Empire refers directly to the style’s inspiration in France, particularly to the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870) who undertook a major building campaign to transform Paris into a city of grand boulevards and monumental buildings. The urban redesign and Renaissance-inspired architecture of Napoleon’s Paris was subsequently copied and applied throughout Europe and North America. Napoleon’s famous project was the enlargement of the Louvre (1852-1857), which reintroduced the Mansard roof, developed during the 1600’s Renaissance by Francois Mansart. By the 1860s the style diffused from France to Britain, and into the United States by way of Boston – at that time America’s cultural capital.
For More photos of Second Empire style, Click Here.