Second Empire 1855-1885


Kennebunk, Maine
Note the Gothic details
and Italian Villa tower


Cohasset, MA
Note the Italiante brackets
and windows and
Georgian quoins

Second empire was a dominant style for homes constructed between 1860 and 1880 with some continuing on into the 1880's. It was most popular in the Northeastern and Midwestern states.
It was considered a very modern style and imitated the latest French building fashion during the reign of Napoleon III (France's Second Empire) from which the style takes it's name. It spread to he United States after the Paris Exhibition in 1855. The boxy roof line named after the 17th century French architect, Francois Mansart, was considered particularly functional because it permitted a full upper story of usable attic space. For this reason the style became popular for the remodeling of older styles as well as for new construction.

The main characteristic of the Second Empire style is the mansard roof design, dormer windows, and later, side or central villa like towers. There are usually decorative brackets below the eaves.

Most people think of the Second Empire Style as the quintessential "Victorian" house. Apart from the Mansard roof and the French windows, they don't differ greatly form the earlier Victorian styles and it did not remain a pure style for long. The popular nineteenth century lifestyle had come to include a veranda, bay window, and the light tower of the Italianate Villa. After the 1870's, the basic Second Empire style had become a composite of an Italian Villa with a Mansard roof and Carpenter Gothic details.

Newport, RI

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