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Second Empire – popular 1855-1885


Fred B. Sharon House, Davenport Iowa, National Register

Photo: Fred B. Sharon House, ca. 1910, 728 Farnan St., Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Second Empire style home built by the founder of Davenport's Catholic newspaper The Catholic Messenger. Photographed by User:Smallbones (own work), 2011, via Wikimedia Commons, accessed April, 2013.

The name, Second Empire, referred to a style that developed during the "Second French Republic" (or "Empire" – the era following France's 1848 Revolution) and principally during the time of Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor charged Baron Haussmann to transform Paris into "the world's city of high fashion." Attendees from around the globe at the Paris expositions (1855 and 1867) helped spread the popularity of the style beyond France.

France lost its war with Prussia in 1870, Paris became less influential as a "center of fashion," and by the 1880s the popularity of the style gave way to new fads like the Queen Anne style for residences (circa 1870-1900).

Late 19th century Second Empire designs are common in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Second Empire was considered very modern and inspiring ... after all, it began in Paris. It became popular for remodeling older buildings as well as new construction and was adapted to a wide variety of projects: public buildings, commercial structures, museums, college buildings, hotels, and, of course, residences. This style was used for many public buildings in America during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877).

A main characteristic of Second Empire is the Mansard roof (double pitched hip roof). It is named for Parisian architect, Francois Mansart (1598-1666), noted for his introduction of a simplified Baroque style to France. He often used the roof style in his designs; the upper part usually intersects with a flat roof which extends over the middle of the building. One advantage of the "Mansard roof" was that it allowed for commodious upper-attic storage space.

Molded cornices above and below the lower roof slope and decorative brackets beneath eaves, balconies and bay windows also help to identify the Second Empire style.

There are a number of other identifying features which may or may not have been used, such as, roofing materials with decorative patterns of color and textures; iron cresting above the upper cornice; arched windows; small entry porch with paired columns; paired entry doors, sometimes with glass in top half; one or two-story bay windows; one-story porch; rectangular or square tower which could be of equal height or higher of the top most floor, typically with a mansard roof and small dormer window in each side.

Exteriors were varied, typically wood, brick, or stone.

Some locations where you're likely to find Second-Empire style homes:

  1. Allison Hill, c. 1895, Harrisburg City, Dauphin County PA
  2. Armstrong Knitting Factory, Charlottesville City, Independent Cities VA
  3. Asylum Hill, Hartford City, Hartford County CT
  4. Beaver Historic District, Beaver Boro, Beaver County PA
  5. Bedford Historic District, Bedford Boro, Bedford County PA
  6. Bridgewater Historic District, c. 1818, Bridgewater Boro, Beaver County PA
  7. Broad Avenue Historic District, c. 1910, Altoona City, Blair County PA
  8. Brookville Historic District, c. 1830, Brookville Boro, Jefferson County PA
  9. Butler Historic District, Butler City, Butler County PA
  10. Cambridge Historic District, Cambridge Village, Washington County NY
  11. Center Square-Hudson Park, Albany City, Albany County NY
  12. Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia County PA
  13. Church Hill North, Richmond City, Independent Cities VA
  14. Church Street Historic District, Nassau Village, Rensselaer County NY
  15. Churchville, c. 1784, Northampton Twp, Bucks County PA
  16. Claverack Hamlet, Claverack Town, Columbia County NY
  17. Coalport Historic District, c. 1875, Coalport Boro, Clearfield County PA
  18. Cold Spring Historic District, Cold Spring Village, Putnam County NY
  19. Danville Historic District, Danville Boro, Montour County PA
  20. Delanson Historic District, Delanson Village, Schenectady County NY
  21. Downtown Fulton Historic District, Fulton City, Callaway County MO
  22. Dryden Historic District, Dryden Village, Tompkins County NY
  23. East Side Historic District, Catskill Village, Greene County NY
  24. East York Historic District, Springettsbury Twp, York County PA
  25. Ellsworth Historic District, Lafayette City, Tippecanoe County IN
  26. Elmira Civic Historic District, Elmira City, Chemung County NY
  27. Elmwood Historic District, Providence City, Providence County RI
  28. Emlenton Historic District, Emlenton Boro, Venango County PA
  29. Everett Historic District, c. 1795, Everett Boro, Bedford County PA
  30. Fairmount Historic District, York City, York County PA
  31. Federal Hill Historic District, Lynchburg City, Independent Cities VA
  32. Fifeville-Castle Hill Historic District, Charlottesville City, Independent Cities VA
  33. Forest Park Southeast District, St Louis City, Independent Cities MO
  34. Fountain Hill Historic District, Bethlehem City, Northampton County PA
  35. Franklin Historic District, c. 1870, Franklin City, Venango County PA
  36. Franklin Square Historic District, Saratoga Springs City, Saratoga County NY
  37. Fretz Mansion, c. 1879, Doylestown Twp, Bucks County PA
  38. Hanover Historic District, Hanover Boro, York County PA
  39. Hanover Square Historic District, Horseheads Village, Chemung County NY
  40. Honesdale Residential Historic District, Honesdale Boro, Wayne County PA
  41. Hudson Historic District, Hudson City, Columbia County NY
  42. Ivyland Historic District, Ivyland Boro, Bucks County PA
  43. Lansdowne Park, c. 1890, Lansdowne Boro, Delaware County PA
  44. Lewisburg Historic District, Lewisburg Boro, Union County PA
  45. Liberty Street Historic District, Bath Village, Steuben County NY
  46. Lower Village Historic District, Athens Village, Greene County NY
  47. Manheim Borough Historic District, Manheim Boro, Lancaster County PA
  48. McConnellsburg Historic District, McConnellsburg Boro, Fulton County PA
  49. Mexican War Streets Historic District, c. 1860, Pittsburgh City, Allegheny County PA
  50. Milford Historic District, Milford Boro, Pike County PA
  51. Mill Hill, Trenton City, Mercer County NJ
  52. Millionaires Row Historic District, c. 1885, Williamsport City, Lycoming County PA
  53. Milton Historic District, Milton Boro, Northumberland County PA
  54. Mount Pleasant Historic District, Mount Pleasant Boro, Westmoreland County PA
  55. Newport Historic District, Newport Boro, Perry County PA
  56. North East Historic District, North East Boro, Erie County PA
  57. North Hill Historic District, c. 1890, New Castle City, Lawrence County PA
  58. North Side Historic District, Oil City, Venango County PA
  59. Northumberland Historic District, c. 1829, Northumberland Boro, Northumberland County PA
  60. Old Town Historic District, c. 1875, Clearfield Boro, Clearfield County PA
  61. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, c. 1882, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia_County PA
  62. Queen Anne Historic District, Reading City, Berks County PA
  63. Rhinebeck Historic MRA, Rhinebeck Town, Dutchess County NY
  64. Ridgway Historic District, Ridgway Boro, Elk County PA
  65. Robidoux Hill Historic District, St Joseph City, Buchanan County MO
  66. Saltsburg Historic District, c. 1830, Saltsburg Boro, Indiana County PA
  67. Samuel Warden House, Mount Pleasant Boro, Westmoreland County PA
  68. South Wayne Historic District, Radnor Twp, Delaware County PA
  69. Spannuth Mill, c. 1891, Bethel Twp, Berks County PA
  70. Sunbury Historic District, c. 1772, Sunbury_City, Northumberland County PA
  71. Tamaqua Historic District, c. 1831, Tamaqua Boro, Schuylkill County PA
  72. Titusville Historic District, Titusville City, Crawford County PA
  73. Towanda Historic District, Towanda Boro, Bradford County PA
  74. Union Street Historic District, Schenectady City, Schenectady County NY
  75. Verbeck House, c. 1889, Ballston Spa Village, Saratoga County NY
  76. Warren Historic District, Warren City, Warren County PA
  77. Waynesburg Historic District, Waynesburg Boro, Greene County PA
  78. Wellsboro Historic District, Wellsboro Boro, Tioga County PA
  79. West End Historic District, Norristown Boro, Montgomery County PA
  80. West Sixth Street Historic District, Erie City, Erie County PA
  81. Westmont Historic District, Westmont Boro, Cambria County PA
  82. William Austin House, c. 1870, Trumansburg Village, Tompkins County NY

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