Second Empire

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Second Empire

Features Include:

  • Mansard roof
  • Dormer windows project like eyebrows from roof
  • Rounded cornices at top and base of roof
  • Brackets beneath the eaves, balconies, and bay windows
  • Cupola
  • Patterned slate on roof
  • Wrought iron cresting above upper cornice
  • Classical pediments
  • Paired columns
  • Tall windows on first story
  • Small entry porch

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At first glance, you might mistake a Second Empire home for a Victorian Italianate. Both styles tend to be square in shape, and both can have U-shaped window crowns, decorative brackets, and single story porches. But, Italianate houses have much wider eaves, and they do not have the distinctive mansard roof characteristic of the Second Empire style.

The dramatic roof is the most important feature of Second Empire architecture, and has a long and interesting history.

Because it was based on a contemporary movement in Paris, Americans considered the Second Empire style more progressive than Greek Revival or Gothic Revival architecture. Builders began to construct elaborate public buildings that resembled French designs.

The first important Second Empire building in America was the Cocoran Gallery (later renamed the Renwick Gallery) in Washington, DC by James Renwick.

The tallest Second Empire building in the USA was the Philadelphia City Hall, designed by John McArthur Jr. and Thomas U. Walter. After it was completed in 1901, the soaring tower made Philadelphia's City Hall the world's tallest building. The building held top ranking for several years.


McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide To American Houses. New York, Alfred A. Knopf: 1984.
“House Styles, Picture Dictionary of Houses in North America and Beyond” About .com. Mar 1 2013 <>
Architectural Style Wikipedia. Mar 1 2013. <>
Last modified on Tuesday, 04 October 2016 04:18
Mark Smith

Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and my design company is located in Stevensville, Michigan where I reside with my wife and two children. 


Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and I reside in Stevensville, Michigan my wife and two children. I have been interested in Architecture since my boyhood days; however, because of my families business—a lumberyard—I never really got a chance to pursue my dream until later in my career. Read more...


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