Second Empire architecture and the related Italianate style, enjoyed popularity in America’s urban house plans during the period between 1860 and 1880. The name was derived in the revival of France during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870), which was then France’s “Second Empire”. The French Architect, Francois Mansart came up with what is the most distinctive feature of a Second Empire design, the roof. This is where name “Mansart roof” come about.
Second Empire is a Victorian architectural style that is easy to identify because of its unique roof. This style was particularly useful in urban town houses because the design of the roof allowed for an upper floor within the roof. This helped in maximizing square footage and space without making the building appear massive and overbearing.
This style is characterized mainly by its roof but also carry other features. Beneath the distinctive roof-line, they have details that are very similar to those use in the Italianate style architecture. You will often find examples with brackets at the cornice line but the eave overhang is not as big. Windows, doors, and porch details are similar to the Italianate style also. However, modest trimmed windows are common in the Second Empire and not the case in the Italianate. Other features include cupola’s, patterned roof, quoins, one or two story bay windows, paired entry doors, paired or tripled windows, and one story porch.