New England Architecture 101 – Second Empire

You can tell a Second Empire Victorian by its low-hipped roof.

By Aimee Tucker

Oct 20 2023


The Second Empire Style Victorian Home

Photo Credit : Illustration by Rob Leanna

The Second Empire home is like a square Italianate that went to France and came back with a modern and stylish hat. The distinctive dual-pitched hipped roof, named for 17th-century architect François Mansart, was enjoying a revival during the reign of Napoleon III (France’s Second Empire), which then spread across the Atlantic.

Time Period: 1855–1885

Defining Characteristic: Mansard roof

Famous Example: Boston’s Old City Hall and Providence City Hall

Where to Find: Throughout the Northeast, as both residences and public buildings

1. Paint: House and trim are two shades of the same color, with dark shutters

2. Roof: A classic dual-pitched mansard roof

3. Exterior: Decorative details including cornices under the eaves and quoins at the corners