Second Empire

:"This article is about the Second Empire architectural style.":"For France during the reign of Napoleon III of France, see Second French Empire" :"For Mexico 1864-7, see Second Mexican Empire":"For Germany 1871-1918, see German Empire"

Second Empire is an architectural style that was popular during the Victorian era, reaching its zenith between 1865 and 1880, and so named for the "French" elements in vogue during the era of the Second French Empire. In France, a significant variation is sometimes called the Napoleon III style. While a distinct style unto itself, some Second Empire styling cues, such as quoins, have an indirect relationship to the styles previously in vogue, Gothic Revival and Italianate eras.

In the United States, the Second Empire style usually combined a rectangular tower, or similar element, with a steep, but short, mansard roof; the roof being the most noteworthy link to the style’s French roots. This tower element could be of equal height as the highest floor, or could exceed the height of the rest of the structure by a storey or two. The mansard roof crest was often topped with an iron trim, sometimes referred to as “cresting”. In some cases, lightning rods were integrated into the cresting design, making the feature useful beyond its decorative features. The exterior style could be expressed in either wood, brick or stone. More elaborate examples frequently featured paired columns as well as sculpted details around the doors, windows and dormers. The purpose of the ornamentation was to make the structure appear imposing, grand and expensive.

Floor plans for Second Empire residences could either be symmetrical, with the tower (or tower-like element) in the center, or asymmetrical, with the tower or tower-like element to one side.

The style also found its way into commercial structures, and was often used when designing state institutions. Several psychiatric hospitals proved the style's adaptability to their size and functions. Prior to the construction of The Pentagon in the 1940s, the Second Empire–style Ohio State Asylum for the Insane in Columbus, Ohio was reported to be the largest building under one roof in the U.S., though the title may actually belong to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, another Kirkbride Second Empire asylum.

Second Empire was succeeded by the Queen Anne Style era, and its sub-styles, which enjoyed great popularity until the rise of the “Revival Era” in American architecture just before the end of the 19th century.

Leland M. Roth [see references] refers to the style as "Second Empire Baroque." Mullett-Smith [see references] calls it the "Second Empire or General Grant style" due to its popularity in building government buildings during the Grant administration.

The architect H.H. Richardson designed several of his early residences in the style, "evidence [Ochsner, see references] of his French schooling." These projects include the Crowninshield House, Boston Massachusetts, 1868, the H.H. Richardson House, Staten Island, New York, 1868 and the Dorsheimer House, Buffalo, New York, 1868.

In regard to the use of the Second Empire style for residences, the McAlesters [see references] divided the style into five subtypes:
*Simple mansard roof – about 20 %
*Centered wing or gable
*Asymmetrical – about 20 %
*Towered – about 30 %
*Town house

Notable Second Empire buildings


In Canada, Second Empire became the choice of the new Dominion government in the 1870’s and 1880’s for numerous public buildings and the provinces followed suit.

* MacKenzie Building at the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario, 1878, Robert Gage, architect
*Parliament Building (Quebec), Quebec City, Quebec, 1886, Eugène-Étienne Taché, architect
*Montreal City Hall, 1878, Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchison, architects
*Saint John City Market, 1876, McKean and Fairweather, architects []
*Government House, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1883

United States

*George W. Fulton Mansion, Rockport, Texas, 1877
*Alexander Ramsey House, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 1868, Sheire and Summers, architects
*Old City Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, 1862-1865, Bryant and Gilman, architects
*New York City Courthouse and Post Office, 1869–1875, Alfred B. Mullett, architect
*Philadelphia City Hall 1871–1881, John McArthur Jr., architect
*State, War and Navy Building, now the Old Executive Office Building, 1871–1887, Alfred B. Mullett, architect, Washington D.C.
*the "Old Post Office", 1873–1884, Alfred B. Mullett, architect, St. Louis, Missouri
*2300 block, Chapline Street, Wheeling West Virginia
*Hamilton Mansion, 1873, 330 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA, JD Hall Architect []
*Mis Laura's (River Front Hotel) Bordello, 1898, originally at 123 North First Street but moved to 2 North B Street, Fort Smith, AR, National Register of Historic Places, added 1973 - Building - #73000391 []
*South Hall, University of California, Berkeley, David Farquharson, architect
*Terrace Hill, 1866-1869. State of Iowa governor's residence, Des Moines, Iowa.
*Harker Hall, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Nathan Clifford Ricker, architect – oldest building on campus (built in 1878)


*Melbourne GPO, 1859–1907. Melbourne, Australia. A.E Johnson architect
*Princess Theatre, 1866. Melbourne, Australia. William Pitt, architect.
*Sydney Town Hall 1869–89. Sydney, Australia.
*Chief Secretary’s Building 1890–95. Sydney, Australia. James Barnet, dome added by Vernon
*Parliament House. 1868. Brisbane, Australia
*Royal Exhibition Building, 1880. Melbourne, Australia. Joseph Reed, architect.
*South Melbourne Town Hall, 1879–80. Melbourne, Australia. Charles Webb
*Hotel Windsor, 1883. Melbourne, Australia. Charles Webb
*Collingwood Town Hall, 1885. Melbourne, Australia. George R Johnson architect
*Former Records Office, 1900. Melbourne, Australia. S.E. Brindley architect
*Shamrock Hotel, 1888. Bendigo, Australia.
*Bendigo Court House, 1892. Bendigo, Australia.
*Bendigo Town Hall, 1859. Bendigo, Australia
*Willsmere, former Lunatic Asylym, Kew, Victoria



*McAlester, Virginia & Lee, "A Field Guide to American Houses", Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1986
*McCue, George and Frank Peters, "A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis", University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1989
*Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, "H.H. Richardson:Complete Architectural Works", MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984
*Roth, Leland M., "A Concise History of American Architecture", Harper & Row, New York, 1980
*Scott, Pamela and Antoinette J. Lee, "Buildings of the District of Columbia", Oxford University Press, New York, 1991
*Smith, D. Mullett, "A.B. Mullett: His Relevance in American Architecture and Historic Preservation", Mullett-Smith Press, Washington D.C., 1990
*Stern, Mellins and Fishman, "New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age". The Monacelli Press, New York,1999
*Whiffen, Marccus, "American Architecture Since 1780", The M.I.T. Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1977

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Second empire — Empire français Second Empire ← …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Second Empire — (Zweites Reich) ist: Das französische Kaiserreich von 1852 bis 1870, siehe Zweites Kaiserreich Eine Stilrichtung der bildenden Kunst, einschließlich der Architektur, sowie der Möbelkunst in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, siehe Second… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Second Empire — n. the government of France under Louis Napoleon, 1852 70 …   English World dictionary

  • Second Empire — 48°49′N 2°29′E / 48.817, 2.483 Empire français …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Second Empire — the empire established in France (1852 70) by Louis Napoleon: the successor to the Second Republic. * * * (1852–70) Period in France under the rule of Emperor Napoleon III (the original empire having been that of Napoleon). In its early years… …   Universalium

  • Second Empire — adjective Date: 1873 of, relating to, or characteristic of a style (as of furniture) developed in France under Napoleon III and marked by heavy ornate modification of Empire styles …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Second Empire — noun the imperial government of Napoleon III in France from 1852 1870 • Hypernyms: ↑empire …   Useful english dictionary

  • Second Empire — /sɛkənd ˈɛmpaɪə/ (say sekuhnd empuyuh) noun See Empire1 (def. 2) …   Australian English dictionary

  • SECOND EMPIRE (art, industrie, société) — «L’histoire du goût dominant du XIXe siècle, avec toute la documentation sociologique et humaine qu’elle nécessiterait, reste à écrire.» Cette remarque de Siegfried Giedion ne saurait mieux s’entendre de la brève période du second Empire, trop… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Second empire colonial français — Second espace colonial français Le second espace colonial français est également appelé Empire colonial français contemporain (ayant été érigé à l époque contemporaine) ou « second empire colonial » ou « empire républicain »… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”