Rise of The Second Empire of Victorian Architecture
The name "Second Empire" refers to French history under the reign of Napoleon III. Bonaparte is acknowledged as the leader of the First Empire, his son was known as Napoleon II but was ineffectual and therefore didn’t have an empire to call his own.
Napoleon III thus inherited the Second Empire. Built from 1855-1885 this type of Victorian is instantly recognizable by a dominant mansard roof punctuated by dormer windows. Molded cornices are typical along with decorative brackets under the eaves. The picture above was taken in Washington DC and features a porte-cochere, an 1800's version of an attached garage.
The drawing above comes from an architectural planning book published in 1878 for a residence in St. Louis, Missouri. Estimated price to build the house during the time was $7500. This drawing also shows, arched windows a characteristic of a later sub-type, the "Richardson Romanesque." Second Empire, sometimes referred to as simply “Empire,” remains a viable design touchstone, it’s influence can still be felt today in interior design and furnishings.
Seen above, a photograph of a Second Empire Victorian as she stood in 1885 in Woborn, Mass. Note the absence of electrical wires, cables, or television antennae. The images were captured as part of publication known as "An Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the Town."
Also taken in Woborn during the same year, the image above shows two ladies awaiting their carriage on the front porch or "portico" of this beauty. While many think the age of McMansions started with us, you can see that the Victorians also appreciated a larger than average sized abode. The difference is back then, they just called them mansions. Notice how tiny the ladies look.
For more Victorians that aren't