Second Empire is the first of the Victorian styles that would prevail in American domestic architecture for much of the later part of the 19th century as industrialization and the growth of the railroads would dramatically change home design and production. During this period, balloon-frame construction would replace the use of heavy timbers in home construction and new industrialized processes that could produce doors, windows, roofing, siding and other house elements could be transported faster to construction sites than ever before. Second Empire homes became popular throughout most of the eastern and midwestern United States and were often considered a “modern” alternative to the picturesque styles given its association with the institutional and residential architecture of France’s Napoleon III. The style’s most distinctive feature is its curved mansard roof with pedimented dormers.
In addition, Second Empire homes were often rectangular or asymmetrical in building form, constructed usually in masonry and often incorporating a central tower topped with a mansard roof. Other features often copy elements from the Italianate style, including double-hung windows, window hoods, decorative cornice line brackets, and partial, full width or wrap-around porches. The only example of the Second Empire style in River Forest, Illinois is the Solomon Thatcher Jr. House.
Photo captured August 30, 2014.
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