Second Empire Vaile Mansion

Second Empire style Vaile Mansion in Independence, MO. Photo courtesy of Missouri Life Magazine.

The defining feature of the Second Empire style is the Mansard roof, first used for an addition to the palace at the Louvre in Paris c. 1550. Urban legend claims the roof was designed to avoid taxes on an additional story of living space. The King of France didn’t pay taxes. It became especially fashionable during the Second French Empire (1852–1870) of Napoléon III, which corresponded with the middle Victorian era in the English-speaking world.

Typically called a French roof in the U.S. during the 19th century, it was popular during a period when all things French (including the language) were “en vogue” for fashionable middle- and upper-class Americans. Second Empire buildings are essentially Italianate in style from the eave line down, but their roof gives them a different identity.

This beautiful 1881 example of the Second Empire style is located in Missouri and is operated as a museum house. It is open and decorated for Christmas this time of year. vailemansion.org/

Second Empire is one of 25 styles described and illustrated in Chapter 2 of “Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners.”

Signed and personalized copies of the award-winning and bestselling 720-page hardcover book are available directly from the author in our shop, YourHistoricHouse.com/shop/. It is the perfect holiday gift for the old house lover on your list!

Our shop also carries select preservation and restoration titles by other authors. Save on cost and shipping with our multi-book combo packs!

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