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What is the Mansard Roof?

A defining feature of the Second Empire style, the mansard roof allows a full floor of living space above the cornice line of a building without increasing the technical number of stories in the structure.

For a time in the middle of the 19th century, what set the pace of architectural taste for well-heeled Americans was not some ideal of the ancient past but all things in vogue during the regime of Louis Napoleon (1852-1870), or the era called the French Second Empire. Even after the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1871, Second Empire-style buildings continued to ride high on a tide of huge, newly minted, post-Civil War fortunes that were amply equipped to handle these extravagantly decorative houses. The Second Empire style, with its ubiquitous mansard roofs and heavy ornament, remained the first choice of wealthy homebuilders and their architects because it was, in their eyes, not only thoroughly “modern,” but also fashionably flashy in what was a very flashy era indeed.