Francis Carpenter House // c.1857

I love a good Second Empire style house with a mansard roof, and luckily, New England is full of amazing examples. This house in Providence’s College Hill neighborhood dates to about 1857 and appears to have been built for Francis W. Carpenter, a successful businessman who would later serve as President of the Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792. Carpenter did very well for himself and would later move out of this house and into a stunning Beaux Arts mansion further up the street (featured previously), designed by the premier architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings. The house is today owned by RISD, and appears to be used for residences.

Butler Exchange // 1871-1925

This magnificent structure formerly in Downtown Providence would likely still exist today had a devastating fire not destroyed it in 1925. When construction on the Butler Exchange began 1871, the area we know today as Downtown was only a cluster of small wooden and brick residences with commercial operations on the ground floors; the key retail shopping districts were across the river around where Brown University is today. The first major commercial development in modern-day Downtown was the Providence Arcade (featured previously), built in 1828, by Cyrus Butler. The Arcade languished in tenants and shoppers earning it the name, “Butler’s Folly”. A half-century later, a new Butler project was about to take off. Cyrus’ heirs built the Butler Exchange, which upon completion in 1873, was the largest building in Providence and its splendid French-inspired two-story mansard roof was a nice pairing with the City Hall being built nearby. The Butler Exchange saw commercial use, offices, and a school before a fire destroyed much of the building, leading to its demolition. The building was later replaced by the Industrial National Bank Building aka the “Superman Building”.

Image Courtesy of Providence Public Library collections.

Owen Building // 1866

The Owen Building sits on the edge of Downtown Providence, near the Providence River which divides College Hill from Downtown. This mansard roofed commercial building is one of the finest in the city and was designed by architect Alfred Stone for George and Smith Owen (G. & S. Owen), whose sons operated a wholesale yarn business on the premises. In 1877 Stone, as Stone & Carpenter, returned to remodel the building, seemingly adding the mansard roof and much decorative trim on the new north facade. The building retains its cast-iron storefront and prominent siting as a lasting example of 19th century architectural heritage.

Susanna Cary Rental Property // c.1884

Isaac Harris Cary’s land holdings adjacent to Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, saw a surge in value when the cemetery and Forest Hills Station were constructed, opening up the area for development. After Isaac’s death in 1881, his unmarried daughter Susanna, built this large Second Empire style building contributes to the varied 19th century architecture of the street. This double-house was constructed around 1884, seemingly as a rental property which provided Susanna income while residing nearby. The two units suffer from some deferred maintenance, but are excellent examples of the Second Empire style in a double-house form.

Isaac Cary House // c.1870

Isaac Harris Cary (1803-1881) was born in Charlestown, MA to an established, old New England family. He eventually settled in West Roxbury, an area that is now known as Jamaica Plain, where he operated a tannery along a branch of Stony Brook, a tributary of the Charles River. Isaac built this home and a couple income-producing rental properties on a hill adjacent to the newly established Forest Hills Cemetery. The Second Empire style home today features bright colors and a modern recessed window set into the mansard roof, likely providing views to Boston’s skyline.

Boothby House // 1870

The Second Empire style did not take off in Maine as it did in other parts of New England (and the U.S. for that matter), so it’s always a treat to spot one driving the backroads of the Pine Tree State! This house in Denmark, Maine, was built around 1870 for E. A. Boothby, who worked as Assistant Engineer of the Maine Central Railroad. The Second Empire style is evident here from the mansard (French style) roof, bracketed eaves, and a hooded double-door entry.

The Villa – Sigourney House // 1864

Margaret Barker Sigourney was the wife of Boston lawyer Henry Sigourney (1783–1849). In 1864, just as the Civil War was coming to a close, Sigourney purchased a piece of land on Bellevue Avenue in Newport soon after the time that Newport had been rediscovered as a tourist destination for the elite class. Sigourney wanted to make a splash as a single woman summering in Newport, so she hired local architect George Champlin Mason to design her cottage in the fashionable Second Empire style. The refined facade is more academic, while the rear and side facades exhibit porches with delicate bargeboards and trim. Sigourney spent summers at her cottage with her only son until 1873 when he and his family perished and were lost at sea aboard the Ville du Havre, when it collided in the Atlantic with another ship, killing a total of 226 aboard the ships, many of which drowned and their bodies never recovered. Alone, Margaret Sigourney continued to spend her summers in Newport until her own death in 1885.

Valley House // 1868

This massive Second Empire structure on Main Street in Collinsville, CT, was built in 1868 by the Collins Company, the major industry in town as housing and stores. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, large industrial employers often provided affordable housing for workers in close proximity to factories to incentivize the long days and difficult working conditions. The Valley House was known as a hotel, but was essentially an apartment hotel, where workers and visitors could reside in a room without a set lease or contract. At the ground floor, retail shops would provide goods and services to residents of the building and the greater village. Today, the rooms have been converted to condominiums.

Polk-Haury House // c.1865

Collinsville, a village in Canton, Connecticut, sits along the Farmington River and is one of the most charming New England villages I’ve been to. The village sprung up around the Collins Axe Company, a manufacturer of edge tools, such as axes, machetes, picks and knives. With the company’s growth (more history on the company in a later post), immigrants moved to the town, and lived in workers cottages built by the factory owners. Churches, stores, schools, and parks came soon after, creating the dynamic village we see today. Nathan L. Polk moved to the village and built this charming Second Empire style cottage, walking distance to his apothecary shop. By 1872, Nathan died and the house was sold to Ulrich Haury. Haury was born and raised in Germany and settled in Collinsville by 1862, working at the Collins Axe Company. From his earnings, he opened up a grocery in the village, spending his earnings bringing his family for vacations to his homeland in Germany. The home remains in excellent condition.

North Village Fire Station // 1888

After sharing the old Central Fire Station building in Lancaster (last post), I couldn’t help myself but to share another mini-mansard fire station constructed in town! Located in North Village, this station was built in 1888, and provided fire service to the more rural part of town. The wood-frame structure features a central tower which may have been used originally as a hose-drying tower. In the 1940s, the building was occupied by volunteers of the Ground Observer Corps, an American civil defense organization. The building’s tower provided unobstructed views of airspace where one could keep their eyes open for invading German aircraft. After the War, the Town of Lancaster sold the building, which then converted to a private residence. Sadly, a fire in 2015, damaged much of the interior of the building, but she survives!