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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Located on sleepy Main Street in Lancaster, Massachusetts, this cute mini-mansard building caught my eye immediately, and I had to take a picture! The building was constructed in 1836 for the Lancaster National Bank. The brick building was just one story with storefront windows and a central entrance, and was the only bank in the small town. When the neighboring town of Clinton saw a large increase in population due to industrial growth, the Lancaster National Bank decided to relocate to be closer to a larger clientele. They sold this building to the Town of Lancaster in 1882 and moved out. Within a year, the town added the mansard roof to the building, being careful to preserve the original cornice (now where the brick meets the roof), and converted the building to a fire station with double doors. The Central Fire Station was in operation here until 1967 when a new building was built nearby, with doors large enough to easily house modern engines. The building was then used as storage and offices for the Lancaster Water Department. Sadly, the replacement fire station doors really diminish the appeal of the building.
Main Street USA! I just love historic Main Streets and Downtowns in New England, so many are full of old buildings and were designed for pedestrians, not cars (though some towns and villages have definitely caved to the automobile). Erected in 1871, the Adams-Pickering Block building was one of several grand, mansard roofed commercial structures which local architect George W. Orff designed for Bangor’s business district in the 1870’s. With its first-story cast iron front and its granite facade, from stone quarried nearby in Hallowell, Maine, the Adams-Pickering Block and its similar contemporaries were the most sophisticated Victorian commercial buildings in Eastern Maine. The Bangor Fire of 1911 and subsequent urban change, especially urban renewal in 1968, destroyed most of the city’s nineteenth century business district. The Adams-Pickering Block is a rare survivor and shows us how old buildings at a human scale can create vibrant, people-centric places.
Located next to the famed Stephen King House in Bangor (last post), this stunning Second Empire house was purchased by Stephen and Tabitha King in 2004, creating a small historic house campus in one of the nicest neighborhoods of the city. The Brown Mansion was constructed in the early 1870s for Charles P. Brown, an attorney who became involved in land speculation in the west. During and immediately following the Civil War, Brown purchased large land holdings in the “western frontier” in Minnesota and farther west, and re-sold the land years later at a huge profit when development began. He was thought to be one of the richest men in Maine upon his death in 1892, but it was discovered that many land holdings possibly vanished (or he lied about having much more land to his family), leaving his executors of his will very upset. The man who was estimated of having a net-worth of over $1,000,000 in 1892 (more than $31,000,000 in dollars today), left just $16,000, split between his two daughters, leaving nothing to his sister, whom he had been living with for the final two years in his life.
Located a short walk from the Stephen King House in Bangor, this stunning Second Empire style house shines just as bright! This house was built in 1866 for Joseph C. White, a dry goods merchant in town. Just years after it was completed, he sold the mansion, possibly due to upkeep. The two-story mansard-roof house is clad in wood siding, scored to resemble stone rustication, a method to make the home appear more expensive. The corner entrance with later enclosed second-floor porch, massive brackets, and scrolled dormers add a lot of Victorian flair to the home. Would you move in here?
Built for an A. Veazie, this mini-mansard cottage stands out as the oldest home on Bar Harbor Maine’s beautiful West Street. The 1871 Second Empire style home was located elsewhere in the village, but moved to the current site in 1886 by new summer resident, William Sterling. The cottage was modified in 1916 by Maine Architect Fred Savage for William and his family. The stunning windows inset into the mansard roof are especially noteworthy.