Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cincinnati's 'other' High Style Architecture: Second Empire

The city of Cincinnati is known internationally among Victorian Architecture buffs for it's massive collection of Italianate Architecture. However Cincinnati is also home to an extensive collection of Second Empire architecture. This architectural style is known for its steeply sloping roof line and extensive embellishments is highly desirable . In Cincinnati this normally takes the "Townhouse" form with a front facade with mansard roof in either 2 or 3 story style although there are some 4 story versions. This style was strongly influenced by French architecture.


This example is probably one of the highest style Second Empires in the city. Located on Dayton Street this home features and elaborate bay and has some highly detailed cresting. Note the round windows on the projecting bay and the elaborate tin cresting around the windows. It should be noted that Cincinnati was home to several tin smith companies in the 1860-1890's who produced this elaborate cresting for home built here but also offered their wares in mail order form from a catalog. Architects could order this elaborate tin entablature and it would arrive via train to destinations far and wide such as St Louis and Toronto.



Cincinnati is also home to a rarer large front gable variant. This example is one of the most elaborate examples and may be the result of a later remodel when the Queen Anne and Tudor influence began to be felt. Once again we see elaborate tin work throughout the front facade roof line. Also note the elaborate bottom bracket and fancy wrought iron railing on thsi verion. Other rare elements include the arched windows on either side. This is a one of a kind, probably an architect designed gable but you do see simpler versions of this style with simple single or double windows. This varaint also appears, usually in brick commercial buildings as well and there are several great examples spread throughout the city.

You also see this style in double form as in this example and also in multi unit row house form. Often in double form these were often owned by members of the same family and sometimes had connecting interior doorways. This example not only has tin cresting over the windows but the roof is made of tin rather than the slate more commonly seen. The multi unit variants were often built as investment properties and in some instances may have commercial storefronts on the first floor with owner units above. This is a raised basement version and the servants quarters were often on the lower floor and deliveries were made at this level and the kitchens were on this lower level as well and the food was brought up by servants to the formal dining room located on the second floor.

Even cottages were found in the Second Empire style . In this example we see a number of cottages. This offers a good comparison to the more common Italianate two story we see in teh middle of the block. In some cities property was taxed based on the number of floors and the "mansard roof space" was considered 'attic' and not taxed at the higher rate. The entrances to these cottage versions are on the side and the "formal parlor" is in the center of the house with the 'everyday family parlor" located at the front of the house. Even in what may look like simple worker cottages, you often find high style woodwork, pocket doors and elaborate cast iron fireplaces.

Cincinnati is justifiably proud of its Italianate architecture in OTR but should be equally proud to be blessed with many examples of the even rarer Second Empire. More attention should be paid to the preservation and restoration of these rare homes.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I like those little Second Empire cottages. On random streets you find pockets of them like on Flora St in Fairview and Moline Ct. in Northside.