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Architecture/Detecting Mansard Renovation


Referring to an old (1870s), small and modest "second empire" house in the Midwest, are there signs to look for to determine whether it was built to that style or whether an earlier house may have been modified in order to reflect that style?  Unfortunately, the house in question was "renovated" years ago so I realize any suggestions may no longer apply.  Thanks.


If the house was actually constructed in the 1870s, then it is possible, even likely, that it was originally built in the second empire style.  If it was constructed pre-1860 or so, then second empire features were likely added later.  One way to tell is to go into the attic.  An earlier sloping roof that has been replaced by a mansard roof will have signs of construction changes: cut-off rafters, mansard framing scabbed onto older wood of a different appearance and thickness, etc.  But evidence of some changes (such as different windows) may be so obscured by later finishes that they can't be verified without tearing off siding, plaster, etc.

Records of construction (either stored in the house or at the municipal offices), which can offer some historical insight, are probably not available.

Bets of luck, I hope this helps.  Do you have any pictures of the house that you can upload?

Steve Major  


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Stephen Major


I can answer questions in the following categories: architectural design, architectural woodwork, structural design, building construction, kitchen and bath design. PLEASE indicate your state or region, so I can provide the best possible answer. PLEASE provide photos whenever possible.


30 years in the building design and construction field, with emphasis on residential and light commercial projects. This includes over 10 years performing property condition assessments on commercial and industrial properties.

Author of "Architectural Woodwork - Details for Construction" published by Van Nostrand Reinhold (now Wiley).

BS Cornell University.

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