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The Mansard Roof
French Second Empire Style
206 and 208 East Main
The name, Second Empire, referred to a style that developed during the "Second French Republic" (or "Empire" - the era following France's 1848 Revolution) and principally during the time of Emperor Napoleon III. The Emperor charged Baron Haussmann to transform Paris into "the world's city of high fashion." Attendees from around the globe at the Paris expositions (1855 and 1867) helped spread the popularity of the style beyond France.
Late 19th century Second Empire designs are common in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Second Empire was considered very modern and inspiring ... after all, it began in Paris. It became popular for remodeling older buildings as well as new construction and was adapted to a wide variety of projects: public buildings, commercial structures, museums, college buildings, hotels, and, of course, residences. This style was used for many public buildings in America during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877).
A main characteristic of Second Empire is the Mansard roof (double pitched hip roof). It is named for Parisian architect, Francois Mansard (1598-1666), noted for his introduction of a simplified Baroque style to France. He often used the roof style in his designs; the upper part usually intersects with a flat roof which extends over the middle of the building. One advantage of the "Mansard roof" was that it allowed for commodious upper-attic living space. Molded cornices above and below the lower roof slope and decorative brackets beneath eaves, balconies and bay windows also help to identify the Second Empire style.
There are a number of other identifying features which may or may not have been used, such as, roofing materials with decorative patterns of color and textures; iron cresting above the upper cornice; arched windows; small entry porch with paired columns; paired entry doors, sometimes with glass in top half; one or two-story bay windows; one-story porch; rectangular or square tower which could be of equal height or higher of the top most floor, typically with a mansard roof and small dormer window in each side.
The French Empire style is manifest in this 1870s building at 206 and 208 East Main Street. A mansard roof pierced with six windows shields the third floor. The windows are slightly arched, have heavy caps supported by consoles, and are surmounted by an inconspicuous cornice. The upper slope of the roof is not visible from the street, although a fractable wall appears at the east extremity. A pair of slender chimneys rises from a middle wall marked by another fractable. A second pair of similar chimneys rises from the west wall. Below the mansard a very massive and heavily bracketed cornice extends the width of the building, punctuated by seven unusually large brackets which extend down between the windows of the second floor. Below the cornice are six tall windows with half-round tops and heavy extended caps with keystone-like ornaments in the centers of the arches. Panes in the windows of both the second and third floors are two over two. Those on the second floor are much longer. The cornice between the first and second floor is original and in stone. Iron pilasters at the extremities and again in the middle of the facade are integrated with the first floor cornice.
Ascher Hoffstadt owned the property between 1863 and 1881. He lived in the building where he operated a dry goods store. Albert Bach acquired the property in 1891, had a dry goods store at the street level, and lived above the store. From 1930 to 1960 Peggy's Dress Shop occupied 208.
There are two commercial buildings in Madison of the French Second Empire style with the Mansard roofs. This property and the Masonic building both by the same builder.
The property is now owned by Jeffery and Mary Jane Burleson. They have plans to bring this building back as much as practicable to its original design. The original ten foot tall doors have been located and will be reinstalled with a complete reproduction of the original facade using native poplar lumber; and an automatic handicapped accessible door opener will be installed on the old doors.