Architecture in Historic Neighborhoods: Soulard’s Second French Empire Homes


Today, we wanted to continue our discussion about architecture in St. Louis’ historic neighborhoods with a brief look at Soulard. Settled in the 1800s and named after a Frenchman, it’s where you’ll find at least five architectural styles. Among them are Italianate, Victorian, Federal Transitional, Federal and Second French Empire. Because we’ve talked about some of these styles in previous postings, let’s focus on the latter, the Second French Empire:

Second French Empire homes in Soulard were inspired by French architects like Sir Francois Mansard. Mansard was born in the winter of 1598 to a family of carpenters, sculptors and stone masons. He went on to become a renowned, influential architect and died in 1666. By the 19th century, American architects in St. Louis were copying his style.

There are essentially two different ways his architectural élan was initially used throughout Soulard. For example, the large buildings’ brick and stone facades were generally more ornate than their smaller counterparts. In later years, some of the buildings were renovated and lost portions of their original ornamentation.

The list of adornments that were typically found in the majority of these Second French Empire homes included cupolas, elliptical dormers, columned window surrounds, baroque-style bracketing and iron crested rooflines. It was also normal to find homes with porticoes, balustrades, towers, quoins, double doors and columned porches.

But perhaps the most prominent, single, unifying element found in Second French Empire homes is the classic Mansard roof. These multi-slope, patterned, shingled roofs were smartly crafted to allow for the maximum use of garret space. As such, many of the large buildings’ upper stories featured nattily decorated, gabled windows to allow for the influx of natural light.

To learn more about Second French Empire homes and other architectural elements found in Soulard, please contact us today. We’d be delighted to show you some fine examples of Mansard style homes.