New England Architecture 101 – Victorian Homes

An introduction to one of New England’s classic house styles, the Victorian.

By Aimee Tucker

Aug 24 2023


The Second Empire Style Victorian Home

Photo Credit : Illustration by Rob Leanna

The Italianate Style Victorian Home

The Italianite Style Victorian Home
Photo Credit : Illustration by Rob Leanna

Channeling the romance of a rural Italian villa, the Italianate house leaves behind the rigid stuffiness of the past for a rambling and relaxed floor plan with the flair of a low-pitched roof, deep and decorative eaves, arched windows, and decorative cupolas for admiring the natural view.

Time Period: 1840–1885

Characteristics: Low-hipped roof, arched windows

Famous Example: Maine is home to two fine examples: Stephen King’s spooky Bangor residence and the house museum Victoria Mansion in Portland

Where to Find Italianate Homes: In established but still prosperous and growing cities along the northeast coast

• Exterior: Decorative belvederes (seen here), cupolas, or towers

• Windows: Tall and narrow, with rounded or arched tops

• Roof: A low-pitched design with deep overhanging eaves with highly decorative cornices and brackets

The Second Empire Style Victorian Home

The Second Empire Style Victorian Home
Photo Credit : Illustration by Rob Leanna

The Second Empire home is like a square Italianate that went to France and came back with a modern and stylish hat. The distinctive dual-pitched hipped roof, named for 17th-century architect François Mansart, was enjoying a revival during the reign of Napoleon III (France’s Second Empire), which then spread across the Atlantic.

Time Period: 1855–1885

Defining Characteristic: Mansard roof

Famous Example: Boston’s Old City Hall and Providence City Hall

Where to Find: Throughout the Northeast, as both residences and public buildings

• Paint: House and trim are two shades of the same color, with dark shutters

• Roof: A classic dual-pitched mansard roof

• Exterior: Decorative details including cornices under the eaves and quoins at the corners

Do you have a favorite New England home style? Let us know in the comments below!