The 1970’s, while memorable in many different ways, was not a decade generally acknowledged to have produced a lot in the way of desirable residential design.  There was some, to be sure, but a lot of it was just unappealing.  One of the more popular architectural trends of the era was merely a revival of an older style.  The mansard roof, an integral attribute of the Second Empire style which enjoyed popularity from the 1850’s through the 1880’s, was revived in the 1960’s and its popularity continued into the 1970’s – history does indeed repeat itself.

The 20th century incarnation of the roof form, however, lacked the sophistication typical of the previous century.  The mansard’s revival was not only about style, but also about practicality; the form was popular for fast food restaurants as it allowed  necessary functions such as unsightly roof-top air-conditioning units to be hidden.  The roof form also found favor in apartment complexes as it could easily give what was essentially a flat-roofed building a little more personality.  The mansard look also was a favorite device to update commercial storefronts; central business districts across the nation still retain remnants of this fad.

Most mansard roofs of the 20th century were mere decorative appendages covered with shingles; the interior did not necessarily reflect the roof form as it had in the Victorian era.  Many single-family houses were newly constructed with mansardesque roofs during this revival; they were usually better-looking than those found on restaurants, storefronts or apartment complexes.

Following are two examples of 19th-century row houses which were “mansarded”… most likely in the 1970’s.  Thanks again to Chad in Philadelphia for finding these delicious examples and sharing them with us!


This “mansard” roof hovers half-way up the facade… there is a full story above it!   This corner house no doubt once looked much like its neighbors.  Note the variety of siding material – none of which is original:  metal wrapping the cornice, siding (aluminum? vinyl?) on the third story, faux shingles on the second story mansardesque appendage, and a brick veneer (over original brick) on the main level.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


A better view of the side.  Why is the corner of the third story picked out in red?  A boxy bay window covered in replacement siding now sports its own tiny bow window.  The faux shingles may be covering up 1970’s wood shakes.  Image courtesy Google Street View.


In yet another example of the era’s aesthetic sensibilities, three contiguous row houses have been shrouded in a two-story mansard appendage.  It must be rather depressing to look out of the small windows buried beneath it.  These houses likely once looked similar to the house on the right with the yellow cornice (which is also altered, but more conventionally).  Image courtesy Google Street View.


Full frontal! The basement level appears to have been clad in something resembling log siding, while the first story brick has been covered in plywood siding. Image courtesy Google Street View.


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