The following article was published in our periodic newsletters. The Friends of Roselawn Centre Newsletter is one of many benefits of our membership.
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At Last!

Autumn 2017 Newsletter

 As we begin the long-awaited restoration of our “Second Empire” mansion, it seems appropriate to look at the architectural features of the building which has been an elegant landmark since the 1860s. Our Roselawn!

The term “Second Empire” actually refers to a period in French history. The first empire of Napoleon Bonaparte had collapsed in 1815 and the monarchy was restored until a coup d’etat in 1852 placed Napoleon’s nephew, Louis, in power as Napoleon III. This Second Empire was a glittering and licentious time!

Emperor Louis Napoleon III undertook an ambitious reconstruction of Paris. Thousands of workers tore down hundreds of old buildings and displaced people were moved to the outskirts to make way for grand boulevards, squares and gardens. Buildings along the new avenues, wellknown to tourists of today, were required to be
the same height and style and were faced with cream-coloured stone.

The Second Empire style quickly spread throughout Europe and soon crossed the Atlantic. At its peak of popularity in North America (roughly 1855 – 1885 ) the style was considered both fashionable and a contemporary statement of modernity. Often used in public buildings, it was meant to exude character and a sense of permanence. Residences designed in this style were therefore generally large and built for the affluent homeowner.

What are the defining elements of Second Empire architecture?

One constant of the style is the mansard roof, named (with a slight spelling change) for the 17th Century architect, Francois Mansart (1598 – 1623) who made extensive use of the style in buildings such as the Louvre. This type of roof has a steep pitch on four sides and is punctuated with dormer windows thus creating more habitable space on the inside. The style was revived during the Second Empire and found new life by creating the fashionable garrets beloved by painters, poets and romantics. Towers, round-topped windows and bays are common.

Similarities between Second Empire and Italianate architecture are found in their overhanging eaves with decorative brackets Entrances are typically elevated above grade with several steps up to double or extra wide doors. Porches are small. Ours is missing – but old pictures show the original with substantial wooden posts and decorative molding under the eaves.

Other features of the style at Roselawn include the beautiful ornate plaster work in the double parlour, the etched glass in the main entrance door, and the marble around the fireplace which was brought from Italy by L.G. Carter on one of his business trips. The buff colour of the brick is typical of the style but unusual for Port Colborne.

In short, our Roselawn is an architectural and historic treasure here in Port Colborne and well worth all the time and effort spent to fund its restoration!