Appreciating the Details of a Second Empire Building

The Second Empire style, with its dormered mansard roofs, was very popular in Pittsburgh—so much so that we walk by most examples without noticing them. Here’s a quite ordinary building in the back streets of the South Side, but it rewards a closer look at some of the details. Above, one of the lintels over the windows, which all have simple but effective carved decorations.

This roof has so far kept its original shingles, decoratively varied with four rows of a different shape across the middle.

One of the windows on the ground floor. Notice that its lintel decoration is different from the one above.

These star bolts are decorative, too—but they’re not mere decorations. Star bolts like these, which you see in old houses all over the city, are the decorative ends of long bolts that literally hold the building together. They are often installed to stabilize a wall that has begun to sag.

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