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As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

Mansard Houses In Cambridge – The Second Empire Architectural Style

Mansard in the Agassiz Neighborhood of Cambridge MA

Mansard in the Agassiz Neighborhood of Cambridge

Mansard Victorians are a very popular house style with today’s real estate buyers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Single family mansards, large and small can be found in many Cambridge neighborhoods, and it is not uncommon to find condos in mansard rowhouses.

The Mansard Victorian House Style

The distinctive sweep of the mansard roof is the definitive feature of the Second Empire architectural style dating from 1855 to 1885.

The mansard is actually the facade of the top floor of the house and will have dormer windows.  The mansard roof was covered with slate shingles, often in attractive patterns, and in many cases the original slate shingles are still intact. 

Some Second Empire Victorians have cupolas, others have square or rectangular towers.  A prominent center gable interrupts the mansard roof line on some houses. Sometimes the mansard house will have a matching carriage house with mansard roof. Many Second Empire townhouses, rowhouses with mansard roofs, were built in cities between 1860 and 1880, and many can be seen around Cambridge.

Mansard in West Cambridge

Mansard in West Cambridge

Virginia and Lee McAlester, in their A Field Guide to American Houses, describe five styles of mansard roofs: straight, straight with a flare at the bottom, concave, convex, and s-curves.  Each style is represented in Cambridge’s large selection of mansards.

Mansards in Cambridge

Much of Cambridge’s development took place during the mansard’s heyday.  Some Cambridge neighborhoods, particularly Avon Hill, West Cambridge, and Mid-Cambridge are awash with mansard Victorians. There are plenty to be found in Cambridgeport and the Agassiz neighborhood too, and, in fact, most Cambridge neighborhoods have their share.  Mid-Cambridge has many mansard roofed townhouses lining the blocks.

Mansard Roof Detail in Cambridge MA

Mansard Roof Detail in Cambridge MA

The single family mansard has either two or three floors.  In each case the top floor is behind the mansard roof. Inside on the top  floor there will be a slight pitch to the walls, high ceilings, and deep windowsills.

Many of Cambridge’s Second Empire Victorians are in “unmuddled” condition, many with slate shingles still in place.  If the slate shingles cannot be salvaged there are good imitations available if the budget prevents replacement of the slate. Sometimes you’ll come across an  unfortunate example where the mansard has been covered with vinyl or other siding. One hopes that eventually a more preservation-minded owner will uncover the house and return it to its former glory.  Those aside, mansard gems line the streets of Cambridge.

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  1. Karen

    Not sure how I got here but I was interested in the mansard roof that has what looks like some sort of metal fence at the very top of the roof where the top meets the side of the mansard.
    We are having a hard time with melting snow at our house. Any advice?

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