The Second Empire style is notable in that it is not inspired by looking back at historical examples, but instead draws on contemporary French designs of the time. It was common for existing homes to be remodeled in this fashionable style – and often easily accomplished as the forms of Greek Revival and Italianate homes we frequently rectangular or L-shaped.
The Second Empire style is easily spotted by its trademark mansard roof and often adorned with decorative roof materials such as slate in varying colors and patterns. These roofs are often pierced by dormers of varying shapes. Decorative brackets sit beneath the eaves and cornices adorn the tops of the windows. The plan is most often square or rectangular, but sometimes L-shaped.
In the Christian Hill neighborhood there are two extant examples of the Second Empire style, most notable the Charles Smith House at 108 Vernon Street (ca. 1866). A unique and interesting example also survives at 26 Beech Street, believed to be the outbuilding of a larger estate.
108 Vernon Street – The Charles L. Smith House
Charles L. Smith bought 7/8th of an acre of land from Joseph Day, Lyman Smith and Joel M. Baker in 1861, and built his Italianate-Second Empire style house around 1862. Originally, this lot was encircled by Vernon, Maple, Beech & Day Streets. The house was probably built by Tyler Thayer. Photographs of Christian Hill taken in the late 1800s show there were several homes in the neighborhood built in the Second Empire style. Today the Charles Smith house is the only one still standing.
Elements of the Charles Smith Second Empire/Italianate style house:
- Curved dormers
- Mansard roof
- 3 bay x 3 bay plan
- Brackets at eaves
- Double door entry
- Porch details similar to 4 Bullard
- Door and flanking windows – Greek Revival
- Chamfered porch columns
- Turned balusters
- 2/2 windows
Charles Lyman Smith was born 1833 In South Dedham. He was the son of Lyman Smith and Melinda Guild. He followed his father into the family tanning business, which was located on Railroad Avenue. When his father retired, he and his brother, John continued to run the company. Smith worked on the tannery floor as their production manager, while his brother was the office manager. In 1901, the Lyman Smith’s Sons Tannery merged with the Winslow Bros. tannery, and Charles and John retired. In July of 1855, Smith married Hannah Elizabeth Keyes (1839-1904) in Dedham. She was the daughter of Ezra Keyes and Elizabeth Colburn. Charles and Hannah had three children, Melinda A (1858-1858), Lyman W (1859-???) and Florence D (1864-????). In 1897, Charles and Hannah sold the home at 108 Vernon Street and moved into Boston. In 1900 they were living with their daughter, Florence (Smith) Reynolds and her family. Hannah died in 1907 and Charles moved to Florida, and married a second time in 1909 to Eveline Sarah Lamson (1855-1925). She was the daughter of Sylvester Lamson and Sarah Dennis. Charles died in 1913 in Washington DC. He is buried in the family plot in Highland Cemetery.
In 1897, Frederick S and Estelle Baston bought the Smith house on Vernon Street. Frederick Sherborne Baston (1856-1940) married in 1884 to Estelle Frances Howes (1862-1933). Together they had four children: Avis (1885-????), Henry Lombard (1887-???), Doris (1889-1974) and Frederick Sherborne (1893-1964). Frederick was a dentist and had an office in his house on Vernon Street. After the death of Estelle, Fred sold the property to all four of his children.
In the 1950 census Eugene & Mary Connors were living in the house.
26 Beech Street – The John E. Smith Out-Building
This is an out building from the original estate of John E. Smith built in Second Empire style about 1870. It would have matched the main house and stables that were one this sprawling estate. In December of 1876 Smith bought 6 acres encircled by Winter, Day and Fern (Beech?) Streets from George B. Talbot for $6,000. (Dr. I T Talbot bought 2 acres of this property in 1870 from Smith’s father-in-law Alanson Turner). There were buildings on the property at the time Smith bought it. The buildings may have been the estate of Dr. Israel Tisdale Talbot (George’s brother). The estate was torn down in the mid-1920s to accommodate the extension of Beech Street.
Elements of the John Smith Second Empire Outbuilding:
- Portico – brackets and roof (Italianate)
- Mansard roof
- Entry door – pediment (Colonial)
- Window cornices (Italianate)
- Brackets at eaves
- Details around dormers
- Scale and proportion
- Has doubled in size since 1990
John Everett Smith was born 1830 in South Dedham, the son of Lyman Smith and Melinda E. Guild. He married in December of 1857 to Rosa H. Turner (1835-19??) in South Dedham. She was the daughter of Alanson Turner and Emeline Galpin. John and Rose did not have any children. When John came of age, he went to work for his father’s tanning business Lyman Smith & Sons, which was established in 1853 on Railroad Avenue. He worked the office and met with clients, while his brother Charles worked the floor of the tannery. When Lyman Smith retired, his sons took over the company and when Lyman died the company was remained Lyman Smith’s Sons. In 1901 the Smith tannery re-joined the Winslow tannery and John retired.
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