Properties: 320, 326 Ottawa St., Lansing

Owner: Dave Anderson and Cathy Stull
Assessed: 320, $62,900; 326, $138,500
Owner says: “They were the last two row houses left”

Architecture critic Amanda Harrell-Seyburn says: In the shadow of the Capitol stand the treasured Emery Houses whose architecture is evocative of Lansing's Victorian era. The stately brick buildings retain their 19th-century charm and feature architectural elements characteristic of the French Second Empire style, including bracketed eaves, high foundations and the classic mansard roof.

These two gems were built and owned by Wesley Emery, a Civil War veteran, and his wife, Sarah, the author of the political tome “Seven Financial Conspiracies Which Have Enslaved the American People.”

Owner Dave Anderson said he and his wife, Cathy Stull, snatched up 320 Ottawa in 1985, then five years later bought 326, which are the last two remaining 19th-century row houses surrounding the Capitol after it was expanded during the George Romney administration.

Stull and Anderson had a great interest in the houses, and did extensive work to preserve them, including renovation of interior floors and woodwork. They used old photos (320 was built in 1878) to retain the original character of the front porches. Both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

A lesson on Second Empire style architecture by Harrell-Seyburn:

It may be difficult for our modern sensibilities to be believe that at the time the Emery Houses were built in the late 1800s, they were considered very modern. The Second Empire style was all the rage during the mid-1800s and considered progressive with their trendy Mansard-style roofs in contrast to the austere and simplistic Greek Revival style.

The Second Empire Style is one of many  popularized during the Victorian Era in the mid to later 19th century. Second Empire has distinct characteristics over Victorian architectural styles. Lansing is fortunate to have a variety of houses of this style. Use the following guidelines to identify Second Empire style buildings on your next self-guided architectural tour.

It may be a Second Empire if it has at least a couple of the following characteristics:

1. Mansard roof
    - The high, boxy, double-sloped roof is the easiest feature of the Second Empire to identify.
    - The Mansard roof is often covered in patterned slate.

2. Brackets
    - These are often located beneath the eaves and bay windows. Second Empire style features a short eave. If the eave is deep it likely Italianate rather than Second Empire.

3. High foundation

4. Rounded cornices located at the top and base of the mansard roof.

5. Projecting dormers
    - Windows projecting from the roof.

6. Cupola
    - If the building has a cupola but does not have a mansard roof, then it is likely Italianate rather than Second Empire.

As with all architectural styles, variations are common, particularly in the U.S. where innovative builders developed significant modifications and adaptations of the Second

“Eye candy of the Week" is our weekly look at some of the nicer properties in Lansing. It rotates each with Eyesore of the Week. If you have a suggestion, please e-mail or call Neal McNamara at 371-5600 ex. 17.