Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

False front

False front

The vertical extension of the front of a building beyond the roofline creates the false front style.


Almost always used for commercial purposes, false front buildings gave an air of dignity to a quickly growing town by providing visual continuity along the street.
The style was popular in the West, after the California Gold Rush of 1849, as a way to make hastily built town buildings look more like the impressive commercial buildings of the East.

Rarely was the false front was used in residences.

False front buildings  in their ornamentationusually echoed the architectural styles of the day. Popular styles included Italianate and Jacobean. A bracketed cornice brand[ed] the building Italianate. Stepped or curvilinear fronts marked the Jacobean style, popular in the South.The semi-circular cornice provided space for a sign in a commercial building.
- "False Front, 1860-1905," pub. in The Old House Web  (online March 2019


Examples from Buffalo:

Examples outside of Buffalo:


Photos and their arrangement 2019  Chuck LaChiusa
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