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The octagon home was the brainchild of Orson Squire Fowler, who along with his brother, was better known as a phrenologist.
The amateur architect published a book, The Octagon House: A Home for All in 1848 that was quite popular in the mid 19th century. In it, he points out that octagons provide more interior space while using less land than rectangular designs. He also claimed that because octagons provide more square footage with less surface area, they were cheaper to heat and cool.
He promoted the use of central heating with a heat source in the basement, with ductwork concealed in thick walls. He proposed central cooling using ventilation through a cupola. He advocated a flat roof to facilitate collection of rainwater with collection cisterns for water, along with a network of speaking tubes and pipes in the walls.
Fowler's own ocatgon mansion was begun in 1848, in Fishkill, New York, It was locally derided and became known as "Fowler's Folly." He was forced to rent the home out during a financial crisis, and the home went through a series of owners. It fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1897.
It is estimated that well over 2,000 octagon homes remain in the United States, including small and simple structures to large and ornate mansions.
Goshen Police Booth
(Elkhart County, Indiana)Police booth for catching bank robbers on the Lincoln Highway
Hiram Smith House
(Winnebago County, Wisconsin)Brick Octagon House Now Owned by Neenah Historical Society
(Hyde County, North Carolina)
John S. Moffat House
(St. Croix County, Wisconsin)Gorgeous Victorian home built in the octagon mode, open to the public as a museum.
(Dubuque County, Iowa)Brick home built in Orson Fowler's octagon style
(Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin)Octagon House that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Palmer Brother's Octagons
(La Crosse County, Wisconsin)Two octagon houses located in West Salem, one serving as the visitor center.
(Washington County, Wisconsin)Octogonal ballroom from the big band era, built out in the country but surrounded by Hartford over the decades
Thomas Barnes House
(Allamakee County, Iowa)Stone octagon home built by Dr. Thomas Henry Barnes after returning from the Civil War