A Home for All – A New, Cheap, Convenient & Superior Mode of Building – That’s the way Orson Squire Fowler described his architectural invention in 1848. Fowler had designed the octagon house- an eight sided home that he claimed used space more efficiently by eliminating the need for hallways. The octagon minimized surface area which helped prevent heat from escaping in the winter or being absorbed in the summer. Octagon houses let in more light by eliminating dark corners, and enclosed more living space than a square plan with the same perimeter. It was also cheaper to build because builders could get away with using shorter lumber. And the triangular spaces created where the square rooms met could serve as closets, an innovative idea since most houses of the day did not offer this storage convenience.
Fowler’s design became an instant sensation, and octagon houses sprung up all across New England, New York, and on out to Wisconsin and Minnesota. They were popular for about a decade, but the fad passed with the coming of the Civil War. Octagon houses continued to be built, although in lesser numbers, throughout the rest of the 19th-century. At least 3000 were known to have been built. Several hundred of them are still be standing. The Octagon House Inventory is compiling a list of all the octagon houses in the U.S. and Canada. If you know of an Octagon House that isn’t listed there, email them so they can add it to the list.
Octagon houses ranged from incredibly ornate and elaborate multi-story creations to simpler single floor structures. The house on the left is the 1860 Armour-Stiner House in Irvington, NY. The center photo, halfway between grand and modest, is the 15 bedroom, 1 bath Octagon House from Watertown Wisconsin. On the right is Bob Horn’s house in Eyota, Minnesota. It was built in 1865, has been in Horn’s family since 1908, and is currently for sale for $64,900.
If you’re interested in buying a fancier octagon, the Pendleton-Alexander House in Marshall, Michigan is for sale at $225,000. Built in 1856 by Increase Pendleton, the stucco-faced house is 2 stories plus a cupola, and features 6 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 parlors, a smoking room/den, servant quarters/apartment, and 2 fireplaces. It sits on a corner lot just one block off of the historic Marshall downtown. It will require some rehab work. For more details, contact the owner Jeremy Adcock at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Maybe you’d just like to build your own octagon house. In 2006, one family in Ames, Iowa decided to do just that. Check out their very detailed, very thorough day-by-day construction diary and photo gallery recorded as they built their dream octagon house- the Octabode.