While you can find octagonal structures worldwide, the term Octagon House usually refers specifically to the wave of eight-sided homes built in North America from the 1850s until the turn of the Century. This building fad can be traced to the influence of one man, amateur architect, Orson Fowler.

Fowler wasn’t the first to champion the style (after the White House fire of 1814, President Madison and his wife Dolly moved into the Colonel John Tayloe Octagon House ) but Fowler did much to popularize it.  In 1848, Fowler published The Octagon House: A House for All.  Fowler argued that a house whose plan was spherical in shape would be cheaper to construct than traditional models, would admit increased sunlight and would facilitate communication between rooms. His concept was an immediate success, leading to octagonal-shaped windmills, churches, school buildings, barns, carriage houses, and even chicken coops.

Fowler’s own five-story, 60-room Octagon in Fishkill, NY was considered a modern marvel, complete with a central furnace, ventilating tubes, speaking tubes, dumbwaiter, hot and cold water and an indoor water-flush toilet. Dubbed Fowler’s Folly, his home was condemned as a public health hazard and destroyed by dynamite in 1897.