Octagonal-shaped houses had their heyday for one decade just before the Civil War, and many examples survive in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York as well as in a few other states.
Why an octagon?
A self-styled architect and builder of the day, Orson Fowler, wrote a book in 1853 called "A Home for All," in which he theorized on solar energy and argued that a house should be heated through many windows in walls that always receive the rays of the sun. Further, he said, a house can be easily cooled by allowing the heated air to escape near the roof as the fresh breeze sweeps into the house through the windows.
The book launched an octagonal craze, even though a few eight-sided buildings had been built many years before. Many people began to build homes, barns, churches and schools according to the suggestions of Orson Fowler.
The fad lasted less than 10 years; the money panic of 1857 brought a halt to numerous builders' dreams and resources. Some octagons continued to be built, however. The structures that still are standing today can, for the most part, be considered relics of that time.
In 1973, Folwer's book was republished by Dover Publications Inc. of New York.
Ohio alone has 20 octagon buildings, five of them in Ashtabula County, in northeast corner of the state.
Conneaut, Ohio, a city of 15,000, boasts of two such houses, plus an octagonal barn. The Cummins Cannery built the first octagon in 1863, 10 years after the Fowler book, and the building had many owners over the years. At one time it housed a bicycle repair business, and another time it was a two-family dwelling.
In 1955, Mr. and Mrs. Carmen Zeppettella bought the big house and began to modernize the interior. The result is a 15-room house designed for contemporary living even while retaining the flavor of its historic past.
A third generation of the W.C. Kaiser family still occupies a 10-room, red-brick octagon in Conneaut that was built in 1860.
The octagon barns were built on the Lue B. Turner farm in Conneaut in the 1870s, While only one remains today, it is a splendid example of the barns of yesteryear.