Octagon Architecture

Octagon house plans.
The Longwood, Octagon style: Natchez, Mississippi

The octagon style homes are by far the easiest style of architecture to recognize. As hinted in its name "Octagon", the exterior is formed by an eight-sided shape of walls. Some examples have shown as little as six exterior walls up to sixteen-sided walls. Even more, there have been examples of "round" octagon houses. This style is rare with very few being built during the time of 1850-1870. Most were built in the North east and Midwest part of the country with a limited amount showing up in the south.

A man by the name of Orson S. Fowler was a champion of Octagon home designs. He published a book in favor of this style entitled, "The Octagon House, a home for all" in 1849. He argued that the octagon shape housed more square feet per linear foot of exterior wall compared to the traditional rectangle or square. With this, Fowler explained that this reduces building cost as well as heating loss through the walls. Another argument made by Fowler was that the octagon house floor plan was far better than traditional designs in that it provided more sunlight, better ventilation, and also eliminate wasted square footage.

While the above mentioned may prove to be good points, critics argue that the interior space wasn't taken into account. Because of the angles of the exterior walls, interiors rooms did not benefit as described. Most rooms had only single wall exposure and ventilation was intercepted by spaces such as closets. This could account for the low number or less than stellar success of the Octagon house plan.

So how will you recognize Octagon house plans? Well, obviously the exterior eight-sided wall is a dead give-away. Majority are of two story design with a low pitched roof and wide eave overhangs. Eave brackets are a common feature with additional elements from romantic architecture Greek Revival, Gothic Revival style and Italianate architecture. In addition, 50% or more includes cupalos and nearly all examples include porches.