Even after 150 years, the octagon floor plan remains an architectural curiosity. The original architect, John Richards, first designed the octagon house just before the Civil War. He was competing with fellow landowners and city leaders or was simply trying to impress Eliza Forbes, his heiress wife. The impressive structure that he has left still attracts fascinated visitors to the elegant eight-sided mansion in Watertown, Wisconsin every day.
The original floor plan of the octagonal house, built in 1854, is a fantastic 5 story brick building with 57 rooms. It also contains precursors of modern conveniences such as running water, central heating and ventilation systems. A cantilevered 40-foot high staircase also adorns the interior. The story behind the octagon house was that one. Richards made a promise to his wife, Eliza, to build him the most beautiful house in the Midwest.
John Richards was most likely influenced by his fellow designer, Orson Fowler, who was one of the leading spokespersons for the construction of eight-sided houses. At that time, the octagonal house was presented as an effective aesthetic, economic and aesthetic design that dates back to ancient Roman architects.
Between 1844 and 1905, there were at least 36 houses built from the octagon floor plan. All these houses were located in Wisconsin. Octagonal houses continued to be built during the Civil War. After this period, most of the octagonal houses were demolished or remodeled until they had lost their original form.
The Octagonal House of John Richards was donated to the Watertown Historical Society in 1938. The house was almost in perfect condition and maintained without electricity, modern plumbing and telephone – just as Mr. Richards and his wife lived there in the 1850s.
The Octagon House tours can be done daily from May to October and the directional signs are posted across Watertown. Summer hours are 10 am to 4 pm and 11 am to 3 pm after Labor Day. The entrance is $ 7 for adults; $ 6 for AAA members; $ 6 for children 6 to 12 years old and children under 6 years old are free.