The Octagon form of architecture was conceived in 1848 in the prolific mind of Orson Squire Fowler, phrenologist and author of books on sex, family relations, and many other subjects. His book A Home for All, or, the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building struck the fancy of a certain few, and Octagon homes were built across the country, for just about a decade until they fell out of favor almost overnight. This home in West Gardiner, Maine, was built by Jesse Tucker in 1856 on land his father had cleared, replacing a more standard structure. The new octagon house was being constructed as a gift to Jesse’s soon-to-be wife, but tragically fell from the roof of the barn when building, and died. The home was completed, and it was seemingly acquired by Jesse’s twin brother David. The home remained in the Tucker family until the 1950s.
One of the more “Vermont” building types is the cattle barn. When I was driving through the charming town of Tunbridge, I saw a massive barn out of the corner of my eye and had to slam on the brakes to get out and take a photo of one of the most unique I have ever seen! This octagonal bam was built by Lester Whitney, a descendent of the Whitney family, which played a significant role in the pioneering, settlement and community life of the historical town of Tunbridge. The Whitney Farm was primarily a dairy farm, with the growing of corn and hay, raising horses, making butter, and cutting ice from a pond created by damming the brook near the old brickyard. The Whitney’s raised sheep, made maple syrup and had an apple orchard south of the house. The purpose of a round barn was that the circular shape has a greater volume-to-surface ratio than a square barn. Regardless of size, this made round barns cheaper to construct than similar-sized square or rectangular barns because they required less materials. It also would be easier for carriages, plows and animals to navigate as there were no sharp corners to go around.