The OCTAGON HOUSE
was built in 1847-1848 by the housewright John Vinal for the master of the
New Bedford whaler Mercury, Captain Fordyce Dennis Haskell and his wife
Sylvia. Bays, other additions and architectural embellishments were added
in the 1860s by whale oil merchant John Hastings.
Now considered a curiosity of American
architectural history, the brief craze for the "Octagon Mode"
was inspired by Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist, publisher, pop-psychologist, and all-round Victorian eccentric. Fowler lectured
widely on a variety of topics, vigorously promoting his book of octagon
plans which went through nine editions between 1848 and 1860. Octagonal
houses were touted as superior in economy of construction, efficiency of
space use and ventilation, as well as supposedly enhancing health,
happiness and sexual harmony.
A century later, the house had fallen
into a sorry state of disrepair. The previous owner undertook extensive,
painstaking restoration in the 1980s, which we are continuing. We invite
you to enjoy with us the many original details of this unusual
architectural treasure - the marble fireplaces, Staffordshire tile
hearths, oak parquet floors, carved papyrus leaf door casings, spiral
staircase, the marble-floored conservatory dating from the l860s
renovation, and the recreated old-fashioned city garden.