The Daily Heller: An Octagonal Dream House

Posted inThe Daily Heller

I love recommending visits to eclectic places and spaces—and there are so many awesome examples, just in New York state alone—that I’ve visited. I am loathe, however, to recommend a locale I have not experienced myself. But I’m breaking this covenant. Today, I urge you to visit the Armour-Stiner Octagon House in Irvington, NY. I have not yet made the trip but a trusted day-tripper friend went there last week and was smitten by its magical presence and classic Victorian design.

Created as a whimsical summer retreat in 1872 by tea importer Joseph Stiner … the shape was based on the theories of Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist, who believed octagonal houses enclosed more space, allowed the sun in at all times, and permitted more views onto the landscape.

From the official description

The house was restored from ruin to a living embodiment of one of the most ornamental periods in American design history—the Gilded Age.

Here’s more, from the official Armour-Stiner website:

“In 19th century America, octagonal houses were a popular genre of building following the publication of a book, The Octagon House: A Home for All, by Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist, sexologist and amateur architect. In 1872, a simpler house was purchased by Joseph Stiner, a prominent New York City tea merchant. His alterations created the present structure. With plans to use the house as a summer retreat, Stiner added the dome and the verandah to create a classical, elaborately detailed ancient temple whimsically colored, detailed and decorated.

“In 1976 the house was acquired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In need of conservation, it was the first house to be acquired by the National Trust. In 1978, it was sold to Joseph Pell Lombardi, a preservation architect specializing in conservation, restoration and historic preservation. Under the direction of Lombardi’s son, Michael Hall Lombardi has managed, researched and performed restoration work throughout the house, including the Egyptian Revival Room, basement, kitchen, greenhouse and studio, and much of the decorative surfaces.

“Armour-Stiner Octagon House offers a variety of limited-time seasonal tours as well as its classic tour. Reservations for one-hour guided tours can be made online during the months of April through December. Exclusive private tours are available upon request and create a magical experience for a group to share and talk about for years to come. For more information regarding private tours for individuals and groups, please enquire by email:, or by phone: 914-817-5763.”