Referred to by architectural historian John Zukowsky as “the most visually unique house in the country, if not the nation,” the Armour-Stiner Octagon House in Irvington is one of a kind. Inspired by Donato Bramante’s 1502 Tempietto in Rome, it is the only octagonal house with a domed roof.
The structure was originally constructed by Paul Armour in 1860. The house’s next owner, Joseph Stiner, acquired the two-story home in 1872. Apart from a pre-existing 360-degree ballroom, Stiner renovated the building entirely, adding two floors, a dome, and a veranda, turning it into the elaborate structure it is today. The idea of building such an unusually shaped house came about following the publication of phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler’s The Octagon House: A Home for All.
In this book, he offered his belief that eight-sided houses were superior to the classic rectangular shaped ones, stating that such a structure allowed more sun in, was cheaper to build, and offered more living space.
In 1976, the owner at the time, Carl Carmer, died, after which the National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired the property. Until then, the house had fallen into disrepair and was caving in on itself. In 1978, for the first time ever, the National Trust sold back one of its properties to a private citizen, Joseph Pell Lombardi. A specialist in preservation architecture, Lombardi has made it his life’s work to restore old, dying structures to their former grandeur. This was his objective with the Octagon House.
He fixed the slowly collapsing structure, repainted and renovated the interior, and finished by refurbishing the entire house with antique furniture and paintings. The restoration of the inside took Lombardi years following the rebuilding of the main frame due to his attention to detail and desire to restore the original house. He is still repairing the house. In his eyes, “this house is a 500,000-piece picture puzzle with some of the pieces scattered all over the world” and he wants to find most, if not all of them, to join it all together once again.
Tours of the Octagon House will be open to the public beginning in March. For more information, visit www.armourstiner.com/guided-house-tour.
*Special thanks to Patrick Raftery of the Westchester Historical Society for his assistance with this article.