Archives For 19th century

The curving rooms of the Portland Hotel, in Long Beach, Washington, hosted thousands of guests during the hotel’s 30 years of existence -

portland hotel, long beach, WA

Built in the 1880s, the building burned down on December 6, 1914.

A defensive fortress from the Napoleonic era was converted in 2009 to a private residence -

martello tower

Made up of some 750,000 bricks, with immensely thick walls, Martello Tower Y was originally built in 1808 as a coastal outpost against an expected invasion from Napoleon’s France.  The years passed, the French attack never came, and the building fell into disrepair. It was totally derelict when renovations began, 200 years after its construction.

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round vacation

June 22, 2013 — 1 Comment

What better place for a summer vacation than a cool round house overlooking the beach? The Water Tower, just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Sunset Beach, California, supplied water to the surrounding area until 1974. Here it is in 1966, in its original state, with a curvy ’60s VW bug in the foreground -

watertower, sunset beach, 1966

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the omphalos

June 16, 2013 — 2 Comments

Do you pay rent for this tower?

Twelve quid, Buck Mulligan said.

… Rather bleak in wintertime, I should say. Martello you call it?

Billy Pitt had them built, Buck Mulligan said, when the French were on the sea. But ours is the omphalos.

martello tower 2

James Joyce spent six days staying with a couple of friends in a Martello tower in Sandy Cove, Dublin, in 1904, and later set the first chapter of his novel Ulysses there. Built during the Napoleonic era as a defensive position against a feared French invasion, the tower is one of a string of Martello towers in England, Ireland, and Wales.

Now known as the James Joyce Tower, it has been made into a museum, and furnished as it was during Joyce’s time there. For Joyce devotees who make the pilgrimage to visit it, the tower may indeed be an omphalos, a sacred conical object.

Nineteenth century Shakers, a religious minority with colonies in New York and several New England states, were fond of round barns.

In his book An Age of Barns, landscape painter Eric Sloane explains that the Shakers regarded the circle as the perfect form. “Farmers made circular designs on their barns, and their wives sewed circular patterns on quilts. The Shakers used the circle in their ‘inspirational drawings’ … they took delight in round hats, rugs and boxes; and they made round drawer-pulls and hand-rests for their severely angled furniture. There is a saying that the round barn was intended ‘to keep the devil from hiding in corners.’

mckim, mead & white

December 1, 2010 — Leave a comment

This old tower of a house in Jamestown, Rhode Island, said to have been designed in 1888 by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, is known locally as — what else? — the Round House -

There are queer people in the world — a great many of them — and it is not strange that there are also queer houses. Now, as our little book is made for everybody, it is but just that queer people and their houses should be represented in it.

Very few persons, we presume, will desire to build a circular house, although it is the form, as geometry demonstrates, in which the greatest possible space may be inclosed by a given amount of wall; but for the oddity of the thing, or because economy of space may be secured, somebody may wish to do it, and look for a design to adopt or imitate. Here it is!

Inspired by a Scottish turret, this 1872 granite round house in Lowell, Massachusetts, has fifteen rooms that wind around a stunning circular staircase.

Known as the Bowers Round House after its original owner, Jonathan Bowers, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. According to the owner of the house, Bowers was “a local industrialist who owned a granite quarry, a carriage factory, and an amusement park.”

The interior is spectacular, featuring an oval living room and a round dining room. Other notable features are the house’s arched windows, pedimented dormers, round bays, and round granite chimneys.

1850s round house

August 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

A very old round house in Somerville, a Boston suburb:

According to Apartment Therapy, “The story is that the Round House was built in 1856 by inventor and manufacturer, Enoch Robinson. Robinson owned a Boston company that manufactured high-end decorative hardware — window fasteners, knobs, hand-made lock mechanisms, door handles, escutcheons– which you can still see in Boston’s State House and Old City Hall. He was also an inventor who designed and built perpetual motion machines in his spare time.”

“We’ve read that Robinson had been annoyed that a previous house which he had built was copied by local builders, so he brought in a specialized team from France to build a totally unique structure. When they were finished, he immediately sent them back home. The design of his round house was based on that of the Column House in the French “folly garden” of Desert de Retz in Chambourcy.”

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As of 2007, it looked to be in very poor shape.

cornish round houses

August 19, 2010 — Leave a comment

Round houses have been built in Cornwall, in the UK, since the Iron Age. The hillside iron age village of Carn Euny, in Cornwall’s western extremity, is now an archeological site with numerous round house remnants.

Although other building forms became dominant, the tradition of building round houses survived for centuries. Veryan, on the south coast of Cornwall, has five nineteenth-century thatch round houses, two pairs at each end of the village and one in the center. The houses were built by a vicar for his daughters, reportedly because he believed the absence of corners gave the devil nowhere to hide.