Archives For turn of the century

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.

Built sometime around 1904, torn down in 1967, the Round House (Ronde Huis) of Nunspeet, in the Netherlands, is a source of mystery. A recent book about the house mixes prostitutes, occult rituals, Germanic symbols, wealthy industrialists and royalty.

Nearly a half-century after its demolition, the house now has its own Twitter account, one that is no doubt quite interesting if you understand Dutch.

The peacock is a nice touch -

round house, netherlands

round house for sale

November 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

$899,000 will buy you a 110-year-old round house in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. It is a quirky and charming structure even though, as part of an unfortunate recent renovation, it was stripped of its spiral staircase and marred by a clunky addition.

Built in 1901, the house was put on the market in 2010 when its long-term owner died.  Its condition at that time was said to be poor; it was also tiny by 21st century standards. After changing hands a couple of times, the house was bought by developer Martin Ditto of Ditto Residential, who undertook the recent renovations.  Last January, the house was said to be under consideration for protection as a historic landmark, but the D.C. Preservation League, which was submitting the landmark application, negotiated with the developer regarding the scope of the planned renovations, agreeing not submit an application until renovations were complete. The League apparently pressed the developer to limit the size of the addition so that it would not dwarf the existing structure.

The house’s original architect was Edward Woltz; the 2012 renovations were designed by architect Chuong Cao of DEP Designs. Here’s a pre-renovation photo -

une maison ronde

February 21, 2012 — 3 Comments

A postcard dating from about 1910 shows a round house in Rixensart, Belgium -

This very unusual house has since been torn down, unfortunately.

round landmark

January 11, 2012 — 2 Comments

Washington DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board is currently considering whether to grant landmark status to the city’s only round house -

According to the Prince of Petworth blog, the house, located at 1001 Irving Street in DC’s Brookland neighborhood, “was built in 1901 by a prominent Brookland builder, John C. Louthan, who lived in another house he himself built at 12th and Irving (now gone).” The architect, Edward Woltz, “was a very busy designer of modest houses in the city.”

“There is no information about why Woltz and Louthan chose the odd shape for their house — octagon and round houses were a short fad in the US in the 1850s but had stopped being built by the Civil War and revivals of this style are rare.”

Continue Reading…