Unlike any other style, the popularity
of the Octagon can be attributed to one person, the American Orson
Squire Fowler, who is much better known for his work in phrenology
- the study of analyzing a person's character traits by studying
the configuration of the skull. Fowler's book A Home for All
(1849) first illustrates mathematically that an octagon provides
one-fifth more room than a comparably sized square house. Then
the popular pseudoscientist explains how the octagon shape satisfies
two phrenological needs, "inhabitiveness and constructiveness."
Given these unusual roots, it is surprising how many
lovely Octagon buildings there are in Ontario.
The first octagonal buildings in North America appeared
in the 1650s in Eastern United States. Some examples of Octagons
built in the 1840s clearly predate Fowler, but it was his enthusiasm
that made the design popular. A full list of Ontario polygonal
buildings can be found in John Rempel's excellent
book Building with Wood.