There’s a little-known architectural wonder tucked away on a quiet corner of Somerville’s Spring Hill neighborhood.
Built by Enoch Robinson in 1856, the Somerville Round House is a columnar residence featuring a crenelated rim around the third story exterior. Robinson, a successful locksmith and business owner, manufactured decorative hardware still in use in many historic buildings, including the Boston Old State House, Old Boston City Hall, the Parker House Hotel (now the Omni Parker House), and the United States Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. His intricate designs, which included glass door knobs and perpetual motion machines, were valued for their inventive craftsmanship.
Robinson constructed the Round House according to principles set forth by phrenologist and author, Orson Squire Fowler. Fowler, in his 1848 book, A Home for All, or A New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building, championed octagonal plans for homes, arguing that the idiosyncratic structure economized space, lighting, and heating throughout the house. The original interior of the Round House boasted a circular library on the first floor, French scenic wallpaper, and a glass dome set into the center of the roof.
For many years, the Round House lay neglected and in disrepair. In 2006, a local resident and president of a general contracting firm based in Somerville teamed up to save the house from demolition. Today, the Round House remains unoccupied and is in the process of being restored according to the city’s historic preservation standards.