At 36 Atherton Street in Somerville, MA, there is round house which dates from 1856. I am fascinated by its architecture and history, and saddened by its state of disrepair.
According to the Somerville Public Library, the 40-foot diameter Round House was built as a curiosity by a prominent inventor and locksmith, Enoch Robinson. It contains a glass-domed central hall and two parlors: one circular and one oval. The Somerville Old House Organization (SOHO) has a nice write up on the place, including a rare picture of the interior, seen at right. In it you can see sections of the parlor walls, which Robinson covered with a French scenic paper depicting royalty in castles, gardens, and hunting scenes. The shape of the house itself has been traced to one built in the Desert de Retz in Chambourcy, France, in 1780 and 1781 by Francois Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville (1734–1797) in the shape of a huge, round, ruined, classical column.
According to the history section on the website of present-day manufacturer E.R. Butler & Co., Enoch Robinson designed and manufactured hardware in Boston from 1836 to 1888. He is remembered for inventing one of the first mechanical glass pressing machines and developing several patented methods of attaching glass knobs to their sockets. Enoch Robinson & Co.’s hardware was very well respected both in Boston and across the nation: the company supplied hardware for the Boston State House and City Hall, and supplied locks and knobs for extensions to the United States Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.
Today, the Round House is listed as a private residence, but appears to be abandoned. The yard is overgrown with wild bushes and weeds, an abandoned shopping cart sits up against the broken-down fence. The Historic Massachusetts Planning Department attempted to negotiate its renovation with the owner in 1997, but she was not willing to give up control of the property. It's a shame that someone has let this beautiful home fall apart. A 1915 postcard depicts the Round House in better days, at left.