Domino Magazine Inspirations

Round House

Round_house_front 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.

Interior_1According 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.

PostcardToday, 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.


Stephanie Rogers

Thanks for the comment, Ken. This post continues to be one of my most popular - people are just fascinated by the Round House. I haven't driven by there in awhile so I'm not sure of its current state, but I do hope someone restores it at some point.

Kenneth R Figueira

I remember this house being listed in Ripleys believe it or not.It stated that the house was built without corners, because the builders wife was frightened of ghosts.It stated that Ghosts hide in corners.This is the same story I heard as a child growing up in Somerville in the 40s' and fifties.

Sara S.

Stephanie, I just found this! I'm so happy to learn about the Round House- I drive by it every now and then, and every time I do- I feel like I've rediscovered a lost castle! It has a magical and mysterious feel about it. I hope they restore it before it's too late.


The Roundhouse has been bought and is will undergo renovation and restoration in the near future. It will be turned into a single family home.


1997 was ten years ago - maybe someone should try this cuckoo owner again! I have been tracking this place for 5 years and I can't believe all the people that come across and fall in love with its mystery. This place could be saved!!


Great write-up! The more people find out about the dire state of this wonderful house, the better chance it has of being saved. There's nothing so frustrating as watching a magnificent and unique building fall victim to neglect.


Just stumbled across this...I am suddenly obsessed with knwoing all i can about this house that i live so very very close to- thanks for all of the links!


It was listed for rent several years back; I was interested, but it was too expensive for me. It might have lame tenants, or maybe it's not in shape for tenants anymore.

Jeremi Karnell

Nice write up Steph! It really is sad that the current owners of the Round House have left in such a state of disrepair. I am all for the City of Somerville claiming Condemnation via eminent domain to save this very interesting piece of New England history.

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