Octagon houses were a unique house style briefly popular in the 1850s. They are characterized by an octagonal (eight-sided) plan and often feature a flat roof and a veranda all around. The most famous Octagon House of all was built between 1798 and 1800 in Washington, D.C. Designed by Dr. William Thornton, the architect of the U.S. Capitol, it is located at 1799 New York Avenue Northwest. It was built for Colonel John Tayloe, whose Mount Airy plantation was located about 100 miles south of Washington in Richmond County, Virginia, and was reputed to be the richest Virginia plantation owner of his time. The three-story brick house combines a circle, two rectangles and a triangle in its brilliant architectural plan, not to mention the Coade stone, stoves, Acquia creek sandstone, imported furniture from England and other unique decorative elements that make the Octagon House a one-of-a-kind residence. It is also famous for two other reasons--it was the temporary "Executive Mansion" of President James Madison and his wife Dolley after the White House was burned by the British in 1814 and Madison used the circular room above entrance as a study, where he signed the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812.
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