Created By: New Bedford Preservation Society
347 Union Street, Captain Fordyce Dennis Haskell House, 1848 Octagon Style
Captain Fordyce Dennis Haskell was Master of the New Bedford whaler Mercury from 1836 to 1848. His home was built in 1847-48 by the housewright, John F. Vinal. The home is one of only two New Bedford houses built in the “Octagon Mode.” In 1848, Orson Squire Fowler published a book, A Home For All, or The Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building. This form of building employs an octagonal ground plan, usually a two story elevation, and a centrally placed belvedere. This shape of construction resulted from the proselytizing advocacy of Fowler, a domestic critic, amateur architect and phrenologist. The Octagon House advocated by Fowler was to have been built utilizing a “gravel wall” (cement) construction. Rather than Fowler’s intended material, this home is sheathed in wood, which was cut and sanded to simulate stone. Architectural details are of a classical sort. According to Fowler, the cement material made the air cooler in summer and the octagonal shape of the house made circulation of air easier year round and movement within the home more efficient. This, he insisted, was more healthy for the inhabitants. Most of the Octagon Houses in America were built between 1848 and 1860, when Fowler’s book went through nine editions.
Fordyce Dennis Haskell resided at the octagon home for a decade and sold the house in 1858 to John Hastings, a native of Connecticut who established an oil, soap and candle factory in New Bedford in 1856. Hastings' works at the foot of Grinnell Street, was once the largest fish oil refinery in the country. By the 1880’s, Hastings had created an ornate garden on the property.
This point of interest is part of the tour: New Bedford Pathways: Tour #1 New Bedford, More Than Colonials