Date in History: 1850s

The Octagon House in Watertown was built in the 1850s by pioneer settler John Richards. Richards had come to Wisconsin from Massachusetts in 1837 and ran a mill and farm on 140 acres along the Rock River in Watertown. In 1849 he returned to Massachusetts to marry the prominent Eliza Forbes, promising her reluctant father that he’d build her the finest house in Wisconsin.

Richards was true to his word, spending three years building the solid 4-story octagonal brick home on a bluff with a commanding view of the Rock River valley. The house was the talk of the town with a dramatic central spiral staircase, central heating and running water. Richards’ descendants lived in the home until 1938 when the family gave it to the Watertown Historical Society, which now opens the house to the public from May to October each year.

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 03/28/2005.