Field Trip: The Armour-Stiner Octagon House, Irvington, NY

THE DESTINATION
The Armour-Stiner Octagon House
Irvington, NY

THE JOURNEY
By car, less than an hour up the Saw Mill
By train, 49 minutes from Grand Central to Irvington and from there, everything is within a mile walk

THE DETAILS
After a 40-year restoration, the house opened for tours in 2017 and now offers seasonal tours from April to December, so get there before Dec. 30 or wait till spring. They trick the place out for each season and the period Christmas decorations — down to the tree made from goose feathers from 19th Century Germany — are worth seeing. There are also Halloween decorations in the fall, since the first owner believed in some spooky science. (The house’s shape is based on the theories of Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist, who believed octagonal houses enclosed more space, allowed the sun in at all times, and permitted more views into the landscape.)

Book $29 tickets here or call for a private tour: 914-817-5763

THE BACKGROUND
My sister-in-law lives in Irvington, and we often walk the Old Croton Trailway that runs through town, backyards and the woods just west of Broadway. From there you can see the Octagon house, and she promised me a tour. We went with her friends’ organization GoLoveNY, which arranges private tours and experiences around the area (Lyndhurst, Bannerman Castle, Rivertowns, etc.). But you can just book direct through the house.

The Octagon house’s dome was built in 1872 by Joseph Stiner, a tea and coffee merchant in the city (see an advertisement for his shop on Greenwich Street, one of 76 around the city — his one was of the country’s first chains). Stiner had purchased a two-story octagonal house and added the dome to replicate Donato Bramante‚Äôs 1502 Tempietto in Rome and the verandah so he could use it as a summer home (as you do). The house would suffer through some rough patches in the 1900s, until it was acquired in 1977 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which flipped it within the year to Tribeca architect and preservationist Joseph Pell Lombardi. (There’s a video below that takes you through the restoration.)

You know Lombardi’s work: he is responsible for preserving and building One York, the National City Bank Building on Canal and Broadway, and the Haughwout Building in Soho on Broadway and Broome, among hundreds of others. His offices are on Broadway and Canal.

He and his family have spent the decades since 1978 restoring the house: adding electricity, heating and plumbing, stabilizing the dome, excavating the grounds and reimagining just about every feature to get it as close to the original as possible. He’s made custom rugs from remnants he discovered in the basement; repainted the walls in silver foil to replicate the paint he uncovered under layers of whitewash; re-etched glass windows; decorated with furniture discovered at auction with Stiner’s order number still stapled to the bottom (see the Egyptian revivalist set below). He found one piece of silver in the dirt under the porch and spent years reassembling a set for the dining room.

PIT STOPS
There’s lots of cute and nice restaurants in Irvington starting at the train station and walking straight uphill from there, up Main.

  • Black Cat Cafe – my nieces’ favorite, for sandwiches, wraps, smoothies. NB: closes at 4
  • Red Hat on the River – The Times reviewed a few years ago and it has great views
  • Brrzaar – right at the train station and very cute, for coffee and frozen yogurt

ADD ONS
Irvington has lots of good hiking trails, which you can find on the AllTrails site. But you can also just stroll the Old Croton Trailway for any lenth of time. It’s beautiful.

And for the women: Eileen Fisher lives in Irvington and keeps her corporate office there as well as a retail store and better: a HUGE Renew shop, which has all her repurposed and used clothing — tons of it. Check the days and hours, since it’s not regular retail.

 

8 Comments

  1. Beautiful! I didn’t know about this place. Looks well worth a visit.

  2. Thank you so very much!
    Sincerely, The Lombardi Family

  3. “he is responsible for preserving … the National City Bank Building on Canal and Broadway.”
    That wonderful bank, by Walker and Gillette, has gone steadily downhill since CitiBank left. The original banking floor was still in pristine condition when they left. And it was a spectacular interior. I do not consider this “preserving” anything. This loss enters my thoughts everytime I pass this poor shell of a once wonderful neighborhood landmark

  4. Pam, as usual you have your finger on the cultural pulse of NYC. The Times just published an article “Looking for a House in This Tight Market? Consider an Octagon” featuring the Armor-Steiner house and with photos and comments from Lombardi. URL is below.

    pB

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/09/realestate/octagon-house.html

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