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The Rupert Octagonal House – One of the oldest homes in Maple has a unique design

November 2020

While most homes throughout the centuries have been box shaped, perhaps with a turret at one or two ends on homes of the wealthy, a design that was popular in the mid to late-19th century was octagonal-shaped homes.

The octagonal design was believed to promote good health, as advocated by Orson Squire Fowler, a 19th century American phrenologist (a pseudoscience) and lecturer, who developed the style in the 1850s.

The design was considered easier to heat and cooler in the summer because of the reduced outer walls, and it was claimed to allow more natural light inside the house.

The former Village of Maple, one of the communities that makes up the City of Vaughan, Ontario, is home to one of around 18 historic octagonal homes that remain standing in Ontario.

The “Round House of Maple” was built by Jacob Rupert in 1865, a Pennsylvania Dutch settler, on his property at Lot 21, Concession 4, along the Maple Sideroad in Vaughan Township. Rupert used local materials, such as wood was cut on the property and the bricks made from clay dug up on the site.

The grand front doors have lots of little windows to let the sun in and it’s believed that Rupert’s daughters trimmed the interior wood.

Most of these homes were built with a flat roof with a small cupola on top. Rupert added patterned brick under the paired roof brackets of his house.

A major drawback to the octagonal design was that it was harder to build and to arrange furniture, which is rectangular, in triangle-shaped rooms. This problem is one reason why the design didn’t endure.

Of note, Rupert’s brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Susanna Rupert, came to the Maple area in 1855, building a classical Georgian-style home and raising 16 children on Lot 16, Concession 3. The house still stands, surrounded by modern homes, near the intersection of Keele Street and Rutherford Road.

In 1952, the Rupert House was used as a part of the Shur-Gain Research Farm.

The house later served as the Apple Tree Montessori School, but is now slated to be a Delano Academy school.

The house can be found at 2600 Major MacKenzie Drive, just a little west of Keele Street.

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/tag/maple-octagonal-house, https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMDC-TSPA_0106634F&R=DC-TSPA_0106634F, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_octagon_houses, https://www.thestar.com/business/2016/11/01/century-home-hits-the-market-in-vaughan.html.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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