Round and Round, Rotating House Hits the Market in Wilton

The Wilton Villiger

Lawrence Dequintal
February, 2006

Wilton – For just the second time since it was built in 1968, The Round House on Olmstead Hill Road in Wilton is for sale. “The pleasure of living in a home that turns is difficult to describe to one who has never had that opportunity. There were many surprises for us to absorb and some to overcome,” architect Richard T. Foster wrote about the revolving home he built and designed on 3.83 acres.

Describing his architectural vision, Foster wrote, “The house is inscribed by a circle 72 feet in diameter, supported by a much smaller 15-foot circular base that supports the floor and anchors the house to the ground, much as the stem of a mushroom supports the head. It achieves its intended purpose of allowing the landscape to flow gently under and around the house with a minimal disturbance of nature. The land was a grazing meadow before we built and that is the way it is today.”

Nancy G. Noonan, co-listing agent, with Joan Madden, at Coldwell Banker Previews International in New Canaan, said the home is listed for $2,575,000.

Noonan said the house is Foster’s “architectural masterpiece.”

“It rotates at the push of a button to offer outstanding views of the pond, rolling countryside and reservoir,” she said. “Now, the current owner has transformed this unique 2,997-square-foot structure into a ‘smart house’ with 21st century technology and amenities, as well as a new pool and separate studio.”

Foster collaborated on many projects with renowned architect Phillip Johnson.

“A round house was no departure for Mr. Foster, whose buildings with Mr. Johnson were full of curves at a time when many architects thought at right angles,” The New York Times wrote in his 2002 obituary.

Foster’s family was the client for his most inventive work: The house that revolves on ball bearings around a stair core.
“We press buttons when we want to change the view,” explained Foster.

“The movement is said to be indiscernible from within as the glasswalled structure, with 360-degree floor-to-ceiling windows, pivots around a 14-foot ball-bearing assembly in the stair core,” The Times wrote. “It’s nine rooms radiate like pie sections.”
Illustrating the house’s nimble mobility, Foster’s son, Robert, said, “It can go forward and backward, between 45 minutes and four hours. Whenever you want.”

Notes on technical information reveal the inventive designs for each mechanical system in the house.
“A concrete base supports a steel frame that forms the pedestal, constructed with wood joists, sheathing and shingles. The steel frame rests on a 14-foot wide ball bearing ring which in turn carries the entire superstructure of 500,000 pounds, or 250 tons. The steel structure is an intricate network of members, umbrella-shaped, with a circle of columned supports and a space frame roof. The extreme ends of the floor beams are supported by hangers from the roof.”

Because the house needs strong connections within the structure, the engineers used steel. Zoldos & Meagher, Emerson of New Jersey were the structural engineers and Meyer, Strong & Jones of New York were the mechanical engineers.

Because of a unique treatment of the waste lines, the plumbing fixtures are located in the moving portion. The heating system uses forced hot water, oil fueled, with fintube radiation located in the floor underneath the windows. The electric system is supplied by a feed-rail bus system. A “trolley” section carries current to the building via the bus: Water is accessed via a 360-degree commercially produced valve. Fuel oil is delivered by truck hose to the top of the structure where it is pumped into the core storage tank.
Reflecting on The Round House experience, Foster wrote, “The very configuration of the house has given us advantages we never contemplated. First, the house sits high, relative to the surrounding landscape. We find that animals such as deer, fox and rabbits don’t seem to look up. They will graze through the field as though we don’t exist, even though we’re sitting on the deck carrying on conversations in a normal way.

“The house brought us very close to nature. With floor-to-ceiling windows, unfettered by the usual draperies, we have learned when the swallows will arrive — April 12 — and open our garage to welcome them as tenants. We know when other migratory birds will arrive, and act accordingly by cleaning out the bluebird houses and changing the type of feed in the feeders.”

Commenting on his favorite aspect of The Round House, Foster wrote: “I’ve saved the best part until last. The sheer joy of being able to greet dinner guests so that they can share a spectacular sunset with us while sipping cocktails. Then turning the view to a moon rise during dinner, and after-wards enjoying the warmth of the fire and watching a deer or other animal cross the fields and woods that are highlighted with outdoor lighting.”

Upgraded in 2005, The Round House includes an inground pool with pool house and a studio. The remodeled kitchen features an island work station, cooktop, dishwasher, microwave, wall oven, refrigerator, washer and dryer.
There are nine rooms, three bedrooms and two full baths. The master bedroom has a dressing room with a full bath and balcony. A fireplace is the internal focal point of the living room. The house also features an upgraded security system and detached parking.

One of the most distinctive houses ever built, Foster and his family lived in The Round House for more than 25 years.
“They have been wonderful years,” he wrote in 1993. “One of the wonders has been the enjoyment of living in our house.”