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Mystery shape on 1870’s kitchen wall

I pulled the 1970’s wood paneling off the back wall of 1870’s kitchen and found this half-octagon shape that previously had some type of wood or tile border. There is a chimney on the other side of the wall and I assume there was once a cooling stove here. But why the half-octagon shape?

Also, a few inches above that shape the wall noticeably juts out. Does anyone have any idea as to what that might be? 

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