The Octagon House
An 1856 Landmark of Camillus, N.Y.
In 1844, Isaiah Wilcox, a native of Rhode Island, and his wife, Ann Sherman of Connecticut, came west to settle in Camillus on property owned by an acquaintance from Rhode Island. Isaiah Wilcox was anti-slavery and a deacon of the Camillus Baptist Church. By 1853 he had added parcels to his land thereby creating a large sheep and cattle farm with spacious orchards and berry fields. He than began to build this landmark Octagon House based upon the then currently popular plans detailed in Orson Fowlers book, "The Octagon House, A Home For All" (available at the Camillus Maxwell Memorial Library).
Completed in 1856 of cobblestones, rubble and concrete with a stucco finish, each of its eight sides was 17 feet long and 22 inches thick at the base, and 17 inches thick at the top. In the center of each side of every floor from deep cellar to cupola was a single window. Eight square rooms, eight triangular room, and ten closets take away the feeling of an octagonal house. The front staircase was added in the 1990s. The circular central stairs with octagonal banister and balustrades was accessible from all square rooms, basement, and attic. Doors opened from room to room. They remain the same today.
Meals were prepared in the kitchen/pantry level now called the cellar. Then set up on the main floor dining room via a dumb waiter. The rain water from the eaves was collected in the bigcistern next to the kitchen area. The deep cellar, accessed near the cistern, was rumored to have been part of the underground railroad. There was no heat, water, light or fireplace in 1856. A windmill in the east orchard brought the water up from the well.
There were no descendants. Ann, Isaiah and their son and daughter were buried close to the main road in the Fairmount Cemetery. The Octagon House is now owned by The Town of Camillus. The House is open every Sunday from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. year round.
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Last update 06/15/97.
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