Tuesday, February 16, 2010

octagon house

The Octagon House

“There is no hour of sun throughout the year when we do not find more than one of the eight sides of our home receiving more direct and therefore warmer rays than the other seven.” –Carl Cramer

The Potter Hunting House/ The Octagon House/ The Prigmore Museum is located at 57 South Main Street in Alfred, NY. I originally took interest in this building because of the unusual architecture of this house. It is stated that Perry Potter built this house in the early 1850’s and remained there until 1869, when the house was than passed down to his brother Alonzo.
The Potter’s house exterior walls feature seven horizontal clapboards along with eightscroll shaped brackets that are located at the eight corners of the house. The veranda encompassing the house is unusual because on most ocatagon houses it aces only thre sides. Thr columns that support the roof above the veranda are octagons and mirror the houses façade.
In 1923 the house was purchased by MR. and Mrs. Henry C Hunting and within the first fourteen years they were living there transformed the grounds into into prize winning gardens that were acclaimed in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Mrs. Hunting called the house Kanabroco, and it attracted visitors from all over who were always welcomed by the Huntings.
In 1947 the house was passed down to Mr. Huntings nephew, Norman Olson. Norman Olson was the frst man to rent the house as a two family apartmemtn. Alfred University bought the house from Olson in 1965 I was during this time period that the house fell into disarray and the apartments behind the house were built. Mary truslot bought the house from the university in 1980 and in 1985 had the porch floor rebuilt. The floor was refurbished with reclaimed wood from Alumni Hall.
As of right now the current owner of the house is Peter Prigmore. He has refurnished and remodeled the home styled in the original era that the house was constructed in. Mr. Prigmore is very well known for all the renovations he has done on the house and is pleased to give anyone who wants a tour of his home.
In 1848, Orson Squire Fowler, a native of the Genesee Country village of Cohocton, published A Home for All, or a New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building in which he announced that the octagon house, with its eight sides, enclosed more space than a square one with equal wall space. The octagonal form had been used in public buildings in the past, but now as a concept for domestic architecture, it had a dedicated and convincing champion. The eight-sided house was more than an architectural invention to Fowler -- he extolled it as the pathway to a healthier lifestyle. The former medical student described an octagon house in his 1848 book, 'A Home for All; or the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building.' Such a building, he argued would be better ventilated and lighted, and thus healthier.
 Some benefits were more apparent: the houses provided a greater volume of space than a square or rectangular house and rooms were easily accessible from a central stair hall. Fowler claimed that the "gravel-wall construction" (poured concrete) made the octagon house cheaper to build. Most octagons, however, were built of wood or brick, which in fact, meant higher costs to adapt these structural materials to the 135 degree contours of the octagon.
 Decades before Fowler's book was published, another architectural pioneer, Thomas Jefferson, began building Poplar Forest. The eight-sided brick structure featured such innovations as skylights and an indoor privy, and was the only octagonal house built by Jefferson. George Washington also dabbled in revolutionary architectural ideas -- building in 1792 a 16-sided threshing barn on his Mount Vernon estate.
 But it was Fowler who inspired a building boom of octagonal houses. Many, including the author's own massive 60-room "Fowler's Folly" near Fishkill, New York, have been destroyed over the years, but a significant number of octagon houses still survive.

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