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Rich-Twinn Octagon House
145 Main Street in the Village of Akron in the Town of Newstead, NY

Visitor Information


Status: National Register of Historic Places
Rich Twinn Octagon House - Official Website

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

Click on illustrations to enlarge


Note the rounded windows in the belvedere.

Italianate brackets support the overhanging eaves

Rich Twinn Octagon House
Interior Photos

Note shouldered architrave over door and also sidelights


Octagonal shaped structures have been built for centuries. The oldest octagonal or eight-sided building known is the Tower of the Winds built by the Romans about 300 BC. Centuries ago, octagon shaped buildings were popular in Italy.

There were many octagonal buildings, especially churches, in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was natural then that the Dutch who settled New York State should build churches, homes and schools in their style. The Hudson River Valley had many such buildings. There were twenty Dutch Reformed churches in the Valley. Toll houses in that style were built in Pennsylvania, and barns, carriage houses, schools, and even a blacksmith shop were found in eastern states. The cupolas found in most houses were useful on the sea coast where wives could watch for the return of their husband's fishing boats.

Octagon Style 1850-1860

In 1848, Orson Squire Fowler (1809-1887), 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.

Fowler's books, stressing the functional and stylistic advantages of the octagon house, found many readers and several hundred followers who sprinkled the landscape from New England to Wisconsin with eight-sided houses, barns, churches, schoolhouses, carriage houses, garden houses, smokehouses and privies.

According to Historical Record, by Patricia S. Whitesell,

Fowler was a phrenologist, making a name for himself by deciphering the contours and bumps on the human head. He lectured and published widely on such topics as "Memory and Intellectual Inspiration" (1841) and "Matrimony; or Phrenology Applied to the Selection of Companions" (1842).

Fowler's creative idea for an octagon house came to him while contemplating a design for his own home. He wondered why there had been so little advancement in architectural design, particularly given the preponderance of scientific advancements. Looking for a radical change in house style, Fowler questioned why the spherical form that is predominant in nature was not employed in architecture. The constraint of right angles for the framing of houses was the obvious reason. Fowler thought "Why not have our houses six-, eight-, 12- or 20-sided? Why not build after some mathematical figure?" The solution: the octagon.

Some online buildings:

Rich Twinn Octagon House

The Octagon House in Akron was built in 1849 by Charles B. Rich. It has had only three other individual owners. They were

Charles B. Rich, the first owner and builder of the house came to Akron in 1826 from Schoharie County. Mr. Rich bought a large section of land from Benjamin Rogers who had power of attorney for the Holland Land Company. He was married four times. His first wife, Diodema, and her four children are buried in Maple Lawn Cemetery on John Street. Mr. Rich and his fourth wife went on a trip on the Erie Canal shortly after their marriage. It was then Mrs. Rich became intrigued by octagon houses she saw and persuaded her husband to build this one in Akron. Mr. Rich lived, at the time he built The Octagon House, on Cedar Street and owned the farm later owned by Benjamin DeYoung.

The Octagon House was built for Mrs. Rich by James C Twinn, grandfather of Mr. Clark Twinn, and Thomas Lewis. Mr. Rich purchased several acres of land in the vicinity of the Octagon House from Jonathan Russell in 1846. At that time the land was covered with forests and the Main Street of Akron extended but a short distance from the First Baptist Church.

Features of The Octagon House:

See also: Highlights of Buffalo's History, 1849

Text source:

Photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa.
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