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
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 big cistern 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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