Farmington Historical Society seeks purchase of Octagon House

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

Farmington Historical Society members Taffy Davis, Cindy Holschuh, Byron Davis, Karl Holschuh and Cindy Stevens work on the capital campaign in the Octagon House. They hope to raise $250,000 to purchases the historic home at the corner of Perham and High streets and to complete other projects.

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Historical Society has an opportunity to purchase the historical Octagon House at the corner of Perham and High streets.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

The Farmington Historical Society has an opportunity to purchase the Octagon House on the corner of Perham and High streets in Farmington.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

The Farmington Historical Society has an opportunity to purchase the Octagon House at the corner of Perham and High streets in Farmington.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

Taffy Davis stands in the cupola of the Octagon House looking down on the intersection of Perham and High streets in downtown Farmington on Thursday.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

The music room off the formal living room of the Octagon House in Farmington shows the absence of square-cornered rooms in the eight-sided house at the corner of Perham and High streets. The rooms circle around a central staircase.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

The dining room in the Octagon House in Farmington shows a slanting fifth wall in the rooms of the eight-sided house at the corner of Perham and High streets.

The Mallett family, cousins of Debbie Mallett Cressell, the last Mallett to live there, presented a "very generous offer" to the historical society this summer. They are intent on providing a way to open the home up to the community, Taffy Davis, a member of the historical society, said.

An option agreement was reached, giving the society until May 30, 2013, to purchase the home.

The society is starting fundraising and a capital campaign with the goal of raising $250,000 to purchase the home, make repairs to the roof over the ell, add drainage and to also finish work on the North Church and open that to the public.

The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located on the same block as the North Church, where the historical society started renovations with the help of a Community Development Block Grant.  The home is also one block away from the Titcomb House, the society's home museum.

The group is not looking for another home museum though. They are thinking of other uses for this space, including community events and programs, educational purposes and displays and perhaps a gift shop, Davis said.

They envision opening the North Church as a welcoming center where special events, performances and even rentals for marriages could occur, Byron Davis said. 

With tour buses now stopping in Farmington, the North Church and Octagon House could be a welcoming start to a downtown visit, he said. The home could be used for small gatherings, dinners and storytelling.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for us, but we need community support," Taffy Davis said.  The group doesn't want to see the home ending up on the open market.

The offer has also been "like a shot in the arm" for the historical society, with members looking at who they are and what they want to accomplish, Cindy Holschuh said.

Members revisited their mission and developed a five-pillar strategic plan for use of the three historical properties, including the work needed to open the church and Octagon House.

About $50,000 is needed to update and open the church, including putting bathrooms in the basement, making adaptations for handicap accessibility and replacing windows.

The CDBG funds provided for structural work that can't be seen.

The group considered applying for CDBG funds again but recently learned funding for historical preservation has ended. They have been advised to still apply for any leftover funding.

Some active fundraising will start with an open house at the Octagon House on Chester Greenwood Day in December. Local florists will each decorate a room, and the public may tour the house for $5, Holschuh said.

The seven-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home, with five rooms and a sun room on the first floor, will contain many of the society's historical items and some original items owned by the Malletts.

The home was built in 1858 by Cyrus Ramsdell, who used bricks from his brickyard on the Farmington Falls Road, Taffy Davis said. He lived there for 12 years before the home was sold to his brother Hiram, who lived there till the early 1900s.

A new school principal in town, Wilbur G. Mallett, purchased the home in 1912. He wanted a place close enough to the school so children could walk to his home, she said. The home has stayed in the Mallett family for 100 years.

The eight-sided home is one of only 19 octagon homes left in Maine and 400 left in the United States, Taffy Davis said. Most were built from 1850-1860. At one time there were 1,200 across the country. The new design boosted family togetherness and better air ventilation, she said.

Donations may be sent to the Farmington Historical Society at P.O. Box 575, Farmington, ME 04938.

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

Wish the style caught on....

I would love to live in an eight sided house, kind of like living in a "Bay Window" on steroids. For anyone who enjoys looking out the window, this house is perfect.


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