Wandering in Wisconsin: The Octagon House

Most houses are composed of variations of the same basic shapes: rectangles and squares. Are there any houses that don’t fit this mold near you? Maybe it’s a house with an octagonal shape. No matter where you live, an octagon-shaped house just isn’t normal; but, in Watertown, Wisconsin, you will find the Octagon House, one of the first of many built in the 19th century.

The Octagon House was built by John Richards in 1854, and over one thousand houses have been built to model this house since then. This three-story house has a total of fifty-seven rooms, including the halls and closets. Just think about how many rooms that is for one family!

Besides being incredibly spacious, the Octagon House has another very interesting feature: one of the first interpretations of an air-conditioner. Richard’s device used tubes that would trap cool air at night and save the air to use it during the day. This might not seem like a very practical source for air-conditioning now, but it definitely was in the 1800s.

After the house was given to the Watertown Historical Society in 1938, the first kindergarten in the United States, founded in 1856, was moved to share the grounds of the Octagon House. Over the years, in addition to the first kindergarten, the Historical Society moved some other important Watertown items to the grounds as well, including a pioneer barn, Watertown’s first bronze bell, and a cobbler’s bench  from the first Watertown shoe factory. When I was able to go to the Octagon House myself, I also found a dollhouse shaped exactly like it that I thought was amazing.

I have a love for historical sites, so I thought it would be fun to share one of my favorites with everyone. I first became interested in the Octagon House when I was in the 4th grade; we had to do a presentation on a city in Wisconsin, and I chose Watertown because I used to live there. It turns out that the Octagon House is a great example of how looks can be deceiving. Even though it may appear to be just a fun-shaped building, it is actually a very important part of this city’s history.

Although Elizabeth Meade, or Lizzy Lynn (lizzylynn@germmagazine.com), hasn't yet made her writing debut, she loves to write. When Elizabeth isn't writing she is either reading a new book, doing karate, playing the clarinet, or singing Fall Out Boy. As a future job, Elizabeth hopes to become a best-selling author or the Ambassador to New Zealand.



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