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Madison Octagon House




Octagon House in Madison: During the 1850's, a new architectural craze the octagonal house developed in New York State and enjoyed brief popularity around the country. [At about the time the octagon house was completed in Watertown] the eight-sided plan caught the imagination of Madison architect Samuel H. Donnel, who designed two octagon homes for city residents. The first was built for Governor Leonard Farwell in 1855. This pretentious, three-story mansion, accompanied by an eight-sided barn and stable, was located at Spaight and Brearly streets on Lake Monona. It was constructed of dressed sandstone, was encircled by a double balcony, and was topped off by a glass lanthorn from which the Governor could observe Madison's passion for sailing. [A Taste of Old Madison, Lynne Watrous Hamel, 1974.]


A short distance away on West Wilson Street, a more modest version followed. Built in 1856 by a notorious local shyster, attorney William Jarvis, the little eight-sider was constructed of red brick and was ornamented with gingerbread detail. Inside its sixteen-inch walls, a four-story spiral staircase connected fourteen tiny rooms, only three of which were rectangular. In 1866, the residence was purchased by physician Andrew Ward.