FARMINGTON – Set on the corner of High Street and Broadway, the Octagon House is a unique landmark in downtown Farmington. The brick house is eight-sided, with an attached kitchen, barn, and sun porch. This summer, the Farmington Historical Society is looking to complete much-needed repairs on the sun porch. The underpinnings of the porch need to be fixed, the porch needs to be leveled, and the original 1910s ‘wavy glass’ window panes will need to be removed and then refitted correctly once the porch is leveled. The Farmington Historical Society is holding a ‘Sun Porch Soirée’ fundraiser on Saturday, July 30, from 6 to 9 p.m., to support the porch project.
The event will include hors d’oeuvres, a door prize, and a silent auction. Tickets are $25 per person, and proceeds go to saving the porch. Call 778-2932 to reserve tickets.
This project is partially funded through a grant from Maine Preservation.
The octagon house design was popularized by Orson Squire Fowler in the mid nineteenth century. The idea of the design was to maximize square footage and allow more economical use of the space. Fowler included modern advancements into the designs, such as hot air and hot water furnaces, dumbwaiters, speaking tubes, and the ‘indoor water closet’, our modern bathroom, considering it a necessity. The floor plans include a central staircase to encourage more socialization and communication among the residents of the home. The corners, which are at forty-five degree angles instead of the ninety-degree angles seen in most houses, have closets and cupboards set in to make use of the space while keeping the rooms open and airy.
Built in 1858 by Cyrus Ramsdell, using bricks fired in Ramsdell’s brickyard on Farmington Falls Road, the Octagon House passed to Ramsdell’s brother Hiram before being made into apartments for a few years in the early 1900s.
In 1912, W.G. Mallet bought the house for his family home. The principal at the Farmington Normal School, W.G. Mallet invited his students to visit his home, particularly his library. W.G. Mallet had the house restored from apartments to a single family dwelling, and added the sun porch, which mimics the octagon shape of the house itself. After his death, the house was passed to his son Emery Mallet. Emery and his wife Phyllis willed the home to their daughter, Debbie Mallet Cressall, in 1970, and she lived there until her death in 2012. The home remained in the Mallet family for 100 years until it was offered to the Farmington Historical Society by Debbie’s first cousins, Dick, Grant, Steve, and Anne Mallet.
As part of the agreement with the Historical Society, the Mallet family takes the house every Christmas for a holiday gathering. Debbie Mallet Cressall was known for entertaining guests and celebrating events, and the Historical Society is glad to see that family tradition continue.
Many of the rooms are in the process of restoration. The library, funded by the Gould family, is now complete, along with the drawing room sponsored by Franklin Savings Bank. The bedrooms upstairs are being restored with period-authentic wallpaper and paint. At the top of the house, a cupola offers views of downtown Farmington and the college campus.
A recent project, funded through grants and donations, was repairing the basement and preventing water from running into the basement and damaging the foundation.
Farmington Historical Society has the Octagon House open Friday afternoons from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., along with the nearby Titcomb House. The house is also open for special events.