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James Coolidge Octagon Cobblestone House

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

James Coolidge Octagon House]]
Location7271 Main St., Madison, New York
Coordinates42°53′52.82″N 75°31′1.6″W / 42.8980056°N 75.517111°W / 42.8980056; -75.517111 (James Coolidge Octagon House, Madison, NY)


The James Coolidge Octagon Cobblestone House in the village of Madison in Madison County, New York, built around 1850,[1] is a rare example of an octagon house that is also a cobblestone house and is believed to be the only such house in existence.[1][2][3] The Coolidge Cobblestone Octagon House is located on US-20 in Madison, Madison County, New York.[4] It is located in the Village of Madison which is in the Town of Madison, which is in Madison County.

It is denoted "Mad-5, Gerow" in the Cobblestone Structures Catalog of the Cobblestone Society and Museum; its owner of record, as of 1904, was Gerow. The catalog editor noted: "Octagon House is a correct descriptive term in this case as it does have eight sides. The front five visible sides are equal in size and geometrically correct for a symmetrical octagon configuration; however, the three rear sides are different with a larger center wall with a single story wing attached, and two smaller adjacent walls."[1]

It is asserted by Schmidt (1966) that this is "the only cobblestone residence ever to be erected."[5]

It is believed by Albion, New York's Cobblestone Society and Museum[1] and by writer Richard Palmer[6] (whom the Cobblestone Society and Museum cites in addition to other sources) to be the only octagonal cobblestone house existing.

If it was in fact built in 1840, then according to Shelgren, Lattin and Frasch (1978) its style foretold the coming of Italianate architecture.[7]

Palmer (2018?), on the other hand, notes that the house "features the same plain unostentatious early Italianate styling that Fowler himself proposed in his drawings. The simple cornice with its overhanging eaves is right out of the book. But this house also features exquisite twin column framing on either side of the entrance door, a reminder of the Neo-Classical elegance that was still popular in the United States."[6] Orson Squire Fowler's book, The Octagon House: A Home For All, is said to have first been published in 1848; its printing by Fowlers and Wells is dated 1850.[8]

What became the Italianate architectural style in the U.S. was popularized by Alexander Jackson Davis, developing out of his "bracketed style"(?), in the 1840s and 1850s, working in the Hudson River Valley. This, however, was Fowler's region, too: the first Octagon house, known as Fowler's Folly, was located in Fishkill, New York, overlooking the Hudson and was widely visible. It was built of concrete beginning in 1848, the year of publication of his book, and was ultimately demolished --by dynamite -- in 1897.

There does exists another cobblestone octagon building: it is located at 8273 Alloway Road in Lyons, New York in Wayne County, New York, built originally as a blacksmith shop.[9] It was built for a Mr. Hyde and has 12.5 feet (3.8 m) sides.[9][6]


It has a Greek Revival-style entrance framed by doric columns.[3]

Its exterior walls have an air space built in.[5]

It has very prominent cut limestone quoins.

The Coolidge House has cut stone quoins.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Cobblestone Structures Catalog: Mad-5, Gerow". Cobblestone Society and Museum. Retrieved August 5, 2022. Includes 14 photos of the house.
  2. Jackie Craven (April 12, 2018). "About the Cobblestone Houses in New York and Other States".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "James Coolidge Octagon Cobblestone House, circa 1850". The Cobblestone Museum. One of a handful of Octagon Cobblestone Houses [sic. was "Buildings" intended?] (Cobblestone researcher, Carl Schmidt cites this as the only cobblestone residence ever built.) This beautiful example was built by James (John) Coolidge in about 1850. The entrance is Greek Revival with Doric columns at each side of the door. The early image is 1960s (Peteritch) and the modern image is courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Can be seen at 7271 Main Street, Madison, NY. Facebook posting of The Cobblestone Museum. Includes four images.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Coolidge Cobblestone Octagon House on US Route 20 in Madison, Madison County". New York Heritage Digital Collections. Retrieved September 1, 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carl Schmidt (1966). "The Octagon House". The only cobblestone octagon residence ever to be erected, is in the village of Madison. It is now the property of Mr. James Gerow. These walls are built of rounded fieldstone of various sizes, shapes and colors. The cobblestones project beyond the mortar joints, but the mortar joints were left rough by the mason. While in the process of repairing the walls, Mr. Gerow discovered that an air space was built into the exterior walls. This is an excerpt from page 38 in "Cobblestone Masonry", 1966, Carl Schmidt. For information about Schmidt, see Cobblestone Museum's acknowledgements to Schmidt.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Richard Palmer (March 2018). Cobblestone structures of North America. Published online; accessed September 1, 2022. Source includes three photos of the James Coolidge octagon house. Note the web-published text confusingly omits the word "octagonal" from sentence: "The other existing [octagonal] cobblestone building is a blacksmith shop in the hamlet of Alloway near Lyons, N.Y.", which otherwise makes no sense in context.
  7. Olaf William Shelgren, Jr.; Cary Lattin; Robert W. Frasch. "Madison County, House, Route 20, Madison". The vogue for building octagonal houses swept across the state, and country, about the same time as the vogue of building cobblestone houses. Orson Squire Fowler popularized the octagonal house through writing and lectures. The corners of this house are formed with limestone quoins. The entrance is Greek Revival, with two complete diminutive Doric columns at each side of the door. Molding profiles are Greek Revival. If the roof projection, with its brackets, is original it foretells the coming of the Italianate style. The house is supposed to have been built in 1840, and it is also reputed to have an airspace in the exterior walls for added insulation. This is page 156 in Cobblestone Landmarks of New York State, 1978, by Olaf William Shelgren, Jr., Cary Lattin, and Robert W. Frasch, Photographs by Gerda Peterich.
  8. "A Home for All: Or, A New Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building, by Orson Squire Fowler (1850)". Internet Archive. There is a downloadable PDF version.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Although Few Remain, Here Are New York's Best Octagon Houses". CNY. Retrieved August 10, 2022.

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