FARMINGTON — The historic Octagon House, at the corner of High and Perham streets, has long been closed to the public and passed down through the Mallett family for 100 years.

But the historical society hopes it will soon be opened to the community.

The members voted in March to purchase the building and are working on having it in their care by late May, Farmington Historical Society president Taffy Davis said.

The home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be the third building the society owns, all of which are located in the same section of the downtown.

The Octagon House is down the block from North Church, which the historical society is in the process of renovating. The home is also one block away from the society’s third building, the Titcomb House.

The Octagon House is valued at $185,000, but two of the four estate owners decided to donate their shares, selling the building to the society at half its value.

Davis said the Octagon House is one of fewer than 20 octagon homes in the state and about 400 left in the country.

Architect Orson Fowler popularized the unique design, which Davis said was a model that made the building heat efficient and was supposed to promote family togetherness with the way the design of the rooms brought people together.

She said most were built in the mid-1800s, and at one time there were 1,200 across the country.

The one in Farmington was built in 1858 by Cyrus Ramsdell. It was taken over by his brother in the 1890s, and W.G. Mallett bought it in 1912. The house remained in the Mallett family for around 100 years.

Mallett, who the W.G. Mallett School is named for, was principal of the Farmington Normal School which later became the University of Maine at Farmington.

Over the decades, a kitchen and porch were added, the house was remodeled, the scenery changed, the town developed around it, but the house remained in the family until Debbie Mallett, a descendant of W.G. Mallett, died and the rights to the house were divided among her four cousins.

The cousins contacted the historical society and asked if they would like to purchase the building. Two of the estate owners decided to donate their shares, halving the price of the building.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The register accepts buildings that are proven to be historically or architecturally significant.

Historical society member Nancy Porter said she considers the building to be priceless because of its unique and historic value to the area. She said the next challenge is gathering community financial support for the project.

“Everyone wants to see it, but not everyone wants to help us pay for it. That’s the thing I worry about,” she said.

She said as a member she is excited about the potential of having two buildings in such close proximity, which will expand the kind of programming and exhibits they could do with the new venue.

Davis said they are running a capital campaign to help fund the project. Franklin Savings Bank and the Richard Gould family each paid $25,000 to have rooms named after them.

The house is in good repair, Davis said, minus some “typical old house stuff.” She said the roof was recently replaced, but there is some minor water damage to the walls and ceiling.

While this was a sizeable financial undertaking, she said the members are committed to the project.

“We didn’t say ‘Are we going to do this?’ We said ‘So how are we going to do this?” Davis said.

She said the society is excited to use the building as a venue, to have a building so close to the North Church, and especially to have such a unique, historically valuable building under their care.

“It just doesn’t get any better than this for a historical society,” she said.

She said the society was motivated in part to make the ambitious purchase by not wanting to see the building enter the open market. Davis said octagon houses have been lost around the country and in Farmington, as in all towns, there are historically significant buildings and artifacts that have been lost forever.

The town should feel assured that their historical society is working hard to preserve the octagon house and other areas of historical significance, Davis said.

“We’re taking good care of our town’s history,” she said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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