Octagon House

Octagon or Ink Bottle House

Built in 1857 by Dr. William T. Sparrow, the Octagon House is located on land patented by Lovett Bell in 1793. Later Robert Jennette purchased the land and gave it to his daughter who married Dr. Sparrow. Today the house stands in the midst of the Lake Landing National Historic Distirct. Why its shape? No one now really knows. Local tradition says that it was built to replace a home destroyed by a storm. With an octogon shape, there are no corners for the wind to howl around.

William T. Sparrow, son of Thomas and Jane (Jennette) Sparrow, was born in 1825 in Craven County. He married his second cousin, Elizabeth Jennette, and had a son Robert and daughters Ida and Mary. Mrs. Sparrow died in 1860. Dr. Sparrow served in the Confederate Army until discharged in 1862 because of poor health. He returned to the Octagon House and died in 1862.

The three Sparrow orphans inherited the house. Ida married Francis Swindell, and they resided in the house for a while. In 1869 they sold their interest in the house and farm to John S. Northan for $600. Northan acquired the other two shares in 1878 and 1879. He lived in the house for several years. Upon his death in 1904, Ola Gibbs, the daughter of a grandniece, inherited the property. Educated at Louisburg College in art and music, she returned home and married Charles L. Payne in 1910. The Paynes resided in the house for a short time and then continously from 1934 until the death of Mrs. Payne in 1958. Since that date, the house has remained vacant.

The Octagon House is patterned after plans made by Orson Fowler, a New York phrenologist, in 1854. The eight-sided structure is built with no posts except for the windows and doors. The nails used in it were a square-headed, cut type. The large chimney which runs through the center of the house accommodates four different fireplaces. The interior consists of six rooms with a hall upstairs and one downstairs. In earlier days a kitchen, smokehouse, and Dr. Sparrow's office were located nearby. The Hyde County house is unique in its use of board wall construction. The Octagon House is one of only two in North Carolina built in the 19th century.

In 1976, a non-profit group called The Octagon House Restoration, Inc. purchased the house and lot from the Payne heirs. Through local efforts and state and federal grants, the house has been restored. The cypress shingles which had been on the house since the 1890's were removed and four false double windows were found underneath. The house has now been stuccoed as it was originally. The interior has been plastered and modern conveniences added. The floors have been kept in their original state where possible.

(Photo courtesy of Margie Brooks of the Greater Hyde County Chamber of Commerce. Information from a brochure on the Octagon House.)

Copyright 1999

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