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Rich Twinn Octagon House

The Rich-Twinn Octagon House was built circa 1850 in what was then the woods at the edge of the Village of Akron. We are still a small community, although the house does find itself with neighbors today. Badly deteriorated by the late 1970’s, a restoration was sorely needed to save the special structure. Through the dedicated efforts of the Newstead Historical Society and the citizens of the Akron-Newstead community, the house was successfully restored. The Rich-Twinn Octagon House achieved the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It is currently owned and operated by the Newstead Historical Society as a house museum and is open to the public. 

This house also has the distinction of being the only octagon house built in Erie County during the nineteenth century, which is when the short-lived octagon house fad took place. The idea was popularized by Orson Fowler, a phrenologist, author and forward thinker, (may we say “outside the box“?), who wrote that living in a “round” house would achieve greater health for its occupants. Charles B. Rich and his wife Diadema chose to build such a house. 

Charles Rich had come to Western New York from Schoharie County in 1826 and was a prominent nineteenth century citizen of Akron. He was a general store merchant, buyer and shipper of grain, overseer of an ashery mill, collector for the IRS, NYS Legislator, and a well-liked Indian agent. He was also a promoter of local telegraph offices “as far away” as Leroy and was himself a forward thinking and industrious man with a reputation for caring about his community and fellow citizens. So, it is no surprise that Orson Fowler’s ideas appealed to him. Charles Rich lived in the house until his death in 1870 when it was purchased by Charles A. Clark. In 1882 William Gillings and his wife Sarah purchased the house and in 1940 Clark Twinn and his wife Lucille became the last private owners. Clark Twinn’s grandfather, James Cronk Twinn had been an architect on the house when it was built and so a circle became, in a sense, complete. It is from Lucille Twinn that the Newstead Historical Society purchased the house in 1981. Thus, the name Rich-Twinn derives from the first and last private owners of the home. 

The Rich-Twinn Octagon House is of Greek Revival style with the exception of the cupola, which is of Italianate design. This is evident in the rounded Italianate windows, believed to be the earliest examples of Italianate windows in the area. It is approximately 2,600 square feet having three floors plus a cupola and is of post and beam construction. The house sits partially underground, a feature of approximately 10% of octagon homes. Inside is a beautiful restoration with interesting features, among them in-wall speaking tubes, a dumbwaiter and a hiding place believed to be connected to the Underground Railroad period. Come, and be our guest. 

Located in the Village of Akron, NY at 145 Main St. Click here for a map. Hours for 2015 and information for both self-guided and private tours follow. Any and all questions 716-542-7022.

Self-guided tours: April through October, the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month from 1 pm. - 3 pm. Admission for self-guided tours is $5.00 for adults and children 11 and over, $2.00 for children 6-10. 

Private tours: Times and dates are very flexible here and arranged individually. Please call the Historical Society Office at 716-542-7022 to inquire about a private tour. Rates are $7.00 per adult or children 11 and over, $2.00 for children 6-10 years of age. 

Holiday Schedule: The house is decorated for a Victorian Christmas and tours are as follows. Self-guided tours are available the following Sundays: December 4, 11, and 18 from 1 pm. to 3 pm. The Candlelight Tour will be held Sunday, December 4th from 6-8 p.m. Self-Guided tour admission rates apply. .

Take a sneak peak instead the house here!

Laurel Jones, Director
Marybeth Whiting, Curator


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