Reliving the past in the Octagon House in Washington Twp, Michigan
Recently, I was able to explore the Octagon House at one of its Open Houses. This was a blast from the past for me as I remembered touring this eight-sided gem years ago when I was a Girl Scout. Being able to explore this magnificent historic home, wander all the floors, and even chat with one of the volunteer tour guides on the home’s unique history was a fantastic treat. The wonderful thing is that this was not the only Open House they will have. The Octagon House is open the third Sunday from March through October from 1 to 4 p.m.
History of the Octagon House
The Octagon House has changed hands many times over the years. But in the beginning, Loren Andrus was the one who started building this gorgeous home back in 1858. The Octagon House is Italianate in style, surrounded on six sides by a Corinthian-columned porch. The roof is a cedar shake shingle roof with great views from the windows of the third-story cupola at the top of the 55-step cantilevered spiral staircase. Most of the material used to build the home was used from Andrus’s 360-acre farmland surrounding the site.
After the Civil War, the Octagon House became the Washington Twp gathering place to dance, play games, pull taffy, and sing songs around the piano. Unfortunately, in 1890 that all stopped when Loren’s wife died. This is a shame as the Octagon House was made for socializing with its vast rooms flowing in a circle with no middle hallway, where you can wander from dining room to living room to music room.
Between 1894 to 1945, the Octagon House had nine different owners. In 1938, the Octagon House became a restaurant destination for people from the city to enjoy the freshness of products grown on his working farm for a year before Paul Wyer had a heart attack and passed away. After that, the house was sold again and became a rental farm. From 1945 to 1964, the Octagon House was part of Wayne State University’s agricultural training program. The farm became self-sufficient, raising a large dairy herd and a state-of-the-art poultry operation. Students lived in the house and worked at the farm before becoming veterinarians and engineers.
When the university abandoned the program, the house became vacant, vandalized, and in 1974 was condemned despite being officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. During the late 70s and early 80s, the property became the Apple Barrel Farms in the hopes of saving the property. Within this time period, the farm was able to educate thousands of school children at the living museum and I was one of them. This program only lasted until 1984.
A last-ditch effort to save the house from the wrecking ball happened in 1987. Since then the Octagon House, Inc., a non-profit organization determined to restore this beautiful home. It has taken years of hard work, sweat, and tears to rebuild the house from the inside out. They had to fix the walls and ceilings, remove critters who had taken up residence, and repair the beautiful spiral stairs. Today all their work, which still continues, paid off. Now you and your family can tour inside the Octagon house and the restored gardens for a $5 donation on their Open House days during the spring and summertime.
Upcoming Events (Save this Article)
Besides the Open Houses on the third Sunday of the month, a few other events are coming up. Make sure to make reservations by calling 586-781-0084 if you want to attend.
- Sit & Stitch 2nd and 4th Tuesday 1-4 pm (Bring your own fiber or craft project) March through December
- June 6 - Super Sunday and Barn Sale 10 am - 4 pm
- July 17 & 18 - Community Quilt Show
- August 15 - Open House 1 - 4 pm
- September 11 - Wolverine Knife Collectors Club Show in the barn
- September 19 - Open House 1 - 4 pm
- October 2 - Ghost Walk
- October 17 - Fall Open House 1 - 4 pm
- October 23 - Halloween Tea
- November - Victorian Christmas (no reservation required)
- November - Victorian Teas
- December - Victorian Teas
- December - Sunday Open House with Santa (no reservation required)