Octagon Hall

Historical Marker #503 in Simpson County notes the unique architecture of Octagon Hall, an eight-sided home built in the mid-nineteenth century.

Regardless of era, wealth has always had its privileges. If one has the necessary funds, lifestyle options are almost always more open and attainable. For example, if someone desired to build a certain type of home, and he or she had the financial means to build it; little was left to oppose its construction than the necessary knowledge and labor that was required. A case in point was Andrew Jackson Caldwell and his Octagon Hall in Simpson County.

In the 1850 census, the 31 year old Caldwell is listed as having $3500 in real estate. It is difficult to determine exactly how much land and what type of home he lived in when the census was taken, but for that time period he was quite well to do. Caldwell also owned ten slaves (five males and five females) in 1850 that ranged in age from twenty-seven to one-month old. By 1860, Caldwell had increased his wealth substantially. He had more than doubled his real estate value and was noted as owning $9500 in personal property, of which a great portion was the value of his now thirty-four member slave labor force, who lived in three slave quarter buildings. Living with Caldwell in 1860 was his wife Harriett, daughters Frances, Mary, and Martha, and son Henry.

Caldwell constructed Octagon Hall during the 1850s. Most accounts claim that the home was completed around 1859 or 1860. Regardless, Caldwell used his slaves’ labor to help construct portions of the house including quarrying the limestone foundation, making the bricks, and crafting the interior woodwork. As the name implies, the two story house with elevated basement had eight sides. Its two chimneys were also octagonal in design. Each floor had four rooms.

Octagonal-design homes became somewhat of a subtle fad during the 1850s. Although relatively few were actually constructed in the United States, design books of the period featured different takes on the style and some builders took vernacular approaches.

Andrew Jackson Caldwell died in 1866, but Harriet Caldwell lived in Octagon Hall until she sold it in 1918 to a Nashville doctor named Miles Williams. It remained in the Williams family until 1954, when the doctor died, and then was used a rental property. In 2001, the building was purchased by Octagon Hall Foundation, which now features the architectural treasure as a historic house museum.