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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Octagon House

It is good to be back! Over the next few days I will be posting stories that originate from the states I recently visited while on vacation.

The Octagon House was designed for John Tayloe III by architect William Thornton, the first architect of the United States Capitol. Built between 1799 and 1801, this unusual house was the first house to be completed "in the neighborhood" of the White House, establishing a beginning point for future development. In today's vernacular, the name Octagon seems an inaccurate name for the six-sided house. During the 18th century, however, the term "octagon salon" was often used to describe a round room created with eight angled walls, such as the Octagon House entrance hall.

When the President's House, as the White House was known at the time, was destroyed during the War of 1812, James and Dolley Madison accepted John Tayloe's offer to live in the Octagon House temporarily. In 1817 the Tayloe family established permanent residency in the house, but trouble was soon to follow.

Possibly because of arguments with her father about "the man in her life," one of Tayloe's fifteen children either fell or jumped to her death through the center of the grand winding staircase. Later a similar accident claimed the life of a second daughter.

Ghost stories surrounding the tragic deaths at the Octagon House include a strange candle-shaped shadow on the staircase and the faint sound of a falling scream. A somewhat more pleasant ghost, reported to have been seen dancing and enjoying the lilacs, is assumed to be Dolley Madison who adored her temporary stay in the house.

Incidentally, John Tayloe III was the original owner of the Willard Hotel, another building thought by many to be haunted.

The Octagon House Museum Web Site

Source: About.com - Sheridan Alexander

2 comments:

Lesley said...

Welcome back!

Aura said...

Thanks Lesley! The vacation was really nice. Glad to be back online...missed everyone!