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Rich-Twinn Octagon House to open for self-guided tours on Sundays

Travel back in time this month to revel in the splendor of a Victorian Christmas with a visit to the Rich-Twinn Octagon House in Akron.

The late-Greek Revival building at 145 Main St. will be open for self-guided tours from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays in December. Admission is $3. Groups of six or more can arrange for guided tours by calling 542-2254.

This Sunday, an evening candlelight tour is being offered from 6 to 8. Mulled cider and gingerbread will be served, and visitors can join community carolers singing holiday tunes accompanied by a circa-1870 pipe organ.

The eight-sided building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is operated by Newstead Historical Society. Octagonal buildings -- including churches, homes and schools -- were common in the Hudson River Valley of downstate New York, built by early Dutch settlers. They are rarer upstate, and Akron's is the only original example of its type in Erie County.

The style was championed by phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler, a native of Cohocton in Steuben County, who stressed its stylistic and functional advantages in his book "A Home for All, or a New, Cheap, Convenient and Superior Mode of Building."

The 15-room Rich-Twinn was built in 1849 for Charles B. Rich of Akron, an Indian agent for the state and a grain merchant. He and his family lived in the house until his death in 1870.

It had two other owners before it was purchased in 1938 by attorney Clark J. Twinn, whose family occupied the house until 1981, when they sold it to the historical society. Coincidentally, Twinn's grandfather, James C. Twinn, had built the house for the Rich family.

Surrounded by a one-story porch, the Octagon House features a ceiling that is 9 feet, 9 inches high on the second floor, which also has two large fireplaces and a central foyer with a staircase and balcony.

On the first floor is a drawing room and dining room. Guests were greeted in the basement receiving room, which also includes a kitchen. There are bedrooms on the third floor and a cupola on the roof. Donated period furnishings adorn the rooms, which also have interesting architectural details like beveled windows.

For more information, visit the society's Web site

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