From The Circleville Herald, October 15, 2003


October 15, 2003
By Mike Pratt

The octagonal house on the Crites farm, at the southern edge of Circleville, has been uninhabited for a few years and is beginning to deteriorate. So members of the Roundtown Conservancy, incorporated in 2001, are trying to seize an opportunity to save the house. Several of the group’s members on Saturday gathered at the house to do some cleaning.

The Crites property, currently owned by Mary Virginia Hannan, is targeted for retail development, with a Super Wal-Mart Center being the anchor store. The primary developer, Casto, agreed to allow the Roundtown Conservancy to move the house by the end of October, said conservancy president Stuart Sharpnack. Otherwise, the house will be torn down to make room for the development.

Sharpnack said Casto has given the conservancy permission to clean the house, have possession of the home, and to move it.

"We’re going to do everything we can to meet the specifications they gave us," he said. "They originally talked about the end of October (to move the house). We are reaching that deadline quickly, but we anticipated it would be a slow process and we are prepared to ask for extensions. And I think with all the publicity behind saving the house, I think the developer is fully aware of our intentions and he has said he would like to see the house saved."

It is likely the house can be saved, said Roundtown Conservancy member Wallace Higgins.

"Now, we’re going to have to have a lot of money and we do have some national support, from the National Preservation Society and other groups like that," he said. "So it’s possible we can do it and we certainly are going to try. It’s too great a building to see it go to nothing like this. It’s tragic what’s already been done to it, but it’s still something that can be redeemed."

Sharpnack agrees.

"Structurally speaking, I think the house is in sound condition," he said. "We’ve had a lot of preservation experts tell us that, and as far as I’m concerned they are the experts. We rely on them to give us the information we need.

"As long as they keep telling us it’s salvageable, we’re going to work on keeping it safe,” he said. “I think the attention we’re getting, as far as our intent to save the house, not just on the local level, but state and national as well, I think there’s a very good chance we can save this house. There’s so much history behind it. It’s certainly a landmark and something for the citizens of Circleville and Pickaway County to treasure, and we need to do everything we can to save it."

Roundtown Conservancy member Tom Cooper said with the right technology and the right amount of money, almost anything can be done, including saving the octagonal house.

"It’s a very stable building," he said.

One hurdle is to find a permanent home for the house.

"Basically, we’d like to move the house to a place that is close," Sharpnack said. "We’d like to see it used as a community center, visitors’ bureau, or something to draw attention to Circleville and Pickaway County. We believe it can bring tourists into the community."

Higgins said the eight sides of the house is what makes it unique.

"This was a style that came into vogue in 1840s," he said. "Of course Circleville had a much earlier connection with octagonal buildings because the (Pickaway County) courthouse was that shape.

"Several architects have come here to look at it over the years and they say it’s an extremely unusual structure, even for an octagonal house," he said. "We’re dealing with something that is very nearly unique."

Circleville’s Beth Kowalski said Pickaway County’s connection to octagonal structures makes this one even more significant.

"Our first courthouse was an octagonal house," she said. "So we were building them before they became popular.

"It’s like covered bridges," she said. "How many are left?"

The octagonal house on the Crites farm was built by a young farmer named George Gregg. According to a 1987 article in the Pickaway Quarterly, "Circleville historian Mac Noggle believed Gregg’s plan for the house was influenced by his recollections of our first county courthouse, the octagonal building which stood at the intersection of Court and Main Street."

The courthouse was still in its glory when Gregg was a boy.

Sharpnack said the house basically has been hidden from the Circleville community.

"What the conservancy is doing is bringing attention to the house and it’s historical significance," he said. "We are getting all kinds of organizations and individuals who certainly are willing to put their names on paper, saying they want to see the house saved. So I think that’s very important."

Kowalski said she often hears people say they wish certain buildings with historical significance had not been torn down.

"Well this is our chance to stop that," she said.

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