Octagon House Acquisition
As presented by John S. Bishop at the Octagon House Sesquicentennial Celebration
John S. Bishop
We’d like to thank all of you for coming to help us celebrate the 150th anniversary of our Octagon House.
The story begins with Frederick Plumer Currier. Born in Vermont in 1812, he left the family farm at the age of 19 to pursue various occupations, studies, and business ventures—which prepared him for his later entrepreneurial pursuits in Michigan. In 1837 he married Mary Carter and they had 4 children, one who died at a young age. In 1844 Frederick and his brother, Moses, made an exploratory trip to Michigan to assess the business opportunities—which they found to be very good in Lapeer County. The lumbering needs of the new settlements provided an ideal situation for the skills Frederick had acquired in Vermont. He returned briefly to Vermont and in 1846 came back to Michigan to stay, settling in Almont. His wife and family joined him in Michigan in 1847.
His first venture was to build a starch factory to utilize the potatoes grown in the area, and he later was involved in a foundry and machine business, manufacturing farm implements. He also was involved in banking, and had many real estate holdings.
In 1854 he built this house using the octagon style of architecture popularized by Orson Fowler in the mid-19th century. With Frederick’s construction experience, it is assumed that he designed and built his own home with assistance from local carpenters and masons. Many features typify the sturdiness and design of the home, such as the fieldstone walls in the basement which are 1-1/2 feet thick, the hand-hewn beams visible in the cellar, supporting the upper structure, and the large full length windows on the first floor creating a light and airy feeling.
Interesting features of the house include the ceiling and wainscoting treatment on the first floor, the cupola room reached from the second floor, the large open room above the carriage shed (now garage) and the three-hole privy at the rear of the carriage shed, which could be reached from the inside by a first floor hallway and also by a stairway from the second floor at the rear of the carriage shed.
Frederick's wife, Mary, died in 1889 and shortly thereafter he married his brother Moses’ widow, Mahala Doe Currier. Frederick died in 1900 and at that time Moses Alonzo Currier (his nephew and now his step-son) returned from North Dakota with his wife, May, to live with his mother, Mahala, in the octagon house. Mahala died in 1912. The afore-mentioned facts and history are extracted from the book, “An Octagon House for the Curriers” by Melanie Meyers and Frank Angelo.
Later information is a little more real for me as I was born and grew-up two houses west of the Octagon house and knew both Moses and May Currier. Moses and May ran a general store, first in Almont and then in Capac for many years until Moses’ death in 1935. May lived in the octagon house until her death in 1960 and then it was bequeathed to her two grandsons, Phillip and Jim Currier, who had lived in Capac but were now some distance away. The distance factor caused them to reluctantly sell the house to Mary and William Hahn who fully appreciated the uniqueness of the house and carefully handled the modernization they performed.
Mary Hahn died in 1974 and William Hahn lived in the house until his death in 1985. I was the Personal Representative of his estate and handled the sale of the house to Frederick P. Currier IV. The proceeds of the Hahn Estate went to the Community Hospital Foundation and ultimately to the Four County Community Foundation and the Octagon House had returned to the Currier Family.
Now for the last part of the story. My cousin, David Bishop, had a long-lasting friendship with the Currier family through summer vacations on Bois Blanc Island in the Straits of Mackinac and he initiated some discussion with Frederick Currier IV about Four County Community Foundation acquiring the house. Discussions were on-going for some time and after Fred’s untimely death it was eventually worked out the house would be acquired from his estate. Fred’s brother, Robert, and his wife, Marilyn, helped make the acquisition possible with a generous donation. It’s symbolic that the solid foundation of the house lasting 150 years is representative of Four County Community Foundation.