City Directories and History: (Holmes-Watson House) The Octagon House, constructed in 1859, is considered to be the first concrete house built is South Carolina. This eight-sided structure with hipped roof has four porches and four extended rooms on the first floor level and a central octagonal core for the second-floor level. The octagonal design is maintained throughout, even down to the eight-sided porch columns and chimneys. Window design and placement varies in each façade, but all have granite sills and lintels. A large square skylight that illuminates the interior central hall of both floors crowns the upper roof. The octagonal motif that is so prominent on the exterior is muted inside the house. Below the first floor are basement rooms with outside access only. Most of these rooms were originally used as domestic slave quarters, but one small one built entirely of field stone served as an ice house and collection point for moisture which accumulated in the concrete walls and was transferred to this location by a series of drain pipes. While the house displays several interesting architectural features, it is primarily significant as an early appearance of the method of construction utilized by the designer and builder, Zelotes Lee Holmes, a Presbyterian minister and educator of upcountry South Carolina. The walls are from 12 to 15 inches thick and include hollow passages that provide a cooling ventilation system throughout the house. As one of the first concrete houses in South Carolina, the Octagon House stands as a landmark to a structural technique that did not fully mature in the state until the twentieth century. Listed in the National Register March 20, 1973. (Courtesy of the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History)
“This house was built by the Reverend Zelotes Holmes between 1850 and 1859. The architecture is attributed to the builder’s brother who was an engineer from New York. The eight-sided design, striking and symmetrical in appearance, offers views in all directions. During this period, the octagonal style was used efficiently in barns, schools and churches.
After the Reverend Mr. Holmes died in 1885, Mrs. Holmes, their daughter Ada and her husband, Doctor L. S. Fuller, occupied the house. The property next passed into the hands of the Guy Watson family and from that estate was bought by Mrs. Theodore Sumerel. It is presently in the Sumerel estate.”
Information from: The Laurens County Sketchbook, Author – J.S. Bolick, 1973
This is reported to be the earliest concrete house built in S.C. (BS)
See the National Register Papers for this home at: Octagon House
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