top of page
  • Writer's pictureIthaca Heritage

Our Unique Octagonal Buildings

Of course, as Director of The History Center in Tompkins County, I am delighted that we own and manage the Eight Square Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse, built in 1827 by local carpenter Henry Balcom, is one of Tompkins County's finest local landmarks.

It is the earliest school still existing in Tompkins County, and the only brick octagonal schoolhouse left standing in New York State. Used as the Town of Dryden District Number 5 school until 1941, when pupils began attending other schools in Dryden, the building was used for a brief period as a community activity center and as an occasional site for field trips. By the early 1950's the building had been declared surplus property, and it was in 1953 that ownership of the building and its lot were deeded to the DeWitt Historical Society for the sum of $10. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2000 it became an Official project of Save America's Treasures.

I find it very interesting that not too far from the schoolhouse is another octagonal building owned by Strebel Planning Group:



I think of them as sister buildings and wonder if any of the youth who attended the schoolhouse may have also worked in the barn.

Both buildings have received the needed care and attention that allow them to be used today. They also serve to remind us of our agricultural and educational histories. The buildings will be on a Saturday afternoon bus tour as part of the Authentically Rural, October 5-7, weekend: Come explore our rural history, architecture, landscapes, and culinary bounty!

Originally written for the blog.

Published August 2, 2018.

49 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page