Octagon House – Laurens, South Carolina

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As modern as this home in Laurens may appear, it was actually built in 1859. Considered one of the first – if not the first – concrete houses in South Carolina, it is a remaining example of a structure designed and built by Zelotes Lee Holmes, a Presbyterian minister and educator from New York who made his way to the Columbia Theological Seminary in 1830.

Octagon House Laurens County

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The lime, rock, and concrete house boasts walls between 12 and 15 inches thick, some bearing hollow passages to allow for cooling, as seen below.

Octagon House Laurens County

Each of the twelve rooms has a fireplace, as the materials of the walls allowed for one to be built anywhere in the house. The basement contains several rooms – also each with a fireplace – that were used as quarters for domestic slaves (see below photo) along with an an ice house.

Octagon Laurens County

In 1970, more than $200,000 of federal, state, and private funds were used to restore the home. However, those funds were instead raised to convert the home into its current use as an apartment building.


Legend has it that during the Civil War, Mrs. Holmes hid the family’s valuables from raiding Union troops in a “dungeon” accessible only by removing the floor boards in the entrance hall and descending a ladder. The story also claims that the dungeon provided a tunnel to nearby Laurens Cotton Mills to escape during this frightful and uncertain time. Whether or not the tale is true, it adds another layer of intrigue to this fascinating piece of South Carolina architectural history.

The Octagon House, also known as the Holmes-Watson House, is listed in the National Register, which says the following:

(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 fa├žade, 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.

Octagon House Info

Address: 619 East Main Street, Laurens, SC 29360

Octagon House Map

Octagon House – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Octagon House, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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2 Comments about Octagon House

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
January 5th, 2015 at 9:11 am

You can always find out who owns it and ask! Good luck!

Jeff McGunegle says:
January 3rd, 2015 at 5:57 am

Is it possible to buy this house?


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