Octagon at Amherst College (1847)

A distinctive building on the campus of Amherst College is the Octagon. Built in 1847-1848 and designed by Henry A Sykes, its wood exterior walls were covered in stucco, originally scored and painted to resemble large blocks. College president Edward Hitchcock requested that the building have an octagon shape, a decision that was initially controversial. The Octagon originally housed the Woods Cabinet, the College’s scientific collection, and the Lawrence Observatory. The attached octagonal tower contained the observatory telescope. An 1855 addition housed a geology lecture room and a galley for the College’s Assyrian reliefs. After a new observatory was built in 1905, the Octagon housed other departments. In 1934-1935, the second floor of the Woods Cabinet was remodeled by architect James Kellum Smith as a meeting room, known as the Babbott Room.

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