The Black Sheep Inn is housed in an unusual style of architecture known as the “Octagon Mode”, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the T.M. Younglove Octagon House. The T.M. Younglove Octagon House, constructed in this intriguing manner, is a two-story, Italianate stucco covered stone building consisting of the main octagon shape, constructed in 1859, and two, rectangular wings added to the North and East faces of the eight-sided structure in 1882. The entire dwelling is comprised of stone masonry with stucco applied to all of the exterior walls.
The interior floor plan of the Black Sheep Inn is somewhat different from the typical octagon mode. Contrary to the expected center hall configuration, this dwelling features a formal, spiral staircase, with octagonal newel and banister, positioned in the triangular entry at the front of the house. The general floor plan does represent a variation of the standard cross pattern, however, the first floor features an elongated dining room adjacent to the formal living room. The living room is highlighted by the only remaining marble fireplace and tiled hearth. The adjoining billiard room had a similar fireplace at one time, but only its companion, curved wall still exists in this room. The interior demonstrates the same philosophy of differentiation between formal and informal as seen on the exterior, illustrated by the more interesting door and window casings in the front of the house. Also, the first floor exhibits finished wood floors, while the second floor demonstrates the use of wide, painted floorboards.
The T.M. Younglove Octagon House is architecturally significant as a dramatic example of Orson Fowler’s “Octagon movement” in New York State in the mid 19th century. The home of the Black Sheep Inn exists as one of the only remaining octagon structures in Steuben County, Fowler’s birthplace. Constructed primarily of materials directly from the site, and essentially in its original format, this home embodies many of the concepts brought forth in Fowler’s, A Home for All, published in 1848. As expressed in this writing, this octagon building vividly illustrates the pioneering philosophy of “form follows function”, and marks an important phase in the progression of American architecture.
Initiated by Orson Fowler’s, A Home for All, the octagon movement began, and found its greatest acceptance, in New York State in the mid 19th century. As one of the few remaining octagon structures in Steuben County, the T.M. Younglove Octagon House is an inspiring example of the octagon mode of construction. Despite Fowler’s dedication to the economy of the “gravel wall” method of building, many of the structures he inspired were constructed using the more traditional techniques of wood framing. The Younglove dwelling, however, made of stone and stucco, with its substantial wing additions, exemplifies the stateliness of the octagon design and the Italianate period.
The T.M. Younglove Octagon House is a significant representation of the “Octagon” mode of construction, popularized in the mid 19th century by Orson Fowler. Fowler’s innovative concepts of economy of materials, superior ventilation, and enhanced natural lighting are all beneficial to the functionality of the Younglove Octagon House. The octagon movement provided some very architecturally interesting and unique structures, while, at the same time, appealed to the economy and hardworking nature of the common man.
Fowler’s innovative philosophy asserts that “form follows function”, a principle later popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Younglove Octagon House, as one of a few hundred surviving structures built in this mode, is a dignified reminder of a very specific period in American architectural history.
Within close proximity to the T.M. Younglove Octagon House, there remains a two-story barn that was built shortly after the house itself. Originally, this remaining section of barn was part of a larger, octagonal barn that boasted a cupola similar to that of the house, but was lost in a flash flood in 1935. The existence of the octagonal barn, as well as the eight-sided smoke house, and privy, clearly demonstrates the devotion that T.M. Younglove had toward Fowler’s octagon movement of the mid 19th century.