Octagon House (Johnson/Bridges House) Meridian
Octagon House (Johnson/Bridges House)
Located among the rolling hills surrounding the town of Meridian, the Johnson-Bridges House was built around 1860 upon a unique concept which was developed by its builder to ameliorate the hot climate. It was based on the plan of the dog-trot cabin, wherein two rooms were separated by a breezeway, all under a common roof. During the hot months, the prevailing breezes cooled the dog trot, which opened to the east and west.
However, rather than incorporating rectangular rooms, the builder employed octagonal ones. To provide efficient ventilation of the rooms, doors were placed in the sides facing the breezeway, and in the north and south sides of each room. Fireplaces were constructed on the extreme east and west ends. In the two sides flanking the fireplaces were situated windows with six-over-six sashes. The sides which were oblique to the breezeway contained window openings closed by wooden shutters swinging upon iron hinges. Thus each of the eight sides of each octagon has an opening of some type. Ceilings were high to allow hot air to rise.
Other significance is apparent in the wall construction. Rather than using the log construction that typified so many dog trot cabins throughout the south, the builder employed lime concrete. Above a stone foundation which extended several inches beyond the wall line on both inside and out, the walls were formed in layers about twelve inches high. The bottoms of the forms were secured by nails driven through the boards into 3/4 by 3/4 inch wooden strips located about twelve inches from the corners, perpendicular to the faces of the walls. These strips remained in place after the forms were removed and are still visible today. The mixture placed into these forms consisted of lime, sand, and large aggregate of broken limestone. This building is one of three known structures in the vicinity of Meridian incorporating this type of wall construction, but is the only remaining example.
Fireplaces were constructed of limestone laid in random ashlar pattern. On the interior the facing, back, and sides of the fireplace were comprised of carefully cut limestone slabs. Other details of construction were finely executed. Sashes were assembled with mortise and tendon joints secured with wooden pegs. Muntins were planed to delicate profiles, about three-eighths of an inch by one inch. The cornice was boxed with a seven inch projection. Shutters and doors were built with boards nailed to horizontal cross members, each with a diagonal brace.
The floor and roof constructions also are noteworthy. Floor joists are cedar logs with the tops hewn flat to receive one-by-six tongue and groove flooring. These joists are supported at the centers of the rooms by large logs extending east to west, and by the stone foundation of the perimeter. The roof structure consists of rough sawn joists and rafters. Shingles cover the roof; the original layer appears to exist beneath several additional layers. The ceiling is composed of thin tongue and groove beaded boards.
Although simple in design, wooden fireplace trim adds to the character of the interiors. Comprised of boards about one inch thick, the design emulates pilasters supporting an entablature.
Although the date of construction is not known, a porch was placed along the south side to protect the walls from the hot sun and to provide a cool place for sitting during the evenings. This simple frame construction with shingled roof has since collapsed.
Meridian Meridian, Texas