Travel is an opportunity to take in new things…right? Well yes, but it’s also nice to see something in our travels that is suggestive of home. In this case, the sight of the Crazy 8 Barn, an eight-sided barn constructed in 1880, moved and repurposed as a café and gift shop in Palmyra, Kent County, reminded me of William Lea’s octagonal house in Leaside, which stood near where the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens now stands, and is commemorated with a room named in his honour, and a plaque on the side of the William Lea Room.
Jane Pitfield in her book “Leaside” tells us that William Lea “built an odd looking house with eight gables….This strange looking octagonal structure, two storeys high with an additional much smaller storey added on top he named Leaside”. Eight-sided buildings of all kinds were a popular architectural form in the late 1800s, a trend that started in the United States. Jane Pitfield quotes William Lea as having justified his choice of the octagonal shape, “…like a bee’s cell, it enclosed the greatest amount of space within the least amount of wall.”
This example, from 1890, was built originally for stabling animals but was left empty for years until Susanne Spence-Wilkins saw the potential and created a special “Garden Inspiration Centre” and café. Crazy 8 Barn is located on the Talbot Trail, just east of Rondeau Provincial Park. Look for it if you are ever travelling along the Lake Erie shoreline. The address is 14226 Talbot Trail, Palmyra, N0P 2V0. Talbot Trail? – yes another reminiscence of Leaside, but that’s for another day!