It’s 1884 and you are a wealthy businessman who barely survived the Great Chicago fire after being trapped in a burning building and suffering severe lung damage – what do you do? Move to Thomasville, Georgia of course! And don’t forget to build an insane Victorian mansion to keep your new found pyrophobia in check.
That’s what C.W. Lapham did and we now have a beautiful, bright orange house to visit on our National Historic Landmark Registry. The house was custom built to his specifications and everything about it demonstrates his fear of being trapped in another fire. Each of the 19 rooms in the house has at least one door leading outside; there are a total of 45 doors and 53 windows. Every room had a fire extinguisher (unheard of at that time), the chimney has two connected flumes (in case one clogs up, smoke can exit through the other), the doors are designed so that you could find your way out in the dark (external doors are taller and have protruding panels, doors to closets are shorter and have inset panels), windows are low to the floor and open into the wall above them (giving more room for a person to step through them), upstairs rooms were equipped with rope ladders, and the list goes on…
There are more oddities in the architecture of the house. The home has no 90 degree angles in any of its rooms – this was to conform to a theory that a healthy home lacked right angles since they were not found in the natural world. Lapham had traveled to East Asia and may have picked up on some philosophies similar to Feng Shui. As a result, nothing is symmetrical in the house and nothing is centered in any of the rooms.
This historic site is one of my favorites that we’ve visited this year. If you are ever headed south on I-75, I suggest you take a little detour and visit it.