© Courtesy of Geography Collection, Memorial University of Newfoundland Libraries, Archives and Special Collections Division
An unidentified group posing outside the Octagon Castle.
We’ve done a lot of walking and running around Octagon Pond in Paradise. It’s where we often train for the Tely 10 or occasionally take our son when he’s climbing the walls with more energy than Muskrat Falls will ever generate.
The trail is an ideal spot us, a short drive from home, sheltered from traffic, and natural enough in parts to feel like being in the woods.
In the decade I’ve been hitting these trails, I’ve always assumed Octagon Pond was named after its shape, even though I’ve never checked for eight sides.
What other reason could there be?
Turns out a pretty cool one.
Last week, when my wife mentioned running there, her aunt asked if we knew the origin of Octagon.
I confidently suggested the pond’s shape and she proceeded to tell me about Octagon Castle and a man known as “Professor.”
“Don’t you know anything?” she chided.
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about anything.
But Google seems to know almost everything about anything, and a quick search turned up more info about the castle, which officially opened 117 years ago tomorrow. According to an entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography by Michael Harrington, the castle consisted of a four-storey, eight-sided tower. There were wings off three of its sides.
“The imposing style of the exterior was complemented by a dazzling interior that has been described as a combination of 18th-century baroque and the Arabian Nights,” the item reads. “Hundreds of yards of satin and tinsel decorated the banquet hall and the rooms set aside for reading, smoking, dressing, and private dining.”
Harrington’s article says the highlight of a castle tour was the coffin belonging to owner Charles Henry Danielle. He is said to have slept in it.
“Elaborately decorated with more than 7,000 white satin shells, (the casket) was displayed in a vault on the fourth floor surmounted by a gilt-framed inscription that read, “In the back of this Frame will be found Full instructions to be followed Immediately after my death.”
Obviously this Danielle guy was a tad eccentric.
And it was that characteristic that led him to build a castle in a place then known as Irvine.