Homer’s ‘Circus House’ placed on list of historic properties

HOMER, N.Y. — A peculiar building constructed over a century ago sits, regrettably, on US 11 and South Main Street in Homer. Once a training center for the Sig Sautelle Circus, this octagonal-shaped house is now at risk for being redeveloped into office space, rendering it of its novelty and historical significance to its community. PACNY (Professional Abatement of Contractors of New York) has placed the estate on a list of threatened properties in hopes of salvaging the former circus space.

The origins of this property begin with George Satterle, circus showman, who constructed the house as a training facility and winter shelter for his circus that famously travelled through the state’s canal system, The Sig Sautelle Circus. Different floors were reserved for training animals and acrobats, and with a later installation of a second floor, the house became a home to Satterle.

A unique landmark in Homer’s history, the house depicts certain design and architectural trends of its time period. It once included a first-floor fenestration and various circus inspired structures in its layout; although these former attributes have been removed or altered, the interior still displays pressed metal pans for ceiling and wall surfaces, providing a first-hand view of its periods style.

Since its function as a quirky circus house, the property has served as a diner and an array of small businesses for its community over the years, though it currently has no function.

The house faces risks of deterioration and lack of protections, as well as an unfortunate proximity to US 11. By placing the circus house on the list of threatened properties, PACNY aims to increase public attention to the risks the notable property is facing.

“If more people are aware of the historic importance of a property, they are more likely to rally around to try and save it” John Auerwater, vice president of the board of trustees for PACNY, explained.

“That kind of public support can help property owners if they’re willing to preserve and rehabilitate their properties” Auerwater continued.

PACNY, founded in 1977 and based in Syracuse, is an all-volunteer organization that aims at the preservation of historical and architectural resources in several central New York counties.

In addition to fastening the public attention on jeopardized estates, PACNY is able to directly help property owners.

“If the property owner wants to make use of historic tax credits, we can guide them through that process” Auerwater continues, mentioning that PACNY has been in touch with the current owners of the estate.

PACNY can also advise owners to register estates on the National Register of Historic Places, which would allow access to grants and tax credits.

The circus house has been deemed eligible for the National Register, but has not been given a spot.

PACNY’s list of threatened properties, dubbed the “Eight that Can’t Wait”, is a common tool among preservation agencies to raise public awareness and ultimately benefit property owners and communities.

This is the first list PACNY has put out since their sixteen-year hiatus; “we haven’t done this in a while. It’s the first time in several years that we’ve revived the list” Auerwater tells, alluding to the importance of the properties that made the list.

The list spotlights eight at risk establishments throughout the five counties that PACNY serves, also making note of three regionwide threatened neighborhood churches. The First Congressional Church in Cortland has a spot PACNY’s revamped catalog.