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Circus House

Location: 161 South Main Street, Homer NY 13077
(42.62511773865912, -76.18300064232737)

This unique structure has had many purposes over the years. Its walls hold strange secrets and wild stories. Its tin ceilings have reflected the warm light from a lamp repair shop. Before that, its handcrafted wainscoting held the savory smells of Tracy’s Restaurant & Bakery. But its best, most fantastic story, is the sound of galloping hooves and acrobat’s shouts echoing from its copula.

Built in 1900, this building’s basement floor was originally used as a ring for training trick horses, the ground and second floor were a home, and the third floor was meant for training trapeze artists. For a time, George Satterlee, known better by his stage name, Sig Sautelle, made Homer his winter headquarters.

Sig Sautelle, a wealthy and jovial circus man, purchased a local hotel in which to house his circus crew and built three very peculiar buildings. The odd red structures were octagon in shape, with peaked roofs, meant to emulate circus tents. The largest served as the barn, another for training, and the one which stands before you now, was his residence that he shared with his beloved wife, Ida Belle.

If living in a circus tent look-alike wasn’t bold enough, Sig himself was larger than life. He was a charismatic man, often seen walking the streets of downtown Homer, puffing a cigar and sporting his signature diamond lapel pin. Most of the locals adored him. He was known as a generous and kind man. “The president of the Homer Bank recalls seeing Sig walk into a lunch counter, order, and then pay the bill for everyone eating there,” reported The Crooked Lake Review.

Each spring, Sig would parade the circus down Main Street. Rolling cages filled with exotic animals, ornate wagons pulled by dappled horses, escorted by waving, tumbling performers all made their way through a cacophony of music and cheers. Sig’s circus was considered one of the finest, most wholesome touring shows. According to the Warrensburg Historical Society Quarterly (2015) “The success of his circus has been achieved by the fundamental principle of offering the best [show] in the world at the lowest price. The performances are strictly moral in tone and character, and nothing is said to offend the most fastidious lady or gentleman.”

This annual inaugural show was waited for with bated breath by each citizen of Homer. This, sadly, would be the high-water mark for old Sig. In just four years’ time, things would take a dark turn.