By Jesse Wood
July 23, 2013. While the water wheel off of N.C. 105 has been a landmark in the High Country for nearly 40 years, it has been out of commission for the past year.
But that will soon change.
This morning, M&R Services and Triplett & Coffey, Inc., were repairing the water wheel, which is located at the entrance to Studio West Apartments in Boone.
Michael Richardson of M&R Services said workers used a crane to lift up the water wheel to change the center shaft and replace worn out bearings. A worker of Triplett & Coffey, Inc., with knowledge of the repairs wasn’t available at press time, but employees with the machine shop did some welding on parts of the water wheel, too.
“We got it up and going today, and tested it all out,” Richardson said. “I think Studio West is going to do something next week and get it running full time.”
Leanne Cole, community manager with Studio West, said the Village of Meadowview Apartments, which is also controlled by Ten Federal Management, will sponsor the water wheel’s ribbon cutting on Monday, Aug. 19. She said the public is invited from 3 to 5 p.m. for light refreshments. The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 4 p.m.
“We’ll get the wheel turning … and kind of make it a community event,” Cole said.
In a prepared statement, Ten Federal Management said, “To us, the waterwheel in front of the Studio West Apartments is iconic Boone. We are fortunate to be a part of the Boone community, and we are excited to restore this landmark to working order, so that visitors and residents alike may enjoy one of the many characteristics that makes Boone beautiful and unique.”
Gene Messenkopf, the owner of Geno’s Sports Lounge, which used to be located where Studio West currently stands, said Charles Ranke of Wilkesboro built the original water wheel in 1975.
In 1984, Messenkopf and his father went into business and bought the High Country Inn, according to a High Country Press business profile in 2010. They ran the Old Miner’s Table Restaurant, which eventually became Geno’s and for a while before that it was the Waterwheel Restaurant.
“The water wheel has been changed out a bunch. [It] rotted out so many different times, it had to be replaced [and redone] several times,” Messenkopf said. “The design has gotten a lot more thicker, more width to it. When it was first built, it was a lot skinnier from a profile view.”
He said he believed the original water wheel lasted until 1986, after which one of the Hodges boys in Deep Gap replaced it. While the wheel never powered anything, Messenkopf said it could have.
Messenkopf, who has an affinity for the wheel, said he was glad that the water wheel was being fixed and said it was shame that it had fallen out of commission.
“It was one of the most photographed spots in North Carolina. It was an attraction, especially when it froze up,” Messenkopf said. “In the winter we’d let the water run over the wheel and let it freeze up. It caused a lot of damage, but it was so attractive we went ahead and did it anyway knowing that repairs would be needed in the spring.”