By Nathan Ham
A piece of history in downtown Boone will be no more as demolition work started on Friday morning at the site of the Turner House. D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company, Inc. is in charge of the demolition work and the county will be paying approximately $21,300 for the work.
The Turner House is located at 136 North Water Street and was purchased by Watauga County in November of 2018. County commissioners voted just over a month ago to proceed with tearing down the building.
The issue of what to do with the property has taken some unexpected turns as of late. In February of 2020, the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Commissioners had shown interest in working together to build a parking deck on Queen Street that would allow for the Turner House to remain standing. However, the parking deck option appears to no longer be on the table and the county has proceeded with bulldozing the house.
“That cow left the barn ages ago as far as I’m concerned,” said Watauga County Commissioner Larry Turnbow when discussion of the partnership was revisited during the January 19 board of commissioners meeting.
Digital Watauga Project founder Eric Plaag had been advocating for the county to not tear the Turner House (also known as the Hardin House) down, and instead keep it standing for its historical value. Plaag has gone so far as to say that standard open meeting rules were violated when the vote took place by the commissioners to tear the building down.
“The Board’s sudden decision to demolish the property is not only an egregious and flagrant violation of the agreement between the Town and the County but also represents a gross disregard for the interests and expectations of the citizens of Watauga County,” Plaag said in a letter to the High Country Press last month. “The Oscar and Suma Hardin House is the property of the citizens of Watauga County, and as such, they deserve to have a voice in decisions about its future. Instead, the County Commissioners have chosen to proceed with demolition of the House behind closed doors, without legal authority, and without the statutorily required public notice.”
Pictures from Thursday afternoon and Friday morning: