March 15, 2012. The old Bingham Estate, located on King Street across from Harmon’s Dixie Pride, is the last remaining undeveloped parcel of land on the main strip in downtown Boone. Over the winter, the area was clear cut – at the request of the town – because it was a campground for vagrants.
Until recently, the area was a haven for homeless people who were fond of booze and drugs and preferred sleeping on the hillside property, hidden amongst the vegetation, instead of sleeping at the old Hospitality House and having to abide by the shelter’s sobering policies. (The Hospitality House of Boone, which had two residencies nearby – one bordering the property and another one block away – has since moved across town).
“Derelicts were going up there drinking, doing drugs, camping, everything,” said Brad Harmon, who watches over the property for Viola Bingham and her descendents. “There’s a whole bunch of needles up there. It’s real bad – broken glass, needles. You could get cut – AIDS. Everything up there.”
Shannon Isaacs, a community improvement officer with the Town of Boone Public Works department, confirmed that Boone personnel requested something be done because the property was becoming a nuisance with homeless people trespassing, camping and littering on the property.
“I contacted the property owners. They, of course, came up and talked to me about the property and solutions – either to build a fence, go by the specs of the Planning and Inspections department, or have it cleaned up,” Isaacs said. “They chose to clear it.”
The area has been a nuisance for the Town of Boone for at least two – maybe three – decades. In years past after being contacted by community improvement officers with the town, the property owners – instead of clear cutting the area – would clean up the trash and items left behind by vagrants.
“It’s been a constant sore for years and years,” Harmon said. “One year [about 15 years ago] before a parade, they pulled a body out of there. A drunk person died up there.”
Harmon also said in the ‘80s “derelicts” burnt down the original house that used to be on the small parcel of land, estimated to be a little over an acre. Harmon added that the house was vacant at the time, with Mrs. Bingham already living in a funeral home by then.
As for the clear cutting, Harmon, a Boone native, is pleased.
“It’s made my job a lot easier to keep an eye on it,” Harmon said. Though, he added that people, mainly college students cutting through the property on the way to class, still trespass.
Looking up at the property from King Street, the area is prime for a small apartment complex or a commercial building of some sort. Being the last undeveloped parcel on the main strip of King Street, the old Bingham Estate looks like a natural sanctuary amidst concrete and pavement, surely a prize for some developer in the future.
Right now, though, it will remain as is. According to Harmon, the parcel will eventually be inherited by Mrs. Bingham’s seven grandkids.
“It’s not for sale; it’s not becoming a building,” Harmon said. “It will just stay that a way.”