CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An iconic house in Charleston has been thrust back into the media spotlight this week, but it’s not the kind of publicity normally associated with the Top-O-Rock house overlooking the Capital City.
Built in 1968 the once-grand home was a marvel of modern architecture and engineering. The original owner built the house into the hillside of the craggy bluffs overlooking the city. It has been featured in magazines and articles for years.
Today, the home is a shell of its former self and apparently headed for demolition. Windows are smashed, walls kicked in, graffiti is spray-painted throughout and squatters built a fire in the structure. The condition has been deteriorating for well over a year according to some, but City of Charleston building inspector Tony Harmon said only last week that his office received calls from neighbors complaining.
“I’ve been there several times and walked through it and I was in disbelief that kids or vagrants or whoever was up there really did a number on it,” said Harmon. “People stole the copper and anything they could out of it and decided they were going to destroy the windows. There was even a fire built at some time in the middle of it where it looked like somebody had been staying.”
Harmon issued five citations to the owners to compel them to remedy the problem. He said the most pressing issue is to get the home secured with plywood over the windows and doors to keep people from climbing inside. The city also wanted a plan of action soon and not necessarily one of tearing down the historic home.
“I’m a bit of a historian myself and I would hate to see something that’s been in Charleston that long and that’s been in magazines back in the day demolished,” said Harmon.
While Harmon said the city is willing to work with the homeowner on whatever route they wish to take, it is ultimately not up to the city to make the determination. The Top-O-Rock’s fate may already be sealed anyway.
Demolition contractor Rodney Loftis confirmed to 58WCHS radio on Wednesday he has the contract to tear down the house and is going through the normal process of asbestos assessment and other pre-demolition requirements. He said the demolition could start in three to four weeks.