Yesterday, I participated in a discussion with five other panelists about saving Top O Rock – the iconic modernist structure overlooking Charleston. It was a pleasure to be welcomed into this property by the owners and Sarah Halstead – the dynamic woman spearheading the design competition and campaign to save Top O Rock. It may be demolished since the property has been broken into multiple time, severely vandalized, and stripped of its coppers piping. Sarah organized the panel to talk about what could be done to save Top O Rock with the theme being “what if money was no problem?”.
Top O Rock is such a unique place. Built literally on top of a giant rock with trees growing majestically through holes in the roof, Henry Elden’s masterpiece home is not your usual downtown adaptive re-use topic. This dwelling is so complex and its interior is one of the main components that makes this place historically significant. The panel agreed it’s going to take a lot of creativity and modernist thinking to devise a plan to save this place. During our first meeting to discuss Top O Rock, the committee was a bit stumped. It was hard not to focus on the dollar signs looming over everyone’s heads. Dollar signs are certainly on the owners’ minds. How will the money be raised to rehabilitate the structure? And after that money is raised, how will it be maintained? Can West Virginia stand another house museum?
Luckily it isn’t up to me or the other panelists to decide how to move forward with this project. There is an incredible design competition being sponsored by WVSU Extension’s Economic Development Center, Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society, and CWest Properties, LLC. The competition encourages design teams to join together and reinvent Top O Rock. This competition requires innovative, viable restoration, adaptive reuse and sustainable property development plans for Henry Elden’s Top O Rock and the 13 acres of wooded land surrounding it. Since the design competition opened on March 1, Sarah reports that approximately ten teams have signed up from all over the region, including one led by a 13-year-old aspiring female architect. Other teams can still join. Actually, anyone can join! Submissions are due May 8, 2015 (one month from today!) Full competition guidelines and more information can be found at toporockwv.com
Show your support for Top O Rock! Share your ideas for what can be done with this special place. The owners may take you up on your idea, but please keep in mind that the site is not open to the public. Since vandalism and security are serious problems, security cameras and fencing have been installed. Please respect the owners’ requests and stay off this property. You can take a virtual tour on livestream athttps://livestream.com/accounts/10304715/events/3873379/videos/80475934/player?width=640&height=360&autoPlay=true&mute=true
or submit a contact message through the Top O Rock website at http://www.toporockwv.com/#!contact/cbys asking to visit the site.
Some think Top O Rock should remain a personal residence. Others think it could be a public green space. What if you could save Top O Rock? What would you turn it into?