BOONE — A 380-page comprehensive architectural survey of downtown Boone by Eric Plaag that was four years in the making was universally praised by the Boone Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
The survey covers the history of downtown Boone’s buildings, going from 1890 to 1970. On Sept. 17, Plaag received permission from the council to send the report to the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office for review.
The report will be used to try to obtain National Register, Local Historic Landmark and Local Historic District recognition for several downtown Boone properties, as well as serve as a guideline for renovation of such buildings in the future. Plaag had been authorized by the Boone Historic Preservation Commission, which obtained permission to conduct the survey in 2015, to present the final draft to the town council.
“While numerous attempts have been made since the 1980s to document the architectural history of downtown Boone — either individually or as part of larger survey efforts — no one has previously conducted a comprehensive architectural survey of downtown Boone as a distinct district in a manner that meets the architectural survey standards of the SHPO,” the report stated.
The council also authorized that a proposal be made to set the dimensions of a future Boone historical district that would encompass sections of downtown Boone, likely to be presented at an October council meeting.
“This is such an excellent project,” Councilman Sam Furgiuele said. “It’s enlightening and entertaining and so well done.”
Plaag said that the report took roughly “at least a year’s worth of labor hours” for him to complete, plus time with survey technicians.
“This is an exemplary piece of work; we’re in your debt,” said Councilman Marshall Ashcraft.
Councilwoman Lynne Mason said it was probably the best read on the history of Boone’s she’s ever seen.
“I hope we can find a good way to be able to make it available to the general public,” Mason said.
Mason asked how this document would protect downtown, to which Plaag replied that if council decided to designate a downtown historic district, a certificate of appropriateness process that would produce design guidelines for future downtown construction would be applied. A certificate of appropriateness is based on federal guidelines for renovation of historically-designated structures, in which an applicant would have to demonstrate to the Historical Preservation Commission that, generally, their renovations would preserve the character of the building prior to receiving a building permit.
“You’ve helped us recover our history,” Councilwoman Loretta Clawson said.
Town attorney Allison Meade and Plaag clarified that if the council decides to move forward with historical designation, time limits apply to a N.C. State Historic Preservation Office review of a district designation report. Meade also said that under the town’s Unified Development Ordinance, any historic designation would go through a public hearing process.
Currently, downtown Boone contains two active properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Jones House and the U.S. Post Office. A third property, the Daniel Boone Hotel, was listed in 1982 but was demolished shortly after.
Properties identified in the survey as National Register-eligible include the Watauga County Jail — noted as the only surviving 19th century governmental building in Watauga County — the R. L. Clay House, the Chapell Wilson House, the Frank A. Linney House and the Linney Law Office.
Also recommended is that the town of Boone and its Historic Preservation Commission consider pursuing individual listing as Local Historic Landmarks for the R. L. Clay House, the John W. Hodges Sr., House, the Boone Cemetery and the Jones House. Boone has designated three resources as Local Historic Landmarks since this survey project started: the U.S. Post Office, the Frank A. Linney House and the Linney Law Office.
The survey points out the area bounded by Queen Street to the north, Appalachian Street to the east, Rivers Street to the south and Water Street to the west should be considered for Local Landmark District listing. Careful consideration should be given to whether to treat the buildings along the West King Street corridor as a separate district from the warehouse-related properties along Howard and Depot Streets to the south, or to incorporate them into a singular district, the report recommends.
In addition, the cluster of residential properties found on what is traditionally known as “Hippy Hill” is worthy of further study for consideration as a separate Local Historic District based on its history and residential characteristics, according to the report. Future studies should include the possibility of including these resources with other residential resources found on nearby Wallace Circle, Orchard Street and Grand Boulevard, the survey report states.