CRAB recommends postponing demolition at Horn in the West
by Jeff Eason
A recommendation by the town of Boone's building inspector to demolish three structures at Horn in the West due to unsafe conditions was called into question Monday afternoon at a special session of the town's Cultural Resources Advisory Board (CRAB).
The Southern Appalachian Historical Society (SAHA), producers of the "Horn in the West" outdoor drama, enlisted the help of structural engineer Patrick Beville of IONCON, who determined that the three structures could be repaired and brought up to the town's safety standards.
The three structures in question are the Black Powder Building, also known as "The Pit," and two stage walls that separate the stage area from the backstage area.
At a meeting at the Jones House Community Center in downtown Boone, SAHA board chairwoman Michelle Ligon requested that CRAB recommend to the town council both a delay in the demolition of the structures and a reallocation of the $20,000 allotted for the demolition to be diverted toward repair costs. She stated that SAHA would be willing to conduct fundraising toward costs over the $20,000.
The CRAB board voted unanimously to recommend that the town council postpone up to two months, starting on January 1, 2014, the proposed demolition. During that town, SAHA will provide updates to CRAB on cost estimates for repairs for the three structures.
The Boone Town Council on Tuesday voted to delay demolition of any structures at the park for 60 days and to direct staff to secure the property to prevent public access. The council also voted to approve a 60-day license of the property to SAHA, acknowledging that additional changes would need to be made before the license agreement could be extended.
Todd Miller, Boone building inspector, originally submitted a facility inspection report to the town in September. In it, a detailed report was given regarding the state of all the Horn in the West facilities, including the stage area, amphitheater, laundry area, dressing rooms building, electrical and lighting control building and The Pit. Among other recommendations by Miller and his staff were the demolition of the three structures, mostly because of water damage and poor structural conditions.
"Just because there are all kinds of areas of dry rot in the building, does not mean that the entire building needs to be torn down," said Beville. "The buildings there are old and tired, they need repairs and maintenance. I'm just saying that they are not unsafe."
After Beville stated that the roof of The Pit was repairable, Miller said, "I still maintain that the old roof is a hazard and to not remove the existing roof and completely replace it as a whole is unsafe."
CRAB declined to make a motion concerning any new use for the $20,000 that the town had previously allocated for demolition.
"We don't have cost estimates for repairs to the structures or a priority list," said board chairman Frank Mohler.
Said board member Billy Ralph Winkler, "SAHA is the only one taking a risk here. If they can't get the repairs done, 'Horn in the West' won't open this year."
"Horn in the West" is an outdoor drama that has been staged at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater in Boone every year since 1952. Originally written by Kermit Hunter, it tells the tale of town namesake Daniel Boone and his hearty band of pioneers during the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Monday's CRAB meeting was held in the Mazie Jones Gallery with 15 board members and an audience of about 20 people in attendance.