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Barker House to be torn down on Sawnee Mountain

Officials: North Forsyth landmark gets vandalized, has no county use

 
POSTED: August 24, 2016 3:55 p.m.
FCN file photo/

The Barker House in 2009.

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NORTH FORSYTH – One of the most notable, though empty, houses in Forsyth County will likely be coming down.

At a work session on Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners voted 5-0 to move forward with the demolition of the Barker house, which sits atop Sawnee Mountain and is infamous for its round, UFO-resembling design.

No suitable use has been found since the county purchased the land in 2003, and the house has fallen into disrepair. If the house is removed, it may pave the way for a future use.

“Really it’s been maintained as best we could, but the Barker House is not in good condition at this time,” Deputy County Manager Time Merritt said. “There’s been discussion about how we may use that in a future park, maybe, scenario for … hiking up the mountain and use that [area] then as a venue to stop and have lunch.”

Several officials were in favor of building a round pavilion for hikers as a tribute to the house.

The house was designed by late architect Jim Barker and sports a flying-saucer-shaped structure.

According to a Forsyth County News article from 2003, the house and about 13 acres around it was purchased for $1.8 million to be used to preserve the mountain, though “how the house might be used in that context has not yet been decided.”

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills called the original purchase a “rush decision” and said that studies have shown the house does not meet American Disability Association, or ADA, standards.

“We had Georgia Tech come in and do a study, and they said after the purchase that it had to be ADA compliant,” Mills said. “The house was not able to be made ADA compliant without spending … I don’t even know if you could spend the amount that needs to be spent, because it was such a unique structure.”

No current commissioners were on the board at the time of the original purchase.

Officials said that break-ins and vandalism have become prevalent at the property.

“It just has become more and more dangerous, and I know it’s been hard for the family to watch as something they love so much has not been used in the way they hoped it would be used and that it’s deteriorated so bad,” Mills said.

The discussion stemmed from a proposal by Southern Para Pilots, a paragliding group that wants to use the area near the house as a takeoff point to glide to private property below.

The group gave presentations to the county’s parks and recreation board on their proposal earlier this year.

Parks Director Jim Pryor said whatever use is decided for the area will need to be formally planned.

“Today, I was just bringing this up to spark discussion to figure out what we want the use to be,” Pryor said. “Then we’d have to master plan and figure out what it’s going to be up there or what kind of access or the relative details of how we want that property used.”

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