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Decision made to demolish Barker House after six-month postponement

Family asked for remembrance of architect’s work at site

POSTED: March 7, 2017 6:03 p.m.
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NORTH FORSYTH – After allowing the family of the builder six months to find an alternative, Forsyth County commissioners have decided to demolish the iconic Barker House on Sawnee Mountain.

The vote was unanimous at a work session on Tuesday afternoon after District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills read a letter sent to the board from the family of late architect Jim Barker. The house is known for its rounded “spaceship” appearance.

In the letter, family members said no alternative had been found in six months due to circumstances beyond the family's control and asked for some remembrance of the house or Barker to be established where the house currently sits.

“Maybe they have some pictures and photos to create something,” Chairman Todd Levent said.

County Manager Doug Derrer also read a letter responding to the family and said the county would work to honor their wish.

“I'm confident the board will gladly entertain a plan incorporate a theme that commemorates the house, history and family,” Derrer said.

Under the agreement approved in September 2016, the county gave the family and others the right to enter the property with county staff, but the county was not liable for any injuries or other damage on the property, which has been plagued with vandalism and break-ins.

Commissioners previously approved the demolition before deciding to give the family the six months after outcry from them and the public.

The county purchased the house and the property surrounding it for $1.8 million in 2003, which was before any current commissioners began their terms.

Several studies have been done over the years to attempt to find a suitable use for the property, of which none were found to be plausible without significant and costly work being done.

A study done by Georgia Tech in 2004 found the property would need an additional lobby and tower for an elevator to meet American Disability Act standards.


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lakeman1: March 7, 2017 11:22 p.m.

So, what does the county plan to do with the property?

workerx10: March 8, 2017 5:59 a.m.

I was told President Trump purchased the land and the rest of sawnee mountain. He will be putting his name up there in large gold letters similar to his Trump towers logo.

mosesdds: March 8, 2017 8:34 p.m.

"Sex, Lies, and Videotape":

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars we have paid for use and feasibility studies to be performed for this property in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2016.

From Jan. 1, 2015 to Aug. 26, 2016, the property had 83 emergency and nonemergency calls, including 23 audible alarms, 14 suspicious vehicles, nine criminal damages, four criminal trespasses and one fire call. Not to mention other recent illicit activities.

While some have argued the home should be renovated and open to visitors, the latest study showed that would be cost prohibitive. To keep the property safe it is estimated the county, in addition to the 911 calls, would have to provide about 20 man-hours per week for sheriff’s office patrols, public facilities routine visits, and inspections. And if renovated, it is estimated to cost us roughly $2 million and would only have an annual income of about $40,000 to $80,000, with an annual operating expense of $80,000. Who among us is willing to foot this bill?

The county has invested millions of dollars in this property over the years by throwing our good money after bad. It is easy identify the commissioners who voted to put and keep us in this mess since 2003. Now the chickens have come to roost, and the county has finally made the responsible decision to pay to have it removed.

The previous owners want our county, you and me, to pay for some type of "remembrance of the house where it currently sits." I hope that when I sell my house the county will pay my family double its value and place a historical marker at the site. But alas, I am sure this BOC would tell me exactly what I can do with my house.

Our Commission chairman, Todd Levent, is right - "Maybe they have some pictures and photos to create something.”

lakeman1: March 9, 2017 9:54 a.m.

Thanks for the history lesson on the property. Sounds like it is time to cut our losses and sell the property. Let the buyers demolish the house and get the taxpayers off the hook.

mosesdds: March 9, 2017 12:30 p.m.

lakeman1; "So, what does the county plan to do with the property?"

Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that our property at the top of the mountain may well be turned over to the Sawnee Mountain Foundation Inc. whose President is Mary Helen McGruder.
See more at:

Smokyboy: March 10, 2017 7:58 p.m.

I'd like to become the BARKER HOUSE keeper for this place! It could be turned in to a museum.The museum could charge admission and have a gift shop selling gift items that denote "THE BARKER HOUSE atop SAWNEE MOUNTAIN" with memberships and donations in conjunction with Sawnee Mountain Preserve. Sort of a "Clingman's Dome" in Georgia!

rkovacs: March 12, 2017 9:47 a.m.

A small round pavilion built in it's place and incorporating a trail from the Sawnee preserve trail to the top would be very attractive. On a nice weekend the Indian seats draw several hundred people.

phschneider: March 16, 2017 11:21 a.m.

Please, please have 2 days of open house for us residents to tour the house before it is destroyed. I will sign a waiver excusing you of all responsibility . I will even wear a hard hat. Please give people a chance to see the house and Jim Barker's dream. Jill Schneider

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