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Space oddity
Past, future meet atop mountain
barker house 6 es
David Thornton shows how the Barker House extends into Sawnee Mountain. To the right is a built-in bar. - photo by Emily Saunders
Perched high atop Sawnee Mountain, the Barker House has been a local oddity for decades.

Residents old and new savor glimpses of the flying-saucer-shaped structure, whose origins date to the late 1960s, though few have set foot inside.

Carla Floyd is one of the fortunate visitors, having taken a tour of the home after Forsyth County bought it in March 2003 from the family of late architect James Barker.

“As a local, we were always really curious about what it looked like inside,” Floyd said. “It’s ahead of its time. I thought it was so neat inside.”

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse, whose district includes the home, said he gets the occasional phone call from the curious about plans for the house, which is not open to the public.

Forsyth County spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said there are no definite plans “except to continue to maintain it.”

A crew from the department of public facilities visits the home once a week to tidy up and ensure everything is in order.

Public Facilities Director David Thornton is glad to help care for the home. During Wednesday’s visit to the grounds, he described the house as “a very interesting and unique structure.”

Indeed, the home boasts a spiral staircase and a two-person elevator, ferrying visitors between the first and second floors.

The first floor of the home has a rustic appearance, with granite end tables in the bedroom and a Cherokee Indian mural in the garage.

Some of the features Floyd found interesting include showers lit by skylights and the Cherokee artwork throughout the first floor.

The top floor is a little more futuristic, she said.

Other features of the home include cabinets made from church pews, carpeted walls, a laundry room with bar and an intercom and stereo system that runs throughout the building.

The second floor has a 360-degree balcony view of the area, including Lake Lanier and, on a clear day, the Atlanta skyline.

Part of an effort to preserve and protect the mountain, the county bought the house and about 13 adjoining acres for $1.8 million. The original plan called for converting the house into an education center.

Regardless of what happens, Laughinghouse said he hopes the county can one day open the house to the public.

“You would like for people to be able to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a great place ... right now, it’s in a state of limbo.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at