Top O' Rock Site (demolished)
Built in 1968 and demolished in 2015, the Top O' Rock residence was a nationally acknowledged architectural landmark and a feat of engineering and design. The house had been featured in numerous publications including a special on Home & Garden Television. Designed by the late architect Henry Elden, the structure was forged from over 89 tons of West Virginia steel. The rocky hillside on which it was perched was incorporated into the interior of the home, along with a large tree that grew through the great room and out of the roof. The prominent home sat overlooking the Kanawha River and the state capital from the hills above Charleston, West Virginia.
Backstory and Context
Top O' Rock was designed to be Elden's home and office in Charleston and was constructed with some of the finest local materials. The structure included two iconic circular rooms on each end (one two-story and one three-story). These rooms were encased in floor-to-ceiling windows that gave panoramic views of the natural landscape. Wraparound decks bordered the entire 4,000 square foot, circular themed home.
Through his successes Elden became an admired socialite in West Virginia, throwing large parties for the social elite of Charleston at Top O' Rock--which allowed Elden to showcase the trappings of his $450 million dollar fortune. Top O' Rock was also rented out as a venue for wedding receptions, private parties, and other events, in addition to serving as the office for Elden's architectural practice.
When Elden died on January 17, 2009, his estate went up for sale. It stayed on the market for two years, despite desperate attempts to advertise the residence as potential office space for businesses. Failing to find a tenant, the house was put up for auction.
In 2011, a couple bought the house but were unable to afford the extensive renovations the structure required after several years of disuse. The landmark residence was left uninhabited and fell into decay. Eventually, it was broken into and vandalized. The empty house soon harbored vagrants and was heavily plundered and graffitied. The kitchen counter was torn out, along with copper plumbing and electrical wiring. City officials boarded it up when news finally broke of the house's condition.
In early 2015, The residence was opened to a limited audience to vote on conversion possibilities. Despite a decision to refurbish the facility as an art center for at-risk youth, further studies concluded that the reconstruction would be too expensive. Local fundraising and outreach could not furnish the required resources, and the iconic structure was demolished in September 2015.
"Top O Rock - Charleston, West Virginia." Top O Rock - Charleston, West Virginia. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2017. <http://www.toporock.net/>.
Hindman, Tom. "Top-O-Rock to Be Demolished." Charleston Gazette-Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2017. <http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20140506/dm05/140509556>.