The Martin House
The Martin House, built as a private home for H.C. and Johnsie Martin in 1870, is one of the oldest buildings in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. H.C. Martin served as the second mayor of Blowing Rock from 1890-1892. The home became one of the earliest boarding houses in the town, accommodating the growing tourism industry in Blowing Rock. Following the opening of hotels in the late nineteenth century, the owners of the Martin House repurposed the building as a collection of retail shops in the heart of Blowing Rock’s Main Street shopping district.
Backstory and Context
The Martin House, built for H.C. and Johnsie Martin in 1870, is one of the oldest standing homes in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.3 The Martins built the home concurrently with many of the other early private homes in Blowing Rock, including Boyden Cottage (c. 1860), Schenck House (c. 1886), and Maymont (c. 1887).3
The town of Blowing Rock sits upon the escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Watauga County and Caldwell County border. Its location above growing towns at warmer, lower elevations increased its appeal for tourism for wealthy residents looking to escape the heat in nearby Lenoir. Due to the growing tourism industry in Blowing Rock by the late nineteenth century, the demand for lodging exceeded the available rooms as some tourists, determined to enjoy the cool mountain air, resorted to camping.3 The potential for profit and the lack of lodging led several private homes, including the Martin House in 1889, to be converted into boarding houses.
During this time of tourism growth, Blowing Rock adopted its town charter in 1889 and elected its first mayor, Joseph B. Clarke.3 H.C. Martin, the Martin House’s original resident, was subsequently elected as the second mayor of Blowing Rock from 1890-1892.3 This period, with Clarke and Martin as mayors, saw the construction of many of the earliest dedicated lodgings in the town. This included Blowing Rock Hotel and Springhaven Inn in 1889 and Green Park Inn in 1891, proving to be a crucial time for the town’s developing tourism industry.3
With the establishment of these accommodations for tourists, the many boarding houses and cottages fell out of favor against the more luxurious resort-styled hotels. Many of these buildings reverted to their original status as private residences or developed into public parks owned by the town of Blowing Rock. The Martin House instead converted into commercial space, a purpose still seen today.2
1. “Shops at the Martin House.” Watauga County Tourism Development Authority. Accessed October 16, 2018. www.exploreboone.com/listings/Shops-at-the-Martin-House/628/
2. “Outlets & Shopping Centers.” Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. Accessed October 16, 2018. blowingrock.com/services/outlets-shopping-centers/
3. “Blowing Rock Historical Marker Program.” Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. Accessed October 16, 2018. blowingrockmuseum.org/see-do/blowing-rock-historical-marker-program.html