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The Martin House, built in 1870, is the second oldest buildings in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The house was built by Wesley Moore of Bishopville, South Carolina as a private residence but Moore converted the house into a boarding house in the early 1880s. Harry C. Martin and his wife Ida purchased the house in 1891 an continued to operate it as a boarding house, 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.

  • Main entrance of the Martin House from Main Street. Photo credit, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority.

The Martin House is the second oldest building in Blowing Rock, having been built about 1870. It was built as a private residence by Wesley Moore of Bishopville (then Darlington County, South Carolina) who early in the 1880s turned it into a boarding house that was later managed by Ida Clarke Martin. In December 1891, Ida's husband, Harry C. Martin ("H.C."), a business man from Lenoir and Blowing Rock Mayor (1890-92), purchased the property from Wesley Moore's son, Wesley Vanroe Moore, of Darlington, South Carolina, and they named it the "Martin Cottage." The Martin Cottage, next door to the Watauga Hotel, continued as a boarding house and was called by some a center of social life in Blowing Rock, especially when run by the Martin's daughter-in-law, Johnsie Harshaw Martin, for about thirty years into the 1960s.

 

The Martin House was nearly doubled in size in 1923 by a nine-room addition to its rear, which can easily be seen by looking at the second floor and its expanded lines. It remained as a boarding house until about 1970, when the first commercial uses of its lower level began. Today, seven retail and service businesses occupy the main building and three other business occupy adjacent buildings around the patio. The Maple trees in its front yard are well over 100 years old.

 

The town of Blowing Rock sits upon the escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Watauga County and Caldwell County border and at the Eastern Continental Divide. The town's altitude appealed to wealthy residents looking to escape the heat of the Piedmont. A growing tourism industry began when visitors came in the years after the Civil War to the Blowing Rock area to camp in the summer. In order to provide indoor lodging for a growing number of visitors, many Blowing Rock homes were converted into boarding houses and a variety of hotels, such as the Watauga Hotel (1885), the Blowing Rock Hotel and Springhaven Inn (1889), and the Green Park Inn (1891), were opened to tourists.

 

In this time of tourism growth Blowing Rock was incorporated as a town (1889) and elected as its first mayor, Joseph Clarke, who had founded the Caldwell and Watauga Turnpike company, which constructed a road from Lenoir that facilitated easier access to Blowing Rock. H.C. Martin was the town's second mayor.