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Group formed to save iconic home

By Rachel Molenda, Staff writer
KENNY KEMP | Gazette Hundreds of people have joined a Facebook group seeking to save Top-O-Rock, a famed house on Charleston’s South Side.

More than 400 people have joined a social media group advocating for the preservation of the Top-O-Rock home, which is perched on the hill of Charleston’s South Side.

Jennifer Peters, a Charleston resident, started Save Top-O-Rock on Facebook around 10 a.m. and had hundreds of members join in a matter of hours, she said.

“I was overwhelmed by the response,” Peters said Wednesday evening.

The iconic home could be demolished. Rodney Loftis, Jr., of Rodney Loftis & Son Contractors said he and Dr. Mitchell Rashid — Top-O-Rock’s current owner — are discussing the project.

The city’s Building Commission received reports Monday that the 10,000-square-foot house and studio had been vandalized. Many of its windows were broken and graffiti now covers much of the structure’s interior.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Loftis said a job had been agreed to, but a contract had not been drawn up or signed.

Rashid did not return the Gazette’s calls for comment Wednesday.

Peters moved to Charleston in 1978 with her mother and said Top-O-Rock was one of the first places she saw.

“Whenever I drive back into Charleston, and I see that house, I’m welcomed home,” Peters said. “I feel like I’m not giving it justice for what it means for me and the community, but I would hate to see a magnificent example of organic structure and design demolished.”

Ted Elden, son of architect Henry Elden, who built Top-O-Rock, called the structure home and worked there for a time after he graduated architecture school. While he was uncertain about Top-O-Rock’s future, Ted Elden said tearing it down would be a mistake.

“[Rashid] can do it, but he ought to get the shame of the city — to take down a pearl and replace it with cardboard,” Ted Elden said of the building.

Ted Elden suggested — upon its restoration — Top-O-Rock could be used for public use, such as a museum or art gallery.

“People have always treated the building as if it was a public place, and we always responded the same,” Ted Elden said.

Henry Elden not only lived in Top-O-Rock, but also housed there his studio and architects who worked under him. It wasn’t uncommon for visitors to show up and wander around the property, Ted Elden said.

Charleston architect Lloyd W. Miller called Top-O-Rock “quite masterful.” Miller interned with Henry Elden during the summer in high school and college. He came to work for him in 1978.

“It was a very good experience,” Miller said. “As a recent graduate, Mr. Elden provided me an opportunity to develop and advance my skills. I progressed quickly.”

Miller said he believes a building in disrepair can be brought “back to life again,” and that applied to Top-O-Rock.

“It’s possible to do, you just have to find someone with the wherewithal to do it,” Miller said.

Peters said she hopes the Save Top-O-Rock group will be able to work with Rashid to come up with a solution for the home other than demolition. She is looking for ideas and resources that might help fulfill that goal. Peters said she doesn’t want the group to focus on negativity or blaming anyone for Top-O-Rock’s current state.

“What’s done is done, but we can move forward from this,” Peters said. “We have a chance to save a special place in Charleston.”

Those interested can visit Save Top-O-Rock online at www.facebook.com/groups/834673546561386.

Reach Rachel Molenda at

rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com

or 304-348-5102.


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