The Martin House
The Martin House, is one of the oldest buildings in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Harry C. Martin and his wife Ida purchased the house in 1891 while Harry served as the second mayor of Blowing Rock (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 is probably the second oldest building in Blowing Rock, having been built, most believe, in 1870. The property was acquired in 1891 by a developer from Lenoir, Harry C. Martin (and his wife Ida Clark Martin) when he was mayor of Blowing Rock (1890-92). The Martin House, then known as "Martin Cottage," was soon turned into a boarding house. For many years afterward the Martin Cottage was a center of social life in Blowing Rock.
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 (1888), 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. Harry Martin was the town's second mayor.
The Martin House ("Martin Cottage"), was nearly doubled in size in 1923 by an 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 over 100 years old.