The last remaining cottage that was part of the Watauga Hotel, serves as a museum on Main Street today. The two room cottage, located next door to the Martin House contains items that are not original to the building, but from the same period, and from local establishments and residents. Blowing Rock’s first hotel, the Watauga Hotel, was built in 1884 when residents of Lenoir began enjoying their summers in the cool mountain air. As roads were paved and travel became easier, the demand for summer lodging increased. Many homes were turned into boarding houses and new hotels were built. In 1888, the Watauga Hotel added several cottages to the perimeter of the hotel and rented single rooms with room and board being fifteen dollars per month. The rooms had no running water and meals were taken at the hotel next door. The barber shop was located across Main Street, under today’s Sunset Tees and Hattery and offered a shower (twenty-five cents) and a shave.
The original cottage was designed with two separate rental units having entrance doors on the side (facing the park) and did not connect to each other. The building has served various purposes since the Watauga Hotel was destroyed by fire and was replaced by the Memorial Park. The rooms now connect to each other with one outside entrance where a window once was facing Main Street.
Today, the museum holds numerous objects of interest from Blowing Rock’s history. One room is furnished similar to what one would have rented, with a rope bed and maple dressing table. Other pieces are from Mayview Manor Hotel, built in 1922 such as dinnerware, printed menus, and room key fobs noting the names Lee Marvin and Raymond Burr. Also on display are items from the Farm House Inn that operated in Blowing Rock from 1951 to 1998.
In addition to the collected things from homes and businesses, the museum contains documents from voter registrations (1890-1907) and the 1880 Census of Watauga County. Starting with Uncle Joe Clarke, the first mayor and whose portrait presides over the fireplace, the historic timeline of town mayors can also be seen at the museum. The old barber shop pole is there too.
The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1 to 4pm, May through December. Admittance is free of charge.