Hearing that the Town of Hillsville may be interested in purchasing the town’s famous Bottle House has left a bad taste in at least one local citizen’s mouth.
Hillsville resident Jody Early addressed Hillsville Town Council during its April 23 meeting. He said it had come to his attention that the Town was working behind the scenes to acquire a residential property in Hillsville to turn into a tourist attraction and picnic area.
“As I understand the situation there will be a closed session this evening to discuss the purchase of 1551 North Main Street. This is the home of John and Ella Fulcher, my neighbors, both deceased now and the property passed on to their two daughters, who both live out of state,” Early said. “I have spoken to the daughters and have been told that the town expressed an interest in their property with the intent to showcase the ‘Bottle House’ as a tourist attraction. They are asking $300,000 for the property and I have heard the town is prepared to discuss tonight making an offer in the vicinity of $275,000.”
The Bottle House was built in the early 1940s by John Hope, a pharmacist with the nickname of “Doc,” as a playhouse for his daughter. The wide variety of bottles used to make the house came from various different places, including medicine bottles from Hope’s store and wine bottles from an area restaurant.
Green bottles form an H pattern for Hope on one of the side walls and there is also a blue bottle chandelier inside. Local citizens often called it “The House of a Thousand Headaches” because of the large number of wine bottles from which it was largely formed.
It took about two years to collect the bottles, many from the pharmacy and others reputedly from a restaurant. To clean all the bottles (about10,000 reputedly) and remove labels, Dr. Hope used enough water to fill his swimming pool three times — about 105,000 gallons. It took most of one summer to do the cleaning job. He bought 80 bags of cement, 40 bags of lime, and four truckloads of sand. One contractor quit mid-way through the job because the bottles kept breaking.
On August 3, 1940 the Bottle House made its debut. That date fell on a day of celebration by the town of a newly constructed highway nearby. The then-Governor of Virginia, James H. Price, led his entourage to the house and his signature was the first on the registry of visitors, which includes many names from near and far. Dr. Hope has a mute memorial to himself and his dream of realizing a hobby that still attracts the curious traveler.
Early begs to differ, however. He said the property is a little less than three acres.
“On it sits a dilapidated house made of old bottles. It is curiosity, but not much of a tourist attraction. On a good weekend in the summer, there might be five cars come looking. So for three months out of the year you may have a total of 60 to 70 cars come visit,” Early said. “Picnic tables in the front yard would practically be in my front yard. The main house is in need of substantial repairs and would have no real purpose to the town. The assessed value is currently $275,300, and based on historical sales probably on the open market would not sell for assessed value, although that is what the town wants to pay for it.”
Early also introduced Brad Parnell, a neighbor of his on the other side of the Fulcher property.
“We come here tonight to shed light on this backroom deal and to ask council to stop destroying the neighborhoods left on Main Street,” Early said. “This is a poor use of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money and I ask that you vote against pursuing this endeavor.”
After Early’s comments, Hillsville Mayor Bill Tate said the Town did get an invitation to look at the property. Hillsville Town Council did go into closed session later in the meeting, but took no action on the matter. After the meeting, Tate said that Hillsville officials do plan to look at the property.