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Homeowners: Top-O-Rock damages devastating

KENNY KEMP | Gazette
Large plywood boards fill the windows of Top-O-Rock, a glass house designed by well-known architect Henry Elden. The home’s most recent owners, Mitchell and Kamilla Rashid, said they hope a new use can be found for the property.

Mitchell and Kamilla Rashid were out of town over Easter weekend for their son’s birthday when they heard the news: Top-O-Rock had been broken into and vandalized.

“Kamilla and I were devastated by the theft/vandalism that occurred at TOR. We kept thinking, ‘How could this happen in Charleston?’ ” Mitchell Rashid said in an email to the Gazette.

It was reported in May that the home on Charleston’s southern hillside had been vandalized.

Many of its floor-to-ceiling glass windows had been broken, graffiti covered the walls and windows, and much of its interior was stripped down and damaged.

Rashid, an area cardiologist, said he and his wife looked over the damage the day after the phone call and met with the city a week later to discuss securing the property.

“Liability and public safety became our primary concern, but that wasn’t apparent in social media, newspapers and in general conversation about the property,” Rashid said.

The Rashids have not commented publicly on the state of the property until now.

“Our first concern was safety — for our family, the public, even the offenders of the theft/vandalism. Because it was such a recognized landmark in Charleston, everyone wanted to see TOR,” Rashid said.

The Rashids met with city officials to secure the home and boarded up its windows, placed a fence along the structure’s perimeter and hired a full-time security company to deter visitors.

Rashid called the damage “personal, financial and emotional.”

At the time, the couple was working on wrapping up a sale agreement with a local businessperson for office space, Rashid said.

“After the vandalism, both parties agreed we could not move forward. The only insurance on the property was liability so all the extensive damages were at our personal expense,” Rashid said.

Henry Elden, a well-known architect, completed the home’s construction in 1968. The house, perched on a hill so that it overlooks the entire city, winds around rock and tree, integrating the earth into its design.

The Rashids purchased Top-O-Rock in 2011 after Henry Elden’s death in a sealed auction bid for $400,000. There were only two bids submitted, Rashid said.

“Majestic views of the capital and Kanawha River,” along with the building’s architectural style were attractive to them, Rashid said. And it helped that the property is adjacent to the Lyle Clay property, which the couple purchased in 2008.

To add to their acquisition of hillside homes, the Rashids purchased 2 Ramu Road, or Little Rock, in 2013. That home was designed and built by Henry Elden’s son, Ted Elden.

Rashid said the extensive damage to the home, as well as the home’s state becoming a major source of news in the Kanawha Valley and on social media, caused the couple and their family to become “the primary target of public attacks and accusations of neglect.”

Members of the community were critical of the home’s condition, as well as the seeming lack of response from the Rashids.

It was also reported that the home was set to be demolished. Social media groups formed to support and fundraise to rehabilitate the home.

“My wife and I couldn’t understand the blameful public opinion of us. In our minds, we were the ones trying to make something of Top-O-Rock,” Rashid said.

The Rashids would like to see a bed and breakfast and an event center in the iconic glass house. The two have also explored turning the home into a restaurant, residential condominiums, office space and a private residence.

They are willing to sell Top-O-Rock, but Rashid said the many interested parties have found it “cost-prohibitive due to the renovation and maintenance costs,” Rashid said.

When it was purchased, Rashid said “conservative estimates” for renovations to the home were about $500,000.

The total 13 acres — the Clay property, Top-O-Rock and Little Rock — are now the subject of a design competition meant to drum up innovative and sustainable land use ideas for Top-O-Rock and the surrounding properties.

West Virginia State University’s Economic Development Center has also launched an oral history project to accompany its design competition.

“My wife and I would like to see the potential for TOR realized. We support the upcoming design competition and hope it will lead to a viable solution for TOR on either a local, state, national or international level,” Rashid said.

Reach Rachel Molenda

at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5102 or

follow @rachelmolenda on Twitter.

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