Woodsman's Farm Closed Due To Lumber Code Violations

By Michaelle Bradford | Posted: 03/19/2013 12:41PM


Eustace Conway WATAUGA COUNTY, NC - Famed "Mountain Man" and woodsman, Eustace Conway was forced to close his Turtle Island Preserve last fall due to code violations, including building approximately 20 structures on his farm with ungraded lumber.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Conway notes that "the lumber's not stamped with a grade because he produced it himself at his own sawmill from trees felled nearby."

North Carolina building and health inspectors received complaints last summer about Turtle Island, a 1,000 acre farm located in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Conway owns approximately 500 acres of the property, which hosted camps and educational courses teaching youth and adults how to live the primitive, rustic lifestyle of ancestors hundreds of years ago. It was officially closed in the fall after a 78-page report by a consulting firm contracted by local officials listed numerous violations including lack of permits and a concern over sanitary conditions.

However, local officials are considering amendments to the building codes that would allow flexibility for primitive buildings, according to the Watauga Democrat, possibly creating a way to reopen Turtle Island. The issue is expected to be open for public comment this summer.

Conway was featured in the History Channel's "Mountain Men" and was also the subject of "The Last American Man," a 2002 book by Elizabeth Gilbert, known for her bestselling work, "Eat, Love, Pray."


About the Author

Michaelle Bradford

Michaelle Bradford

Michaelle Bradford is Managing Editor of Woodworking Network magazine and Custom Built Interiors Weekly eNewsletter. She can be reached at mbradford@woodworkingnetwork.com or Google+.

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MA  |  March, 21, 2013 at 06:42 AM

See now here's the problem. Who opened the door for this? Who filed the complaint? Why would you go to a place like this and not expect something different? That's what makes it special place to go to, stepping into a simple life. Inspectors need to step up their game. Is it unsafe or can they not look and say yes this is structurally safe because they really don't know without a stamp? What is the structural value of the lumber used? Show that there is a structural flaw and they have a case. It is sad!

Rod Sheridan    
Toronto  |  March, 21, 2013 at 07:11 AM

Unfortunately, once the public safety is involved, you need an Engineer to certify the design and construction. There's nothing wrong with using your own timber, the farm next door to my in laws recently completed construction of two large structures using their own timber, however they paid to have it graded and stamped. The requirement is for the building owner to show that applicable standards have been followed, not on the authorities to prove the design is not safe.

Calgary  |  March, 21, 2013 at 08:27 PM

c'mon ron....Black Creek village don't have any lumber stamps on any of their buildings! And I've been to enuf historical villages and rustic spots to know that hardly any of would meet current building codes. And it's filled to the max with visitors, and probably has had some complaints to boot. Should I call Mayor Ford and complain. Cause it to be shut down while inspectors go nuts! Not rational at all. Clearly there may be safety issues which have to be addressed, and the inspectors SHOULD know how to deal with such conflicts and promote reasonable alternatives. Much the same as the policies that allow antique automobiles to be driven on public roads when they don't even come close to meeting current safety standards. None of the stuff I have read about this debacle mentioned any previous warnings or notices. There is a problem, clearly, but the very folks who causeded the shut down, and are in the know, well they should be able to provide paths to resolution doncha think? If you've ever dealt with an irrational building inspector you will know that they are "the authority having jusidiction' and there is generally no mechanism for appeal. They know they are gods, and some of em act it out to the hilt! But there may be more to this story than meets the public eye. ? compeitor ? irate employee? ?property developers. ......who knows! Eric

Tennessee  |  March, 22, 2013 at 06:45 PM

And who was the certifying engineer on Noah's ark?...

Tennessee  |  March, 22, 2013 at 06:45 PM

And who was the certifying engineer on Noah's ark?...


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