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Charlie Yelton, Bottle Houses

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Visiting Information

Today, the roof on the main structure has fallen in and visitation is discouraged. With no plans for renovation or support, this property can be considered threatened.

About the Artist/Site

Charles Yelton spent the major part of his career - almost fifty years - working for the Florence Mill in Forest City; he had also worked as a truck driver, and, for Southern Bell, as a construction lineman. But in 1970, after a series of unfortunate accidents, he decided to retire – but not to stop working.

After having seen a television program about the bottle house at Knott’s Berry Farm in California, he was inspired to try to build one himself, although he had no formal experience in construction. But, within four years, using mainly a hammer, trowel, and a wheelbarrow, he had created a series of three houses out of glass bottles, along with a glass wishing well protected by a gabled roof supported by four columns, two glass bottle planters, and a garden with glass flowers. Set in concrete mortar, the bottles in the houses are laid in horizontally, allowing for the passage of light to the interior; in most cases the butt end of the bottle is on the exterior, creating smooth external façades. He confessed to an early visitor that this decision had been a process of trial-and-error: he had originally placed them with the mouth side out, but the bottles caught the wind in such a way that he couldn’t sleep from the noise.

The bottles are of all kinds and of all colors, including beer and soda pop bottles, as well as whisky flasks, milk of magnesia bottles, and baby food jars. He picked them up at the dump or received them as gifts from encouraging neighbors, and Yelton counted 11,987 bottles used in his first house alone, completed in 1971. The interior of what he called the “Altar Room” contained all red bottles as well as a “throne;” he found the stained glass effect to be soothing, and he used this room for praying.

The first house was so large that it contained four rooms; bottles were set into floors (often with geometric patterns such as circles), as well as into the walls and ceilings. The smaller houses, mostly still extant, are simple structures with framed-in windows and wooden doors and a single gable, with small front porch.

The site became rather renowned in its heyday, and Yelton and his family welcomed visitors from abroad as well as locals; signatures in their guest book were registered from as far away as Iran, Russia, and South America. No fee was ever charged – if visitors would toss coins into the wishing well of their own volition, he would periodically fish them out when he cleaned the wells and donate the money to his church.

Yelton continued working on various projects with the glass until shortly before his death. For several years, although entrance to the driveway was blocked with a sign indicating that the site was closed, family members did open it up to interested passersby. Today, the roof on the main structure has fallen in and visitation is discouraged. With no plans for renovation or support, this property can be considered threatened.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

Cherry Mountain Street
Forest City, North Carolina, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 35.340259 / -81.863173

Visiting Information

Today, the roof on the main structure has fallen in and visitation is discouraged. With no plans for renovation or support, this property can be considered threatened.

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