Forsyth Co. man says he'll go to jail before painting over See Rock City sign

by: Diana Davis Updated:

A Forsyth County man who thought he was preserving a piece of American history is instead facing a $1,000 fine or possible jail time.

The county said the sign on the tin roof of the man's barn is against code and will have to be painted over.

Ben Morris told Channel 2's Diana Davis he'll go to jail to save the sign if he has to.

The white and black lettered sign on the red barn is the only one you will see on Highway 9 in Forsyth County. The barn and sign date back to the 1930s.

To Morris, the newly restored, freshly painted barn and sign bring back memories of a simpler, more peaceful time.

He said he painstakingly restored the barn and farmhouse.

A handy man fixing a leak in the roof uncovered what years of rust and dirt had hidden.

Morris said he felt the discovery was like unearthing hidden treasure.

"Under all the years of weathering and everything you can see very faintly the outline of the letters 'See Rock City,'" Morris said.

Rock City on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga was a popular roadside attraction in the 1930s.

At its peak, 900 barns in the south and Midwest were painted with the now iconic image. Most of the barns are long gone or in ruins.

Morris thought his restoration was preserving a bit of Americana.

"I honestly thought I was going to get the Better Homes and Gardens Beautification Award for the county," Morris told Davis.

Instead he got a county citation for code violation saying no roof signs are allowed according to a 1996 ordinance.

Morris said the sign should be grandfathered in since the original sign dates back to the 1930s.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted. I couldn't believe it. I thought I had done a good thing in restoring a derelict building," Morris said.

If a county judge rules against him, Morris could face jail time or a $1,000 fine.

Morris has lined the highway in front of the barns with a row of signs asking drivers to help him save the barn and says so far his road sign campaign to save the barn has gotten nothing but support.

"I hope and pray the judge is a man of common sense," he told Davis.

Morris' court date is April 18. He told Davis he's going to fight to save his sign and will go to jail if he has to, rather than paint over the sign.

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