- Associated Press - Thursday, March 21, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The widow of actor Andy Griffith has gotten a permit to tear down the house where he lived for many years on the North Carolina waterfront, upsetting friends who had hoped it would be preserved as a museum or Graceland-type estate.

Cindi Griffith obtained the demolition permit Monday, according to Dare County records. County officials and friends confirmed the permit is to demolish a smaller house along the Roanoke Sound that Mr. Griffith bought in the 1950s, not the larger house that he and Mrs. Griffith built nearby several years ago.

William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Mr. Griffith and his first wife, Barbara, said Mr. Griffith told him in 2007 that he wanted to preserve the older home as a museum. The two discussed the possibility when Mr. Long had an exhibit of his costumes at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, Mr. Long said.

“We compared notes,” Mr. Long said in a phone interview from his studio in New York. “I had to fit mine into an existing museum. I told him, if you’re doing yours, you can make it however you want it.”

Mr. Griffith, who died last July, was best known for playing the wise Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and folksy lawyer Ben Matlock on “Matlock.” He starred as the manipulative Lonesome Rhodes in the movie “A Face in the Crowd.” One of his last roles was as a cranky diner owner in the movie “Waitress.”

Mr. Griffith wanted the museum to include items from his TV shows, along with memorabilia from his music career, Mr. Long said. They didn’t discuss whether it would compete with the Andy Griffith Museum in Mr. Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, Mr. Long said.

Mrs. Griffith didn’t return messages Wednesday. Her husband’s will doesn’t mention a museum or the property. The will — dated May 3, 2012, two months before Mr. Griffith died — turns over most of his property and estate to the trustee of a trust, the records of which aren’t public. The attorney for the estate declined to comment.

The demolition contractor, Calvin Gibbs, also didn’t return a call. It wasn’t clear Wednesday if the demolition had begun.

Della Basnight of Manteo, N.C., whose family was friends with Mr. Griffith since she was a child, said she understood that Mrs. Griffith had the right to do whatever she wanted with the property.

But concerning the demolition, Ms. Basnight said, “When he gave her the power to do anything, I don’t think he thought she would want to do that.”

Many of Mr. Griffith’s older friends met him while they worked in “The Lost Colony,” an outdoor drama that tells the story of the 1587 colony on the North Carolina coast that mysteriously disappeared.

Ira David Wood III, who is the show’s executive director this summer, first worked at “The Lost Colony” in 1968. He recalled going to Mr. Griffith’s house and taking a pontoon boat to a sandbar where Mr. Griffith and his guests played volleyball for hours.

“He hated to lose, and he did cheat,” Mr. Wood said, laughing at the fond memory.

Mr. Wood said he was shocked to learn the house would be demolished.

“I always assumed the property would be eventually preserved and opened to the public,” Mr. Wood said, saying he thought it might be maintained like Elvis Presley’s Graceland property in Memphis, Tenn. Just as Presley is buried at Graceland, Mr. Griffith is buried on the large piece of property he owned on the North Carolina coast. It was not immediately clear how far Mr. Griffith’s grave is from his older house or the newer one.

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