County’s His­toric Preservation Com­mis­sion looks to pro­tect Grinder House from de­mo­li­tion

DNR wants to tear down his­toric house at Small­wood park

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

The John Grinder farm- house is one of the few re­main­ing brick build­ings built in Charles County dur­ing the Civil War era. Aside from this lo­ca­tion at Small­wood State Park, there are only six left in the county.

The Mary­land De­part- ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sourc- es wants to tear it down.

But the Charles County His­toric Preservation Com­mis­sion is writ­ing a let­ter to the depart­ment re­quest­ing an­other six months be­fore any de­ci­sions are made on the build­ing’s de­mo­li­tion. The preservation com­mis­sion­ers want to seek al­ter­na­tives from com- mu­nity mem­bers and re­search the build­ing more to un­der­stand its his­tori- cal roots in the county.

In a let­ter to the pres- er­va­tion com­mis­sion­ers, DNR no­ti­fied them that they would be seek­ing to de­mol­ish the build­ing be­cause it “isn’t use­able” and worth less than $15,000.

The build­ing has been va­cant since 2014 af­ter a chim­ney fire burned parts of the roof. Michael Flem- ing, the chair­man of the preservation com­mis­sion, said there is cur­rently a tarp on the roof pro­tect­ing the in­side, but it still ex- pe­ri­ences is­sues in heavy rains when wa­ter gets through the chim­ney.

But still, Flem­ing said, the build­ing is worth pro­tect­ing be­cause of its rare build and his­tor y.

“This is one of the only struc­tures like this left in the county,” Flem­ing said.

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“What’s the rush?”

Be­fore last week, there was no no­tice of the sched­uled de­mo­li­tion from the depart­ment. The let­ter states that the build­ing’s “his­toric in­tegrity” had been jeop­ar­dized and that it was not el­i­gi­ble to be des­ig­nated on the na­tional reg­istry of his­toric places.

Es­ther Read, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist and part of the com­mis­sion’s staff, said the build­ing’s “his­toric in­tegrity” could mean many things. The his­toric in­teg- rity of a build­ing gets lost be­tween the re­mod­el­ing of a fa­cil­ity, the fire dam- age and other things. But that does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the build­ing’s struc­ture can­not be fixed, she said.

Even if ren­o­va­tions are taken into ac­count, Ni­cole Tomp­kins-Flagg said, that work was done on the build­ing in the 1960s. They are still his­toric in a sense that they are part of the rea­son the build­ing is still stand­ing, she said.

“These are 56-year-old ren­o­va­tions that still have the build­ing stand­ing,” she said. “Those are his- toric.”

The build­ing it­self was built in the 1850s by John Grinder, a brick maker, and con­structed us­ing bricks Grinder made.

Many homes like this one, Flem­ing said, ex­ist- ed dur­ing that time — but not many were built dur­ing that pe­riod. Tomp­kins-Flagg said there are not many his­toric homes such as this one left in the coun­try.

The home is lo­cated on a field next to the Jenk­ins barn, once lo­cated in the Bryans Road area but trans­ported to Small­wood State Park. Flem­ing said the plot of land on which the two are lo­cated has his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance even if the barn was trans- ported to the area.

“This is an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what a home would have looked like dur­ing this time peri- od,” he said.

The Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources gave the com­mis­sion­ers un­til Oct. 31 to re­spond with com­ments stat­ing their ap­proval or dis­ap­proval of the build­ing’s de­mo­li­tion.

Read said the depart­ment’s mis­sion is not in pre­serv­ing his­tory, but in pro­tect­ing the forests in the area.

Rather than look­ing at the build­ing as a state mon­u­ment, Flem­ing said, the com­mis­sion will present the case to pre­serve the build­ing on a lo­cal level. Struc­turally, the build­ing is “all there.” It is just a mat­ter of ren­o­vat­ing it, he said, and clean­ing up the in­side.

“These types of houses, this thing is solid,” he said.

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