County’s Historic Preservation Commission looks to protect Grinder House from demolition
DNR wants to tear down historic house at Smallwood park
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.