Middleton joins fight for historic Grinder House
State still plans to demolish brick farmhouse
The Grinder House in Smallwood State Park is one of the only brick farmhouse buildings left in the entire country built during the Civil War era. Despite that, the Mary- land Department of Nat- ural Resources wants to tear it down because of fire damage the structure sustained from a stove fire in 2014.
But that will not happen if the Charles County Historic Preservation Com- mission has anything to say about it. And they’re calling upon state legisla- tors for help to prevent it.
Mike Fleming, a firefighter and the chairman of the Charles County Historic Preservation Commission, said despite the fire damage done to the building, the struc- ture is still intact and the building can still be fixed up and preserved.
Fleming said the DNR has a priority of “preserv- ing land and not historical buildings,” but this building still has something left to give. The fire damage done to the building is not catastrophic, he said, and if the county can prevent water from seeping inside it, it can still be of use.
And there are still many parties who want to keep the building intact, he said, including Maryland State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles). So there will be a meeting in the next week to determine what can be done to keep the building going, and Middleton will be in attendance.
“Mr. Fleming is a firefighter and I trust his assessment of the damage,” Middleton said. “I hope to be there next week and maybe we can figure out how to stop this and find money to preserve it.”
The department said the building is not worth more than $15,000 in its current state, but Flem- ing said he has seen buildings in worse shape appraised for more than that without any historical context.
The house was built by John Grinder, who was part of a family of stone masons. The setting that the home is in is accurate to what it would have looked like when Grinder first built it in the 1800s, Fleming said.
Middleton said the exterior of the house is in “great shape” with sheet rock protecting the wood work of the home. There is really no reason to demolish it at this point, he said.
“Once you destroy these things, they’re gone forever,” he said. “It potentially could have a very useful service if it was preserved. I’m willing to see if it is salvageable.”
Middleton said he has received assurance from DNR that it will also have a representative at the next meeting to try to find a better future for the house. Fleming said the department does not have any demolition dates planned until January, so there is time in between to figure things out. They just have to come together and get things done, he said.