Chesterwye to rebuild house destroyed by fire in January
GRASONVILLE — On Friday morning, Aug. 26, Chesterwye, the longtime facility to help adults with developmental disabilities learn life skills and become more productive citizens, held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new house to place one of the residences that burned down during the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2016.
That morning at 4:19, Chesterwye Executive Director Debra Langseth received a call stating that the home named for the late Dr. Harry Rhodes and his wife, Creighton, was on fire. She was notified by staff member Shonee Moore, who was on duty that night. Shonee, personally saw to it that the four men living in the Rhodes house were safely evacuated. No one was injured. The Grasonville Volunteer Fire Department responded swiftly, but the house was fully involved when they arrived and deemed a total loss.
Since then, with insurance adjustments, plans for the new residence have been underway. Construction of the new Rhodes home began Monday, Aug. 29, as a contract has been accepted.
During the ceremony, Langseth gave a brief summary of the events of the fire in January, which was also followed with the beginning of the “Blizzard of 2016” that afternoon. More than a foot of snow fell on the remains of the house that day, immediately delaying investigation of the cause of the fire, which remains undetermined, according to Chesterwye Foundation Chairman Wheeler Baker.
“I’ve never been told what caused the fire!” he said. “As far as I know, the cause remains unknown.”
Langseth introduced Baker to the nearly 100 people in attendance at the groundbreaking. Baker gave a brief history of Chesterwye. He pointed to Bobby Ann Nash, who was in the audience, thanking her for her help in founding Chesterwye along with the late Dr. Harry Rhodes, former Queen Anne’s County Superintendent of Schools, many years ago. Baker also recognized Queen Anne’s Commissioners Mark Anderson and Jack Wilson, who were both present.
He said, “The county commission has been with us from day one of Chesterwye. Without the commission’s support, this place to help people who need help would never have happened!”
Anderson said, “This is the beginning of a very big year ahead for Chesterwye. First, this ground-breaking of the new Rhodes house, and construction of the house begins Monday. Next, the new Chesterwye residential house that’s been approved for State Street in Stevensville. I’m most proud of how the residents on and around State Street have accepted this new house there with open arms! It speaks well of the purpose of Chesterwye and the people that live in that community.”
Former Rhodes house residents Brian Matthews, Eddie Murphy, John Simmons and Richard Zaleski all participated in the ground-breaking ceremony, using shovels, along with Commissioners Anderson and Wilson, and Chesterwye staff member Kathleen Baker.
Langseth also recgonized both Walmart and Kmart for donating clothing to the four men, who had to move to the Sleep Inn in Grasonville for 40 days until other living arrangements could be found.
She said, “All’s they had were the pajamas they were wearing at the time of the fire!”
The design for the new Rhodes house were posted for everyone to see during the ceremony.
Langseth said, “The new house will have a fire sprinkler system that is now required for all new homes built in the state of Maryland. Also, the interior of the house will have more space to make it possible for anyone in a wheelchair to be able to move around inside the house with no problems, especially in the kitchen.”
The same design will be in the used for the new Chesterwye home that will be built on State Street in Stevensville within the next year.
Participating in the Rhodes house groundbreaking ceremony, from the left, Queen Anne’s County Commissioners Jack Wilson and Mark Anderson, former Rhodes house residents John Simmons, Brian Matthews (mostly blocked), Richard Zaleski, and Eddie Murphy, Chesterwye staff member Kathleen Baker, Chesterwye founder Bobby Ann Nash, Chesterwye Foundation Chairman Wheeler Baker and Chesterwye Executive Director Debra Langseth. The ceremony took place at Chesterwye, Friday morning, Aug. 26.
The design of the new Rhodes house currently under construction at Chesterwye. The building design has handicap accessibility to every outside door, and much more space inside for anyone who may be limited to a wheelchair, including in the kitchen and bathrooms. The same model home will be used for the new house that will be built for the Chesterwye at State Street in Stevensville.