The Frederick News-Post reported (City Notes, Sept. 18) that recent archeological work on the site of the Birely Tannery was required by the Maryland Historical Trust “to determine if the site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.” Not so. That issue was settled 33 years ago when the big concrete flood control conduits now under Carroll Creek Park were in design. On Oct. 19, 1983, the director of Maryland Historical Trust J. Rodney Little wrote the managers of the flood conduit project: “Based on the submitted documentation, we have determined that the Birely Tannery Site is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.”
The present study work on the site relates to the archeology and the building itself. The Birely Tannery building was not explicitly addressed back in the 1980s so the hotel developer and the city’s consultants are now focused on that.
The $16 million of state money for the hotel project depends on the old tannery building being deemed ineligible for historic status by the state Historical Trust. The whole lobbying effort at the Maryland Historical Trust financed two-thirds by the developer, one-third by city taxpayers is absurd: how can the only building on the site, a building dating back to at least 1853 be deemed nonhistoric and ineligible for the National Register when it is located on a site long established as historic by the state historical trust? If the tannery building had not been there no one would even have thought about getting the site recognized as historic. It would have been an empty parking lot no one cared about. It was the tannery building, the last surviving built remnant of Frederick’s leading 19th-century industry that caused the site to be recognized as historic and eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places back in 1983!
The city (and the developer) should stop wasting money on a far-fetched effort to subvert historic preservation processes.
Peter Samuel, Frederick 2016.09.20