Letter to Maryland Historical Trust

Beth Cole: …I’d like to stress that the (Birely) building DOES have a strong link to a major 19th century industry: tanning. The draft DOE seriously exaggerates the extent of rebuilding needed after the early 20th century fire, as evidenced by a photograph showing all the brickwork remaining while the interior and roof were burned out. Plus reports that the rebuilding was accomplished in just two or three months.

Of course the Birely has lost most of the ancillary buildings (sheds etc) from the tanning era. So have most of the grand old farm houses in the county lost most of their barns etc, Frederick’s pride 18th century Schifferstadt house being a major example.

Second the Birely maintains its structural integrity. The brickwork and stonework is in excellent condition with the exception of small portions over rotted wooden lintels. The spectacular high chimney stack is as true and plumb as the day it was built. With repairs the building can be preserved and made an interesting exhibit of the City’s history. Part of this history is the way buildings were adapted for new uses as industry changed.

Birely Tannery

The developer’s draft DOE fails to acknowledge the BIrely’s historical importance as the location of a changing tanning business — from general tanning to specialty, then mainly wholesale and then its reuse as the basis of a poultry business, and apartments.

The hotel project manager Richard Griffin recently conceded the possibility that lack of state financial support might cause the project to be “re-scoped” or reduced in size, which from our viewpoint is good news since a smaller building would fit the historic district better and hopefully would cause the City’s hotel team to pull back from the proposed demolition of the Birely building. At this point however it remains threatened.

Thank you for your consideration.

Peter Samuel, writer, Frederick MD 21701


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