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Warehouse demolition slated to finish Jan. 30

December 30, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The demolition in downtown Hagerstown of the former Brandt Cabinet warehouse to make way for a new court building has drawn curiosity seekers as well as questions as to why it's taking so long.

"We didn't anticipate a building from the early 1900s would have this much reinforcing, but we've overcome this," said Dean Beaver, job superintendent for Callas Contractors Inc.

Once the crew got the south end of the four-story concrete, brick and steel building down, the demolition began to move ahead more quickly.

Beaver said Wednesday that he expects the demolition at 36 W. Antietam St. to be done by the March 4 deadline and within the $380,000 contract price. The work might be done earlier if the weather is good.

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The demolition is expected to be done by Jan. 30, when crews will begin excavating the entire property to five feet below ground, Beaver said.

Construction on the new $6 million Washington County District Court is expected to begin by July so the court can open in October 2000.

Work to raze the warehouse began in mid-October.

With the south end along a street busy with automotive and pedestrian traffic, the crew had to work cautiously for public safety, Beaver said.

The first block of West Antietam Street was closed to through traffic for four weeks as crews worked to raze the warehouse's south end.

The demolition crew ran into six types of reinforcing steel in the warehouse, from 1 1/2-inches thick to 3/4-inches thick, Beaver said.

It was a challenge to demolish the building without having it collapse since the building is not fastened to its foundation with rebar, Beaver said.

"The building is just standing there," Beaver said.

The crew has knocked it down from the top to the bottom, bit by bit, working toward the north to prevent the building from collapsing, Beaver said.

Soon they will reach the north edge of the warehouse and will have to slow down again because there is little room in the adjacent alley and there are power lines nearby, Beaver said.

"It's been a lot of headaches and a lot of fun," Beaver said.

The six crew members, including Beaver, have been using mini-excavators and hoe rams to cut each deck, torch through the rebar and drop slabs weighing three to four tons to the ground, he said.

While the city code doesn't prevent implosions, state officials decided against that method of demolition.

Officials with the Maryland Department of General Services could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The state bought the property from developer Vincent Groh for $390,000.

The warehouse was erected as a two-story laundry in 1917 with the third and fourth stories added in the 1920s when it was used as a shoe factory.

Fairchild later bought and used the building as a manufacturing plant during World War II. Brandt bought the 55,000-square-foot building in 1963 for $90,000 and sold it to Groh in 1982 for $200,000.

The courthouse will replace the one at 33 W. Washington St., which some court officials have said has quarters that are too small and lacks the facilities of modern courthouses.

The new District Court will have two courtrooms with room to expand onto the back of the building to add a third courtroom on the second floor with parking underneath.

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