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Bits of Kemmerer House will be preserved

January 16, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The historical Kemmerer House will not be destroyed but it will wind up in pieces.

The Hagerstown structure, built in 1774 and known as one of Washington County's oldest houses, is scheduled for imminent demolition.

The owners of Allegany Wrecking and Salvage say they plan to take it apart so that it can be rebuilt. "It's going to be dismantled and put in trailers, every last bit of it," said Judy Merrbaugh, who operates the company with her husband, Joel.

"When people hear 'demolition,' they think someone's going to come in there with a machine," she said. "Yes, we are a demolition company, but we try to salvage everything we can."

Whether the house is razed by wrecking ball or human hands is still the same to some.

"The end result is it's going to be a pile of rubble when it's all done," said Lee Stine, president of the Washington County Historical Society. "It needs to be preserved in place."

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The two-story limestone home stands on half an acre in the Airport Business Park owned by the nonprofit Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., also known as CHIEF.

The foundation wants to develop the land, which is surrounded by parking lots and buildings owned by Citicorp. The foundation hired a preservationist to document the house for $2,000. The "historic recording" will be available at the library.

CHIEF also hired Allegany for approximately $30,000, according to President Merle Elliott. "They have committed to disassemble it rather than knock it down," he said. "It is a matter of care in taking it apart so you can see how it was put together."

Dismantling instead of demolition is "kind of distinction without much of a difference," he said. "The fact is, the house is being taken down."

Stine believes profit is the motivation for keeping the building's materials. Eighteenth century wooden beams, windows and doors are more valuable, he said. Allegany holds salvage rights for the house, according to Elliott.

The historical society is "not all that interested in the materials," Stine said. "We're not interested in rebuilding the house in another location. It's not feasible. It doesn't preserve the historic significance of the house."

Merrbaugh said dismantling the house and storing its parts will take about 45 days. She's not sure when the process will start. "That depends on God and Mr. Winter," she said.

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