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Workers removing top floor of fire-damaged building

Unit block of West Antietam Street in Hagerstown could reopen to traffic early next week

February 20, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Demolition work has started on the fire-damaged building at 19-21-23 W. Antietam St. in Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

The unit block of West Antietam Street in Hagerstown could reopen to traffic early next week after it was closed almost two weeks ago to let engineers examine the structural integrity of a building that was gutted by a fire, a city official said.

Hagerstown spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said the street is expected to be reopened Monday or Tuesday.

“They’re in the process of doing the demolition work and stabilizing the remains,” Wolfe said Wednesday.

She said workers were in the process of removing the top floor of the building at 19-21-23 W. Antietam St., where a fire was set Feb. 7 by a homeless man who was living in the vacant structure.

After the demolition work on the top floor is done, Wolfe said, a structural engineer is to come in to determine the stability of the rest of the building.

Hagerstown Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said earlier this month that the two-alarm fire consumed much of the fourth and fifth floors of the brick building, which has been vacant for a number of years.

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On Feb. 8, Antietam Street and the sidewalk in front of the building were closed from South Potomac Street to Rochester Place because officials believed the structure might collapse on pedestrians and passing vehicles.

Ernest L. Stitely Jr., 26, was charged with fourth-degree burglary, reckless endangerment, causing fire through negligence and failing to notify the fire department of an unwanted fire, according to a city news release that was issued Feb. 12.

Fire marshals said Stitely admitted to starting a fire in a bathtub in the building to stay warm. Stitely told investigators he fled the building when the flames spread out of control.

The owner of the property at 19-21-23 W. Antietam St. is listed as Fulton R. Gordon III and Gloria Mayes, of 8200 Kenfield Ct., Bethesda, Md.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen A. Maher said earlier this month that the building itself was not denoted as historic, but it was a “contributing building” in the city’s downtown Historic District.

At one time, the building was referred to as the Mt. Vernon Apartments, Maher said, but in recent years it was known as the Snook building, after a prior owner.

The 15,000-square-foot property, built in 1914, had been valued at $512,600 as of July 1, 2012, according to the Maryland Department of Taxation and Assessment records.

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