Hotel Tannery Site

The Maryland Historic Trust has confirmed the historic significance of the Birely Tannery site on East Patrick Street.

The historical uniqueness of Frederick’s Birely Tannery site is slated for incorporation into the latest proposed downtown hotel and conference center plans following a recent designation from the Maryland Historical Trust.

The trust announced in a Feb. 7 letter that the tannery building and archaeological site at East Patrick and Carroll streets belong on the National Register of Historic Places. The determination is based on results of an independent investigation into its historic significance.

Now, city officials, hotel developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners, and the Department of Housing and Community Development are collaborating with the trust to determine how to preserve the site as project plans progress.

Plans for the 207-room Marriott and 24,000-square-foot conference center are based on a combination of public and private dollars. Plamondon Hospitality Partners is expected to pay $53 million for the hotel portion of the project.

The Frederick Board of Aldermen, Frederick County Council, state budget funding, the Department of Housing and Community Development and other entities were initially set to provide the remaining $31 million for construction of the conference center. But some funding is up in the air, including the state’s portion.

The trust’s announcement about historic significance seems to disagree with a separate investigation that Baltimore-based consulting firm Kann Partners performed over a roughly seven-month period in 2016.

“The Trust does not concur with the preparer’s recommendation that the Birely Tannery building is not eligible for listing in the National Register,” the trust’s letter said.

Plamondon Hospitality Partners retained Kann Partners to research and facilitate applications related to historic preservation of the site.

The final report concluded the tannery building was ineligible for the National Register of Historic Places based on evaluation of its significance to local tanning operations. The consultants researched elements such as the historical significance of the site connected to events, people, design and information potential.

That initial determination spurred speculation that developers might demolish the tannery building for the hotel project. Patti Mullins, city public information coordinator, said the MHT’s designation does not preclude the tannery building from demolition, it simply ensures the history of the site will be preserved as the project moves forward.

In a Feb. 10 city news release about the designation, Donald Kann, president of Kann Partners, was quoted as saying that the trust “confirmed his assessment of the site’s important archeological context.” The release also said Kann anticipates working collaboratively with the state organization and other partners as the project moves forward.

Kann did not return three calls for comment.

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said the MHT was involved in the historic designation of the tannery building because the hotel project is slated to receive state funds.

“Whenever the state is involved in a project, it goes through the Maryland Historic Trust to evaluate whether something is eligible to be on the national register or not,” he explained.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission will also make its own determination about whether the tannery building belongs on the National Register. The investigation is independent from the trust’s investigation and has not begun, Griffin said.

A rich history

According to the trust’s letter, Frederick was a hub for the tanning industry in the early 20th century, with as many as eight tanneries in operation. The Birely Tannery was established in 1830 and operated until 1952. The current building was constructed in 1909.

According to the trust’s letter, after fully examining the building, researchers determined the building “retains sufficient integrity to reflect its association with the industrial history of Frederick.”

The letter goes on to say the site has “good subsurface integrity with intact deposits beneath fill, excellent preservation of material remains, and has demonstrated potential to yield important information regarding the development of the tanning industry through the time period.”

The letter says the site has 13 tannery-related features, including four tanning pits, one waste pit, stone paving and the remains of several structural foundations.

“The site still contains buried surfaces and features that survive beneath the various fill and disturbance actions that have occurred on the site during the mid to late 20th [century],” the letter said. “These newly discovered resources represent the site’s continuation into the project area, as expected, and contain an important record of the history, development and operations of the Birely Tannery.”

Next steps

Griffin said city officials, the developer, and DHCD will now collaborate with members of the trust and develop a mitigation plan for the project.

“The plan will determine how to mitigate impact, or to make certain the history of the site is not lost as the project is developed,” Griffin said. “It will make sure it is developed in a harmonious way with the history of the site.”

The next step is development of a site plan, which Griffin said is awaiting funding approval from the state.

“There are concepts out there about what this project is, but the actual design of this project is not completed because it’s a function of the budget,” he said.

The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post. The tannery building is at the back of the property at 212 E. Patrick St.

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(39) comments


Another correction needed: The Kann Partners/Kerns investigation of the history and archeology of the tannery site arguing against National Register eligibility was not "independent" It was commissioned by and paid for by the City's chosen developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners.


So now the corrected story is that rather than preserve the tannery building the City is 'incorporating' the 'historical uniqueness of the site' into the plans for hotel via 'mitigation.' This is historic preservation jargon for doing a museum type display by the canal promenades of the history of the demolished building and reusing some of the materials salvaged by the wreckers. It is akin to murdering a person who gets in the way and saying you'll make up for it with a fancy tombstone. The tannery building should be preserved and repurposed as workspace, living space, a museum, whatever reuse satisfies a need.


Just look at the photograph. Not a good idea.


Might be worth a read

"Convention Center Follies" by Sanders - University Of Pennsylvania Press. Tried posting a link but it appears that is not allowed here

Jane and Ed

I wrote the Mayor and BOA 2 years ago suggesting they consult Heywood Sanders after seeing Plamondon's rendering of the downtown hotel project. It was alarming to see what they thought was a good plan. Not one of them responded. After talking about it with Dr. Sanders, who warned me, that trying to get local officials to listen to reason would be exasperating, a few of us started a group of on Facebook FOFC Downtown Marriott Watch . Come join us, and see the awful truth. We've spent more than a year investigating and it's worse than tge public would ever know, reading this paper.


Looks like a good plan to me.



Might be worth a read


Bill Green has taken the best picture I have seen of the old tannery. However, I see no good reason to preserve it. Can someone tell me why?


Using public funds to encourage some business when it will help others in the area is not new. What is new is a desire to keep some from any profits as a personal grudge. Forget the families and the grudges. if the project will help down town business give it a chance.


What is the point of preserving an old outdated eyesore building?


Ever hear of building restoration?


this is not one of those buildings that need restored. Its just the HPC being idiots again.


when you buy the building you may do as you wish with it


Hey Freddy, I must have missed it, where exactly is the HPC mentioned? From what I read, it's the Maryland Historic Trust involved this time. If the HPC was, don't ya think they would have been mentioned in the article? Hmmm?


The hotel is a very bad idea if taxpayer money has to be used to fill the pockets of the two families who will benefit, Plamondon and Randall, and its pretty obvious the taxpayers by and large do NOT want to support this


Hopefully this little exercise will not result in another useless, dangerous building left to continue to deteriorate in the historic district.


This City hotel farce is now into its eighth year since the first consultant’s report. Millions have been spent muddling around. There is still not a site plan let alone a firm design but the city proposes to spend $31 million of state, county and city taxpayer money. The threat of all this public money being splurged on a dirty backroom deal has been hanging over the downtown for years now, and has become the major reason we have no hotel. No one in their right mind will invest their own money with the City-County-State subsidized behemoth still being touted. The City has no business sponsoring a single developer and a downtown hotel monopoly. Kill the boondoggle now.


yeah. and mayoral candidate Jennifer D states she intends to get this hotel project off the ground.

That's all fine and dandy, provided its with private investor dollars, not state dollars. Jennifer D - can you clarify where you stand with this hotel project?

If SwAN can spend $85 mil of their own money in Harpers Ferry, then why can't someone do that in Frederick? Huh, why?


Samuel, your lack of knowledge of construction is showing, again. For a project of this size, a "firm design" would cost $5 million or so. Are you saying they should spend $5 million BEFORE financing is lined.up? You ain't much on economics are you?


...or so as you have claimed, which makes you not very knowledgeable either.


" which makes you not very knowledgeable either." This from someone who said that a subscription to the FNP is not needed to be able to post comments in it. LOL!!!


You don't have to have a subscription to post. I don't.


Frednd21704. The Forella report estimated construction costs. They used a typical 7% for design. Hard construction costs: Hotel $39M Conference Center $11M Parking $10M Site improvements $4M. That makes $64M total hard construction costs. Times 7% makes $4.5M design costs. Mileage of course may vary, but $3-5M in design costs is good rough estimate. Only requires simple math and a minimal knowledge of construction.


Peter, with city elections on the horizon, there needs to be a campaign educating voters about the negatives of this proposed hotel. Which ever candidates support the hotel with using state dollars - we need to destroy (not them physically).


"Destroy?" Over one issue? What a grump.


Who is funding this ill conceived backwards thinking debacle?


Renovate the interior it as the hotel's hot, swingin' night club....'The Tannery.'


Blah blah blah. We don't care. Build this dumb hotel with your own private dollars. Not with my dollars.

It appears the hilltop hotel in harpers ferry is slowly moving forward. With. Private. Monies.

Comment deleted.

Its funny how socialization works on the www!

So interesting to watch how others assume what one another know, don't know, believe, don't believe. Its interesting to watch others attempt to set each other straight, making points they're certain no one knows but them!

So what do I do? Do I spend 20 minutes drafting a response stating what I know, where I've been, and why I feel a certain way? Or, do I just go about my day and my typical style of commenting?

Regardless, thanks for being a loyal Kelly Alzan fan and thanks for your great input, I truly value it.

Your Friend,
Kelly Q. Alzan


Agree that downtown Frederick has come a long way - and we want keeping Frederick moving in this direction. But if the hotel is not financially viable then it is a mistake - maybe sometime in the future it will be financially viable in which case I'm all for it. But the fact that this not going to happen via private sector funding and can only move forward with public money says it is not financially viable. It is a mistake to move this project forward at this time.

As far as the John Hansen comment. Yes isn't it great that is gone. But it was replaced with section 8 housing which has devastated the Golden mile as well as some other areas. The problem still exists - is even worse - has ruined communities - but hey, it's not downtown


Fred - "no bearing" on who? I am a Maryland resident. I am a Frederick County resident. The use of state money for a private business entity has a bearing on every single resident in Maryland, hence, the reason why the General Assembly has a role in approving / disapproving funding.


Well Said Dremsberg.

We keep hearing, over and over, how bad the Golden Mile is. Ok, so perhaps a nice hotel / conference center would be a great start to reviving the golden mile.....


You deleted my comment just because you didn't like it, especially when it is not offensive, just a counter point. It must have hit right on target.


it isn't just "your" money.


No, it isn't. It's also the money of a lot of other people who don't want their tax dollars spent on it, either.

Comment deleted.

Please stop with the name calling. This forum is for discussion -- name calling of fellow commenters is not allowed under our terms of service. We will delete comments that directly insult or name-call another commenter.
Patrick B. Pextion


Mr. Editor, it is apparent that certain commenters have intents of primarily bashing and harassing others. I ask that the FNP ratchet down on certain commenters and not suspend, but permanently revoke their posting ability. Paying for a subscription is not a license to harass.

Comment deleted.

Ha, I misspelled my own name. Sorry.
Patrick B. Pexton



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