The low hum of machinery echoed down East Fifth Street on Monday morning as a crew of local contractors and volunteers dismantled a dilapidated log cabin that has sat in disrepair for more than a decade.

Each salvageable window frame and door panel was photographed and set aside for preservation purposes. Workers cautiously stepped through the crumbling structure, wary of a rotting board giving way. A bucket truck lifted others toward the roof.

The work was slow-moving. For many, though, each log and shingle removed brought them one step closer to the long-awaited demolition of the log cabin at 107 E. Fifth St.

Ron Cramer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County, which owns the property, called the work a relief.

“It’s Habitat’s Christmas gift to the Fifth Street community,” he said.

Tee Pecora, a member of the organization’s board of directors, agreed.

“It feels good. It feels really good,” he said.

The road to demolition

The financial burden and safety hazards posed by the 19th-century log cabin have weighed heavily on the nonprofit organization since it bought the property from the city in 2005. The property was deemed unsalvageable in multiple reports over the last 10 years, including an evaluation compiled by a private contractor a few months ago. Habitat sought to demolish the termite-ridden, crumbling remnants with the intent to sell the lot to a local builder.

Since the structure is in the Frederick Town Historic District, its demolition required approval of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The commission granted permission for the demolition by a 6-1 vote over the summer. The road to approval wasn’t without challenges, though.

Habitat submitted its demolition application in October 2014, nearly 10 months before it got the HPC go-ahead. The two-part vote was drawn out over a series of public hearings with heated debate among property owners, local residents, commission members and city planners.

The commission ultimately voted to designate the cabin as a contributing resource to the historic district before approving its demolition in a second vote at a separate meeting.

The HPC approval was not the last hurdle to overcome, however. The commission tied its approval to a series of requirements for the demolition process, including documenting the structure for archival records, allowing a six-month archaeological survey period before the property can be sold or redeveloped. The commission also required that demolition be done by hand, without heavy equipment.

Cramer attributed the four-month span between the HPC approval and the beginning of demolition to the additional steps these requirements posed, as well as the demolition permits needed through the city planning department.

“We’re making sure we’re adhering to the right rules and regulations,” he said. “Just putting that all together was a process.”

A community effort

With those pieces in place, a group of eight people began the painstaking demolition process Monday. Many were wrapped in scarves and hats to protect against the cold as they started in on the roof shingles and back portions of the structure.

Among them were six workers from Anthony Owens Remodeling and Repair.

Owens described the demolition-by-hand work as “excruciating.” He quickly added that he was glad to offer help, however. He named Habitat as one of the best of the 18 nonprofit organizations his company has worked with.

Owens noted that his was not the only volunteer contribution to the effort. A few nearby property owners joined in to help with the demolition and documentation. Ron Hemby, owner of Hemby Custom Homes, who plans to buy the empty lot from Habitat, also lent a hand.

“Neighbors helping neighbors, that’s what this is,” Owens said. “That’s what Frederick is all about.”

Cramer said he was grateful to all of the volunteers who had come forward, particularly those with professional building experience. Although Habitat had a wealth of volunteers willing to pitch in, the unstable structure was a safety hazard.

“We needed skilled people out there at this point,” he said.

Even the professionals at work were using extreme caution. To avoid falling through the potentially unstable roof, they relied on the bucket truck. Those venturing inside to remove windows and doors proceeded carefully.

“It’s sort of the unknown,” Pecora said. “All you got to do is step through a rotten floorboard.”

Next steps

Pecora said he hoped to complete demolition by the end of the week, weather permitting. When the structure is dismantled, the organization plans to hire an archaeological group or expert to conduct a property survey required by the HPC.

Pecora said he was discussing the work with the local firm R Christopher Goodwin & Associates, but nothing had been decided. Habitat and Hemby would share the cost of the survey work, which also had not been finalized as of Monday.

Once the study period ended, Hemby will buy the empty lot. A contract of sale has not yet been drafted, according to Cramer, but Hemby has agreed to pay $45,000 for the 5,760-square-foot property. The site, including the building, was valued at $116,367 as of July 1, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

The money from the sale will go to Habitat’s homeownership program, which helps qualified residents buy a home with an interest-free mortgage, Cramer has said previously.

Hemby said preliminary plans have already been drafted for the two-story, three-bedroom building his company will construct on the site. The company has also started construction of three houses at 122, 124 and 126 E. Fifth St.

For the time being, though, Pecora said he plans to take things one step — and one log — at a time.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(29) comments

Glen Shiel

@ MAVRICKinc7; I'm not sure what exactly your problem with my comments is, but I wasn't in any way getting involved with the politics of this issue, I could not care less about them. As one trained in jobsite safety,I was MERELY pointing out an OSHA violation and nothing else, just as another commentator did. Jeesh, stop making mountains where mole hills never existed.


[thumbup] Mav sees conspiracies and LIES at every turn.

Glen Shiel

Yes, unfortunately he does.


Sorry Glen, but I'm trained in RISK management and strategic litigation protocols. If anyone were to climb that ladder or fall off that lift because they were not properly harnessed or fall through the rotted roof based on a LIE or attractive nusiance that it was safe to climb the ladder and remove the roof by HAND is a risk that should not be taken except by a bulldozer; mountain or molehill? Has the City asked for an OSHA inspecter to be on the property during its demolition?


RISK management aka i can spot a shoplifter when i see one. AKA has no knowledge on how assessments, the county, or taxes work. PS anyone can be in RISK management, all you do is sit behind a monitor at Goodwill and check for shoplifters. So don't try to fool us with your B.S.


And he has problems with everyone, if you can understand him.


I usually can't, even after reading some of them twice.


But isn't that who we really are about; conspiracies and LIES. Just because you prefer to tip-toe through the tulips is OK with me. I prefer asking questions, listening to all sides and deciding for myself who the best liars are. Ever ask someone a question and all you got back was perspiration off their forehead or getting up and suddenly leaving the room in anger and outrage at the question asked WITHOUT ANSWERING THE QUESTION?

I trust everyone until they give me good not to trust, which is easy pickins in an ANONYMOUS WORLD OF LIARS. Just think, no accountability, credibility, or transparency. What I SEE are words with syntax surrounded by what you are thinking, which, in most cases, is scripted messaging attached to a cause or ulterior motive to marginalize the conversation because you don't like what the question is, anymore so than what the answer should be.


And, all I was doing is pointing out the scam Frederick and their Preservation Commission are playing with the development community, with their versions of original windows and facades, blighted and vacant properties throughout the Frederick, Maryland. Didn't have any problem with your comment. Just decided to dig a little deeper than you were prepared to go and put a little meat on bone that you CONFINED to OSHA violations, which can be found throughout downtown Frederick and the REGION. I'll guess, you don't regard rampant blight and vacant properties in downtown as anything more than a mole hill.


he isn't trained in OSHA, he is trained in RISK management ( shoplifting)

Glen Shiel



I can't think of a more conscious or compassionate renovating coalition than
Habitat for Humanity !


Generations of termites getting displaced. Hopefully those on the historic commission take them into their home.


yeah I caught that too. In other words, the termites will be migrating to the nearby dwellings


You are too funny. lol

Concerned Fredericktonian

“We’re making sure we’re adhering to the right rules and regulations,”

You'd think that would be normal operating procedures for HFH but it isn't. Just down the street on their Land Trust home they got caught for not adhering to regulations on a rear porch and have an active violation. Was that Mr Cramer trying to save some money, their construction Super not knowing the regulations of the HPC, or their favored contractor advising them that they could get away with it. Not the first time they've got caught and you can only play the Charity card so many times.


Great report overall but minor correction to this par: "Since the structure is in the Frederick Town Historic District, its demolition required approval of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission." No, unfortunately the Historic Preservation Commission has extended its tentacles citywide and all demolitions whether in a historic district or not must be run by the Commission. In cases outside a designated historic district the Mayor & Board do get to decide whether a historic district overlay or zoning is granted but then the HPC gets the power to preserve such blight. And our elected representatives lose control to the historic fanatics who give not a hoot what neighbors think or what damage is done to the community by the useless, crumbling relic.

Glen Shiel

Gee, I guess Carrie Albee is going to be crying herself to sleep for weeks to come now. There's your dust Ms. Albee, go collect a bottle or two.

C N Wolfe

The lift operator is not wearing the proper saftey equipment. Funny it is a pic in the paper, OSHA does not have to do much leg work on this one. Also, why is the city selling the property for $70,000 less than what it is valued. Sounds lije good old boy politics


The city isn't selling the property. The city doesn't own it. It is Habitat for Humanity's honesty that you meant to question.

Glen Shiel

The extension ladder is improperly placed also. While the angle appears to be acceptable, the bottom is not secured and the top is required to extend 3 feet above the working surface.


What is it about a STAGED and SCRIPTED op-ed don't you get? There is no WORKING SURFACE to be had since the Historic Preservation Commission mandated the rotted structure be demolished by HAND instead of being bulldozed to the ground in a day's effort. Instead, the Historic Preservation Commission extracts more money from the historic dust and rot in SEVICES RENDERED that could have been rendered over a year ago if it weren't for rules and regulations that feeds off the future of Frederick with historic abandon and FEE schedules and obsolete meetings that are NOW only being brought to the citizen population of Frederick, Maryland, 50+ years later?

Glen Shiel

So, if the structure was to be demolished by hand, just how was the roof to be removed? If someone were to climb up there to do it by that method that makes the roof a working surface. If it weren't, why the need for the ladder? It matters not the size of the project, OSHA regulations are required to be followed on any construction/deconstruction job, whether it's a "STAGED and SCRIPTED op-ed" or not.


Iwould respond to you Glen, but your subsequent comments (below) have been reduced by the FNP to REPORT status only and not allowing further comment. What is it about CENSORSHIP don't you get?

You can wrap as many excuses around this subject matter as you feel necessary, but the FACT remains that Frederick and their Historic Preservation Commission are going to bleed this property for every cent they can generate and disguised as Rules and Regulations of "historic preservation" and meant only to gouge the pooch more than it's worth.

While I appreciate your DISTRACTION, you still have nothing more to sell than dust and decay that has been around for decades and generations of neglect. Can we be sure that you are not avoting member of the Frederick, Maryland Historical Preservation Commission? YOU can disguise this SCAM with all the rules and regulation you want, but the bottom line is as close to a FRAUD as you can stand to get.


The $116k valuation is only the value as assessed by the state tax people, not the real value - which is what a buyer will pay. The state tax people do not factor in huge expense and uncertainty generated by the City's historic preservation processes which have prevented any owner of this property from making any productive use of it by first obstructing demolition, now making the demolition process slow and expensive. The HPC still has the power to claim its conditions for demo approval have not been met and to obstruct approval of the developers plans when they are submitted. Ron Hemby may well be overpaying. He is making a gamble on how long the historic fanatics will be able to string this out and mess with people further.


Isn't this all about overpaying for what dust and decay is worth or going for on the Frederick Maryland's markets of exchange? What is a LIE, made with a straight face worth these days?


No more a violation than your failure to buckle up...

Glen Shiel

I'm not sure whom you are referring to but, for the record, I wear my seatbelt religiously.


Doesn't this speak to the same INFLATED real estate assessments throughout the Frederick and Frederick County REGION? What is it about the price of slums and and blight that deserves mention in Frederick's Historic District and the price of powdered DUST and decay that has been around and negected for the last 50+ years by local governance and their version of historic preservation?

SO who's LYING to who? With all the decay and DELIBERATE neglect throughout the city of Frederick and Frederick County, what is ROT going for in the open market that the Historic Preservation Commission hasn't been using to BLEED money out the development community with their subtle tactics to EXTRACT as much money as the Frederick City government has used to underwrite the term HISTORIC as a means to extort money out of the residential and commercial enterprises who are called on to invest more tax writeoffs, under the name of historical preservation? What is it about this age old SCAM by locally elected governance and their minnions that WE continue to tolerate?

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