On Main Street in historic Ellicott City, recovery has come in the form of a debris pile.

Crews are tearing down a building destroyed in a November fire that burned for more than 12 hours and caused $2 million in damage to the quaint shopping district. The contractor started work this week, bringing in a gigantic backhoe to claw at the burned-out Rosenstock building.

By yesterday afternoon, its walls were gone, the building's foundation heaped high with broken stucco, charred wood and other debris from the apartments and shops that once stood there. Authorities ruled the fire an accident and believe it started from a cigarette discarded by a 17-year-old cook behind Main Street Blues, a restaurant and bar next to the Rosenstock building. The six-alarm fire erupted at the start of the holiday shopping season, injuring no one but destroying or damaging six businesses.

The blaze brought back memories of another devastating fire 15 years ago.

"It's sad. You've just lost another piece of Ellicott City history," said Bobbi Altervogt, a resident, as she watched the demolition.

Bruce T. Taylor, whose company, Historic Ellicott Properties, owns the Rosenstock, will replace the 105-year-old structure with one equipped with an elevator and fire- and flood-proofing measures, but it will feature a facade designed to make the building look like one of its previous incarnations.

Working from a photograph, project architect Gregory W. Mitchell will put a masonry face on the new building, perhaps with iron railings and second-floor balconies.

"It will be different than what it looks like now, but truer to its original form," Taylor said.

He doesn't know who will occupy the space, or whether it will include apartments. Construction on the new building should take about a year, Taylor said.

Next door at Main Street Blues, another construction company is attempting to save the brick exterior as it guts the building. Taylor's stucco-front building was a total loss.

"It's a shame to see this building go after all the work we put into renovating it just 10 or 12 years ago," Taylor said. "There really wasn't anything that was able to be salvaged."

This month, the Howard County Council is expected to introduce legislation to give tax credits to business owners in historic districts who install sprinkler systems. State Sen. Christopher J. McCabe (R-Howard) said he is working to determine what state programs already exist to offer business owners low-interest loans for sprinklers, and what, if any, steps are needed to make the money available.

CAPTION: Bob Miller, of Catonsville, Md., records the demolition of the Rosenstock building in Ellicott City. That and other buildings along Main Street were destroyed in a November fire that caused $2 million in damage.