Frederick’s Historic Preservation Commission voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to allow demolition of a 200-year-old log cabin near the city’s downtown, ending a lengthy battle over the crumbling structure.
In 2005, Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County bought the Rose Log Cabin, thought to be a former slave quarters, in an informal deal with city officials. The idea: tear it down and build affordable housing.
Politics — and history — got in the way.
City officials involved in the deal left. Preservation commission membership changed. And concern emerged that demolishing the cabin would erase a key piece of history in a city filled with notable 19th-century architecture.
An expert hired by Habitat found that the cabin was beyond restoration. Termites had devoured the logs. The stairs had collapsed. The floor had rotted.
Neighbors on East Fifth Street called the structure an eyesore and feared it would collapse, potentially hurting someone. Even city preservation planners, citing “serious structural issues,” recommended demolition, saying the cabin was “unable to physically demonstrate significant aspects of its past.”
A vote this summer on the issue was deadlocked, 2 to 2. But Thursday night, the commission voted 6 to 1 to tear the cabin down.
Commissioner Carrie Albee, the lone vote against demolition, had previously argued that the cabin had historic integrity and that Habitat had not taken the necessary steps to prevent further damage. She did not immediately return a request for comment on the vote.
Ron Cramer, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County, said he was relieved about the outcome, acknowledging that it was a stressful process for everyone involved.
Habitat plans to sell the house to a local builder, then use the proceeds to help fund an affordable housing project in Thurmont, near the county’s northern edge.
“Now we can get back to building houses,” Cramer said.
Habitat has agreed to work with local preservation experts to tear down the cabin by hand, document the work and salvage materials for historic organizations.