|unplanned demolition in historic South Baltimore|
Even without close inspection of the rowhouse under rehabilitation that the City condemned and demolished over the weekend because of a bowing front wall, full demolition seems like an extreme measure to take even before one knows that the demolition destroyed the adjacent building as well. Bowing front walls are very common since they are not held by much else than the roof rafters. But that also means that they are not important for the support of the rowhouse floors which span from side to side. A bowing front wall can usually be tied back to the nearest floor joist with so-called star-bolts that one can frequently see on Baltimore rowhouses demarking the floor levels on the facade. Even a bowing side wall can be shored up from the outside with temporary bracing. Both 212 and 214 Fort Avenue were vacant buildings planned for or already under renovation. It isn't obvious how the vacant structure presented such an imminent danger to life and health of neighbors that even police was stationed there overnight.
|The buildings before demolition|
|one floor is already down|
|The moment when the the second house falls|
Taking down the historic storefront corner building is a bad idea all around, taking down two buildings even more. It isn't clear how city inspectors assess risk in these cases. While they saw imminent danger on Fort Avenue, the much taller former nightclub on North Eutaw Street which was heavily damaged by an enormous fire earlier this year stood for weeks afterwards completely unprotected even though its entire cornice area was precariously un-braced after the roof and top floor had collapsed and various parts of the front could have easily have come crashing down on the busy sidewalk and street.
Demolition of vacant buildings has been going for decades. It was once before in high gear when Dan Henson was Housing Commissioner and HABC bought its own demolition equipment. The frenzy then received a damper when a weekend demo took accidentally down the dividing wall to the adjacent house as well exposing a unsuspecting residents sitting on his sofa in the living room. Nobody was injured.
Today, Housing contracts demolition out again and K&K Adams was the demolition contractor at work on Fort Avenue. But the eagerness to demolish has reached new heights with extra money coming from the State through project CORE.
[...] one of Baltimore’s best resources are these old row houses and tearing them down is a big opportunity cost that can never be replaced. That’s why we have historic districts and why historic districts are valued today. (David Alpert, Greater, Greater Washington)
|This building with a heavily damaged cornice|
stands since January, initially even without a
Federal Hill, Fells Point, Ridgely's Delight, Highlandtown and Remington have become hugely successful even far away from the waterfront because they had a large contiguous stock of old rowhouses which, once rehabilitated can easily cater to modern lifestyles. Large scale demolition in a neighborhood is really akin to writing it off for good.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
Baltimore SUN article
Video of the demolition
My book, Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City is my take on the post industrial American city and Baltimore after the unrest.
The book is now for sale and can currently be ordered online directly from the publisher with a discount and free shipping.