Bulldozers after dark

Baltimore County: Ruppersberger must pursue illegal demolition of historic Fortune House.

October 27, 1999

HISTORIC structures are increasingly an endangered species in Baltimore County. Add the recent loss of the Thomas Fortune House, a 145-year-old stone Greek Revival-style stone house in Cockeysville, to the Samuel Owings House in Owings Mills and the Maryvale Tenant House in Green Spring Valley to the list of significant structures that have been cavalierly demolished in the past few years.

At the moment, no one is taking responsibility for destroying the house in Cockeysville, but the circumstances are suspicious. The house was standing Oct. 15 when construction crews on a nearby project left work. Late that night, a neighbor said she heard a backhoe at about 3 a.m. By daybreak, the house was rubble.

Unlike the Samuel Owings and Maryvale Tenant house demolitions, where questions existed about the permit process, there shouldn't have been any room for confusion over the Fortune House.

Mary and Bill Kraft, owners of the house, applied for a demolition permit last June as part of the sale of the property to Towson Ford. They were notified that the house was on Baltimore County's list of historic structures. Under county law, they needed a waiver to raze the house.

By demolishing it under the cover of darkness without a permit, the perpetrators apparently thought they rendered the county's regulatory process irrelevant. The county cannot let this behavior go unpunished.

Officials should hold in abeyance all grading, building or occupancy permits until all investigations are completed.

Unless the administration of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger takes forceful action against those responsible for demolishing the Fortune House, all of the county's 2,900 historic structures could become vulnerable to midnight bulldozers.

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