Razing and rebuilding of Main Street begins

Ellicott City starts clearing bittersweet path for post-fire future

January 12, 2000|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Dr. Bruce T. Taylor experienced a mixture of sadness and relief as he stood on Main Street in Ellicott City yesterday morning, watching a shovel shaped like a giant claw tear away at the building he lost in November's fire.

"It's a new beginning, and we're looking forward to a new beginning," he said, as showers of wood spilled to the sidewalk shortly after demolition began at about 9 a.m.

"It's a shame to have to lose an old structure," he said. "But given that it's so severely damaged, unfortunately we suspected early on that there would be little we could salvage."

Taylor, medical director and chief executive officer of Taylor Manor Hospital in Ellicott City, owns one of three buildings that burned in the Nov. 9 six-alarm fire on Main Street.

The middle building and the one most badly damaged, once housed Rugs to Riches, Legends and the Nature Nook. Two other buildings were also damaged in the fire, but they will be renovated and do not need to be demolished.

For two months, Taylor's ruined building on Main Street remained mostly untouched, partitioned off behind a wooden wall painted with a mural. Taylor wanted to wait until after Christmas to begin work on the building so as not to disrupt the merchants' holiday sales.

Work on the building was also slowed because it lies in a flood plain over the Tiber-Hudson tributary of the Patapsco River, and state and county laws restrict building in a flood plain. Jared Spahn, the man in charge of constructing Taylor's building, said he had to get waivers to rebuild in a way that will maintain the historic integrity of the street.

"There really were a tremendous number of hurdles to get to this point," Spahn said.

Greg Mitchell, the architect working on Taylor's building, said preliminary plans for the new building call for brick, stone or a combination of both, with wood trim on the windows. He said a picture from the turn of the century, when the building was a department store, shows a second story balcony which he might try to replicate.

Spahn said the building should have tenants by Christmas season. He is also in charge of renovating the building to the west, which had housed Spring House Design; he said that structure might be ready in about three months.

Work has begun on the building to the east of Taylor's, the one that used to house Main Street Blues.

Adam Horseman, vice president of S&A Contractors Inc. in Jarrettsville, said the inside of that building was burned out by the fire, but the outside walls will stay the same. He said cleanup began last week and he expects remodeling to finish by June or July so Main Street Blues can move back.

Demolition is scheduled to continue from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday. It didn't cause any major rush-hour delays yesterday, even as it attracted a couple dozen politicians and passers-by who gathered on the sidewalk to watch.

County Executive James N. Robey was there, as was Howard County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, a Republican from Ellicott City, and State Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, a Republican who represents the area.

Merdon said he and Robey have been working on a proposal to give tax incentives to any business on Main Street that installs retrofitted sprinkler systems. He said there will be a public hearing on the matter in February.

Tom Pierce, owner of Tradewinds Crystal and Gifts on Main Street, came to watch the demolition before heading to work. He said he worried a little that business would suffer.

"People are not going to want to come down because they are not going to want to fight traffic [amid the construction]," he said. "It doesn't help business, but it's something that's got to be done."

Bob Miller of Catonsville woke up extra early yesterday to videotape the demolition for the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum. Miller, a volunteer, said in the past he has filmed floods in Ellicott City and the restoration of the B&O Museum.

"I save history," he said. "This is history."

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