Effort to save centuries-old house too late

February 09, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

A pile of stones and pegs is all that is left of the Little Stone House near Creswell in Harford County. The centuries-old building was demolished just as a county committee was beginning an effort to protect it.

Chad Shrodes, a preservation planner with the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, said the Historic Preservation Commission met Jan. 27 and voted to work with the new property owners to protect the house, but the next day the owners, who were not part of the meeting, demolished it.

Shrodes said the demolition had nothing to do with the meeting. "It was a coincidence that it was torn down the next day," Shrodes said.

The house was not registered as a historical landmark, Shrodes said, but an inventory in 1976 dated it to at least the 18th century. "The only way it could have been protected is if it was a Harford County landmark," Shrodes said. He added that the owner has to document a property's history to help establish it as a landmark.

Henry Harjes III of Columbia, a co-owner of the property, said that he was aware it was an old house and that he contacted officials in Washington and found it was not listed on any historical records. He said he even asked around about the property. "Nobody said anything to me about the house," Harjes said. "It was in the contract that it was not a historical piece."

Harjes and Amy Goodrich purchased the building Jan. 7. In late December, they applied for a building permit for a single-family home with a three-car garage and porch. The permit was issued Jan. 14. Harjes said he had planned to demolish the house within 30 days because it was an extreme safety hazard.

Harjes and Goodrich demolished the house Jan. 28 without a demolition permit. They were fined an administrative fee of $250 and a permit fee of $75. The Harford County Health Department will decide whether to approve the demolition after inspecting the rubble.

Grace Fielder, a licensed landscape architect whose family owned the 1,000 acres the house sat on from 1970 to 2001, said she felt the house should have been protected.

"I grew up with the Little Stone House," she said. "The Little Stone House was my personal love."

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