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Beard House - Third brick house in Emmitsburg comes down as Vigilant expands

(12/9) The old, former apartment building attached to the side of the current Vigilant Volunteer Fire Company firehouse bay must be demolished because of decrepit structural elements and crumbling bricks.

Original plans called for simply renovating the 29 West Main Street structure, but as work progressed on upgrading Vigilant headquarters, the old building was deemed unsalvageable, and construction crews began demolition during the first half of November.

Once beyond that unexpected hurdle, the fire company still plans on completing the $1.5 million overhaul and expansion of the headquarters during the summer of 2007.

Early in 2005, Vigilant announced plans to refurbish a neighboring, former apartment building to house emergency staff, provide administrative quarters and serve as temporary housing for residents left homeless by fires.

Project Architect Michael Proffitt stated that the proposed expansion would increase the present structure by about 820 square feet, and would involve refurbishing much of the original structure, including dealing with a bulging outer wall on the School Lane side.

He said the historic faade would be maintained, but new stairs, an elevator and sprinklers would be added to bring the structure into compliance with safety standards.

As further evaluation of the old building progressed during 2006, the planned overhaul got ugly.

John Damskey, vice president of the fire company and chair of the buildings committee, recently told The Dispatch, "We started out two and a half years ago thinking we could remodel (the apartment building)," but have since been advised "not to do it."

He confirmed that the fire company would be demolishing the structure completely. He said it had been determined that the building had serious structural problems, including a wall bulging out towards School Lane, and that it would be a "better deal to demolish it" than to attempt to save it.

Saving the front faade, as was originally proposed, became hopeless after it was learned that the bricks were crumbling. Damskey said, "We thought we could save the front wall, but we ran into soft brick," and as a result of that discovery, the faade will have to come down as well.

The fire company vice president stated that an effort will be made to rebuild it "as close to how it looked" before it was demolished.

The up side of the bad news is that the demolition will permit the creation of a basement large enough to provide a recreational and exercise area for company personnel.

The remaining plans for use of the overhauled building remain little changed. An elevator will be installed, as well as staircases. The first floor of the new structure will serve as offices, with the second floor serving as the "bunk" area. The new attic when completed will be used for storage.

Damskey said, "We're hoping for the project to be completed during the summer 2007," but that it also dependent on what work can be accomplished during the winter.

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