Read Past Columns:

by Jack Lynch, Editor


Commentary from Frederick News Post, July 15, 2012: "Unconvinced by optimism of (Downtown Frederick, MD) hotel report" Link

Commentary from Frederick News Post, May 27, 2012: "Charter rule (Frederick County, MD) will be no better than today's government" Link

City Limits

Discovering the Descendants of Abraham Faw

Finding a Two Hundred and Eighty Year Old House Ruin Admidst Suburban Sprawl?

To Save a Stream - Abraham Faw Run

Adolphus Fearhake of Frederick, Maryland

Plan Maryland

Bulldozer Blaine Young

Remembering my Revolutionary Ancestor - Abraham Faw

Why Not the Best?

A Tree Grows in Frederick for Anne Frank

The Tragedy of Kai Hagen

Frederick County's Gunslinger Slate, Fire from the Lip, shoot from the Hip!

A Visit to Tangier Island

Historic Snowfall, Road Salt, Watershed Protection and the Chesapeake Bay

Will It be Progress or Retrenchment in Frederick County?

Is This the End of Frederick Smart Growth?

A Series of Links Follows from the Air It Out with George political commentary website:

Chesapeake Blues on Tangier Island

July 4, 2008

Mass Burn

Appalachian Blues on Hillbilly Highway

Buying a Congressional Seat in Maryland's First District - Coming to the Sixth District?

Democratic Candidates on American Foreign Policy

All the King's Horses!

Campaign in Song: Bushie Head Out the Mixing Bowl

Democratic Campaign's Vertical Treadmill on Space Mission

A Bit of Olympic Political History

Obama for the Chesapeake Bay?

Politics is Personal: Repeat Three Times

Prediction: Bad News for Obama, The End of Post-Racial Politics

American Exceptionalism on the World Stage

Obama Speaking on March 18th - Political Equinox

Yee Haw! On to Pennsyltuckey!

American Blackface: Tragic Octoroon

Key to Success - Lesson for Frederick:

Republicrats Yes, Middlecrats No

Too Many Promises ...Loaves and Fishes

Identity Black and White in Frederick

Mashup 1968 - 2008: On to Texas, Out with Clinton?

Fat Tuesday!

Symbol, Sense and Substance

Eight More Years

The Dollar Bubble

Judging a Candidate By Their Website

Baby, We Were Born to Bun!

The subsequent links are again from older dates of The Frederick Citizen:

A Rememebrance: Beijing Spring, Interrupted

County Officials and Public Communications

The Snallygaster in Frederick County

Fourth Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Frederick City Growth

American Promised Land - American All

Black Frederick and Matters of Race and Politics

Dumping on the Chesapeake Bay

Common Sense Writ Large

The Next Mayor of Frederick

Democracy in Action!

Ottawa: About a Greenbelt, Transit Oriented Development and Government FiatCountering Alderman Imhoff's Growth Beliefs

An Alternate View of Frederick CityGrowth Policy

An Acorn in the Bucket

Monocacy River Part II

Monocacy River Part I

New Market Regional Plan Affirmation

43 More!

Fish and Life

Talking Trash

Strike Three, Smoking Out!

A Green Fund Too Far, Or Not Far Enough?

Growth Back to the Future

Revisiting an Iraq War Opinion Four Years Later

Second Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

Unrepentant Cady

Sour Grapes and Fine Wine

There's Hope for Good Government

The Democratic Fifth

The County of Feel Good

Hypocrisy Indeed

The Alliance

The Growth Machine Slate

"The Issues are Bipartisan" - David Gray

The Importance of Jan Gardner's Campaign

Form Follows Function

Route 15 Scenic Walmart

Frederick Blue

The Curtain Rises

Housing Growth, Not Smart Growth, Not Progressive Planning

Understanding Lennie Thompson

Frederick's Tale of Two Rabbi's

Wellhead Protection

Make Believe, or Desperate Duncan?

A Progressive Concept Approved...then Defeated!

Hog Wild

Anniversary of the Frederick Citizen

We're No Gwinnett County

"An Election, Not a Selection...!"  Indeed!

A Potpourri of Thoughts and Issues...

Now That the Smoke Has Cleared


How am I to Decide on Mayor of Frederick?

Doomed To Repeat It

Frantic Orthodoxy

Stealth Candidate

Another Perfect Day for Bananafish

This Summer Election

Building Issues

Just Powers

Death Defying Election?

In the Heat

Horse Sense for Frederick County?

Kudzu and Million Dollar Homes

Bartlett's Ozone Trip

Let the Games Begin

Blood in the Water

Coffee Klatch

Archaeology in Frederick

Bizarro World

Mr. O'Malley's March

Playing All the Cards

Who are Your Friends New Market?

Mixed Use

Beijing Spring, Interrupted

Passion, People and Politics in Frederick City

Millennium project

A Frederick Leader of Distinction

APFO Under Attack

State Lands Sale

Frederick Water Sourcing

Frederick Water










The Frederick Citizen Logo

October 15, 2012

Birely Tannery 1760 - 1960, Carroll Creek in Frederick

by Jack Lynch

The Carroll Creek projects in the City of Frederick, and future plans, lack two essential elements and features defining our long history and community: a site of historic relevance and an outdoor community event space. Both of these pedestrian centric goals might be served by utilizing an existing historic amenity and open space planned around the vacant colonial tannery building behind the former Frederick News-Post offices at Patrick and Carroll Streets.

Birely Tannery

Birely Tannery - (Update 10/22/12 - take action on Birely Tannery and local historic preservation advocacy efforts by checking out the new Frederick Preservation Trust )

Our community stands at the crossroads of determining the future of the site based on planning and support towards a downtown hotel project. Thus, this crucial site, whose presence stands as a symbol of Frederick’s broad economic vitality, from colonial times to today, with components of significant archeological resources, stands threatened by bulldozers and five story tall modern private buildings.

A bit of the historical importance of the tannery site was described by Frances Randall in the News Post last year in her article “Historic perspective: The "little white tannery building”

Frances notes the fire in the building, which was mostly confined to the upper floors, and not absolutely destructive of the building, whose central portion consists of early native stone walls.

It is the last tannery building left in Frederick, one that produced leather goods from the 1700’s to 1952. It served as a nexus of various trades based on using supple tanned hides: to produce equestrian goods, shoes and gloves, carriage accessories, personal items, etc. From pouches for lead shot in the early republic to Civil War soldier’s accoutrements, the progress of the City is inherent in the place, and connected to our agrarian life past and present.

The grain farms yielded to cattle, and the hides supplied a variety of goods manufacturers and trades. In addition, the tannery purchased tons of local timber, oak bark and sumac, to get the bark off they used a steam mill, and ash and guano were also consumed in the leather making process.

A degree of significant, but limited archeological study was done at the site, but it proved so rich in items (1), (2), (3) from our earliest history to modern times, that it retains much potential for further study. The Phase I study outlined a variety of outlying structures associated with the tannery uses left remnants in situ. Phase II digs yielded a trove of tools related to the tannery work and a variety of objects associated with the people who toiled at it.

Site Map

Birely Tannery Archeological Site Map - Click to open full size

The only full, Phase III mitigation of the small portion of the site nearest the creek simply identified the white oak wood used in the many tanning vats found there. Given how Frederick’s great colonial past has been mostly covered over, the artifacts alone could prove worthy of display for future generations, yet alone the knowledge and insights to be gained by interpretation. This is far from the "sole of a leather sole of a shoe and old coke bottle" finds that have been suggested by some local leaders.

It could indeed be argued that the Birely Tannery is the best available Colonial archeological site in the City of Frederick and most worthy of protection under the City's own archeological protection ordinances. The City owns the site (update 10/16/12 - a reader notes that tax records were incorrect, and that the Randall family still owns the tannery site), though it has suffered serious neglect and little more than disdain from planners. Will our progress pave over this significant site, or will we find a way to bring back our historical gem? Is the mercantile design of a downtown hotel in that single location worth the destruction of this last connection to mercantile trades and the building of our prosperous village?

Well, our own economic development officials attempt to portray it as a "little white concrete building”. Meaning the bulldozers should arrive most any time without much troublesome, further consideration.

Those who would glance at the building, which the City has allowed to be covered with vines, weeds, and even trees too close to the foundations, would be advised to recall another such building which seemed not only overgrown, but actually a bit structurally unsound, the Fisher Building, which now is proudly restored and saved. This is the result of enlightened private ownership with recognition of historic value and potential for adaptive reuse. (Fisher restoration article 2)

The Birely Tannery site resides right on Carroll Creek, with one of the best and largest close in open spaces available. Given the abandonment of properties along the creek for development, it presents an opportunity to establish a community event space for the hands-on arts activities of festivals, and a space to do historic interpretations and demonstrate our heritage with live events.

Being accessible to the Creek area it would augment the types of public events that draw visitors and shoppers to downtown. At a recent site visit by the Frederick Preservation Trust, a recently formed advocacy group for historic preservation in the city, one commenter suggested that the Carroll Creek bridge in front of it could be easily extended back to the center of the building, providing a pedestrian access to the structure.

It is not an easy or quick goal, but perhaps also worthy of consideration would be a City history museum development around the existing historic trolley and newspaper building. It might also yield a space to include our rich African-American history here. Allied with a site of sufficient open space, office spaces, and proximity to the Creek and downtown, it could serve many capacities well.

Preservationists know that not everything is worth saving, but when a correlation exists between the past and present needs and future advantages, it is worth the effort to achieve the best end uses of a site and historic structures. Frederick has always been a crossroads of past and future, here lays a viable context and a preponderance of reasons to showcase that character of our community.