Maryland Greenlights Hotel, Dooms 1906 Factory

Posted on: February 11th, 2008 by Preservation magazine

Footer Dye WorksDays are numbered for a 102-year-old factory in Cumberland, Md., that once supplied lace curtains to the White House.

This month, the state, which owns the Footer Dye Works, will sign a 50-year lease to a hotel developer with no plans to preserve the building, abandoned for a decade.

Locals have been concerned about the 45,000-square-foot brick building for several years, as a deal between the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority and Pennsylvania-based Trestle Development lagged, due in part to the authority's lawsuits against the developer.

The authority's current plan calls for the demolition of the single-story annex to the building, about 60 percent of the building's total footprint, to create parking for a new hotel and two restaurants.

The state, through the Maryland Historical Trust, has already approved demolition, according to Michelle Crabtree, administrative officer for the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority, established in 1993 to preserve and develop the area near the western end of the C&O canal.

Kathy McKenney, city historic planner, says that the city has communicated its concerns to the state but has not heard anything from them on the matter. "That's a portion of the building that had the ability to be saved," she says. "I would like to see a little more action between the entities."

Even though the authority has asked for a courtesy review of the plans, she says, there has been a lack of communication between the parties involved while the building continues to deteriorate.

"Time should have made this deal better and better. Instead, it's gotten worse and worse for the public," says Doug Macy, a former chair of the city's preservation commission. Macy, a member of a community group trying to save the building, feels that the authority seems to be rushing to finish the job without exploring all the alternatives. "We've got other developers saying this would be a wonderful tax-credit project."

Although the state has approved demolition, no date has been set, according to Crabtree, but Trestle is planning to open the hotel next spring. The authority stabilized only the four-story portion of the building several years ago, she says, because "the plan was always to demolish the annex."

- Stephanie Smith

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Preservation Magazine