Brumbaugh Kendle Grove Farmstead, circa 1875, north of Hagerstown, MD

Brumbaugh Kendle Grove Farmstead

In 2013, the Brumbaugh Kendle Grove Farmstead was nominated by Preservation Maryland as the #1 most endangered property in Maryland. Since this nomination, Washington County formed a committee from numerous interested groups who are actively working on a promotion plan to advertise the farmstead for commercial adaptive reuse.

From the original nomination –

The property and its surroundings:

The Brumbaugh-Kendle-Grove farmstead has eleven intact, standing resources on its approximately eighty-seven acres of limestone-strewn pasture and farmland. These include: a circa 1895 brick vernacular Italianate-style farmhouse and washhouse; a late eighteenth-century to early nineteenth century family cemetery; a stone smokehouse; brick patterned-end Swisser barn that dates from the last third of the nineteenth century; a clapboard chicken house, pump, garage, chicken house and corncrib, hog pen, wagon shed, and silo dating from the early twentieth century.

The irregularly shaped parcel is bounded on the north by Air View Road and to the recently installed Hagerstown Regional Airport runway extension. The western boundary of the property fronts Pennsylvania Avenue/U.S. Route #11. To the south is a mobile home trailer sales park and small housing development, to the east farmland.

Brumbaugh Kendle Grove Farmstead

From the highway, the handsomely decorative brick Swisser barn and large Victorian brick home surrounded by tall corn seem typical of a rural, western Maryland farm. On closer inspection, the vacant house permeates an odor of mold because the windows have been boarded over and the rain gutters have fallen. Once elegant porches sag from rot, and the barn decays from exposure to the elements where the tin roof has blown off, – the old farmstead is crumbling from demolition by neglect. Vilified as a ‘security issue,’ and maligned as ‘an impediment to eligible airport development,’ this farm is owned by the government and citizens of Washington County.

The property’s historical significance:

Jacob and Mary Brumbaugh first settled this farmstead in the mid-eighteenth century. They are buried in the farms cemetery. The farmstead’s earliest buildings are probably its brick bank barn and stone smokehouse, which were likely erected by Upton S. Brumbaugh in the 1860s or 1870s. Samuel M. and Mollie Kendle built the farmhouse in 1895. From 1924 to 1997, the house was occupied and the lands farmed by I. Luther Grove and his son, Luther Grove, Jr.

The Brumbaugh-Kendle-Grove farmstead is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, for its connection with the early settlement of Washington County and the history of agriculture in the county in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is also believed to be eligible under Register Criterion C for its intact vernacular/Italianate-style residence and associated outbuildings, particularly its decoratively ventilated, brick-end barn.

The farmstead is listed on the Washington County Historical Site Survey and the Maryland Historical Trust Inventory (WA-I-480). The review by the Maryland Historical Trust in 2001 determined the farmsteads eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

The threat facing this property:

This eighty-seven acre farmstead with its large Victorian brick house, enormous brick Swisser barn, outbuildings, and cemetery, was purchased in 1999 by the Washington County Commissioners with a grant from the FAA as part of Hagerstown Regional Airports runway extension program. The farm property is contiguous to the new runway and was occupied at the time of purchase. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act mandates federal agencies ‘mitigate adverse effects’ on historic properties. Agencies must review all prudent and feasible options to demolition and document their efforts. This did not occur. Just a few months after purchasing the farm, the airport announced intentions to demolish the farmstead.

For almost ten years a paper-war has continued between the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT) and the airport and FAA. About every two years, the airport/FAA requests a demolition permit on the farmstead, and MHT consistently responds that the airport/FAA have not met the burden of proof that these farm buildings cannot be made productive. The failure of the airport/FAA to investigate options to rehabilitate the buildings into a productive reuse is considered an ‘unresolved obligation,’ under Section 106.  In short, the airport and FAA have never tried to save the farmstead. They seem determined that buildings are “inefficient for the future of the airport,” and should be demolished or moved.

Community commitment for saving the property:

This spring, the airport staff and FAA submitted their latest request for a demolition permit for the farmstead. As a matter of county procedure, the request was submitted to the Historic District Commission.  An inspection of the property by HDC members revealed that although rapidly deteriorating from years of neglect, the structures were remarkably sound and decidedly salvageable. Immediate action was necessary if farmstead was to be saved.

In a unprecedented interagency cooperation effort by the Washington County Historic District Commission, Planning Commission, the Historical Advisory Committee, the Historical Trust, and the Historical Society, members unified their resource and began a campaign to save the farm. Meetings were held with the airport staff, county attorneys, the Department of Public Work, Chamber of Commerce, and each county commissioner. Supporting documentation was requested and received from the Maryland Historical Trust, who were very pleased to finally receive local support in their efforts to save this great old farm.  Additional contacts were made at the state and federal level when members informed their state delegation, Congressman, and Senators of the issues.

Despite our incredible efforts, to date only two county commissioners have shown interest in saving the farm. The other commissioners seem paralyzed with fear that they may stall the economic engine of the Hagerstown Airport. They portray a decided lack of knowledge regarding the value and economic benefits of historic preservation.

How designation as “Endangered” will benefit this property:

Brumbaugh Kendle Farm 003

It seems inconceivable that this National Register eligible farmstead is quietly decaying from demolition by neglect at the hands of a county government, while the airport staff and FAA continue to disregard federal law. There are penalties for a federal agency “who damages or destroys historic property with the intent of avoiding the requirements of section 106.”  Yet, even the threat of potential legal action by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Maryland Historical Trust has not brought this issue to happy resolution.

The valiant efforts of the local historic community has made little headway against the power of the FAA and those who believe historic properties are dispensable in the face of the airport’s economic development. Federal and state grants available to rehabilitate the farm have been rejected by the commissioners as too restrictive, yet they accept grants from the FAA.

It is hoped that public recognition of this important farmstead as one of Maryland’s endangered properties will prompt the county commissioners to engage in a productive reuse of this property as it exists. Rehabilitation of this farm would satisfy the mandated requirements of Section 106 while demonstrating Washington County’s willingness to engage in the practical application of historic preservation as a valuable part of economic growth. Consideration should not have to be either historic preservation OR economic growth, – but rather how to seamlessly integrate the two compatibly.