Endangered: Birely Tannery

10/02/2014
By Preservation Maryland

The Birely Tannery in the City of Frederick Historic District in Frederick County was listed as an Endangered Maryland site in 2014.

HISTORY

Just to the north of Carroll Creek and within the boundary of the City of Frederick Historic District sits a two-story, painted brick building with a stone foundation and a smokestack. The Birely family operated a tannery on the site from 1800 until 1924. The building stands today as the last evidence of the principal industry in Frederick County for many years. The construction date for the main building is unknown, but it first appeared on a Sanborn Map in 1887. The addition to the right of the main structure dates to 1909 when it was reconstructed after a fire. An archaeological dig at the site in 1988 turned up manyartifacts related to tanning and served as the basis for two books about the tannery.

SIGNIFICANCE

In some parts of Maryland during the 18th and 19th centuries, tanning was second only to agriculture in terms of economic importance, and Frederick was the heart of that tanning industry. In 1866 almost half of the 93 tanneries in Maryland were located in Frederick County. Natural, cultural and economic factors made the area a successful spot for tanning. The Birely Tannery’s location just on the eastern edge of town contributed to its success – historically the tannery was located along a creek and downwind from the town’s residential areas. The Birely Tannery complex’s significance is rooted in its relationship to this important industry from Frederick’s past.

THREAT

The Birely Tannery is faced with the threat of demolition. The tannery sits on one of five sites that the City’s Hotel Advisory Team has determined is a prime location for a new hotel and meeting space in downtown.

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Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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