Heart-shaped donation "thermometer" for Wire Hardware Emergengy Repair Fund; Preservation Maryland collection, 1993.

Historic Heart Bomb: Wire Hardware

02/14/2016
By Meagan Baco

On this February 14, 2016, Preservation Maryland proclaims the earliest known occasion of preservation heart-bombing in the state of Maryland to be 1993 at the Wire Hardware Store in Rockville!

When the likely buyer of the historic Wire Hardware building had plans to gut the interior, Peerless Rockville, a regional preservation non-profit led by the equally peerless Eileen McGuckian, brought a law suit to defend the organization’s right-of-first-refusal to purchase and protect the building.

The ca. 1895 structure at 22 Baltimore Road is the last remaining cast iron storefront in Rockville; it replaced the first frame building on the lot that burned soon after construction. It sits on a highly-desirable lot divided in 1872 as part of the “Third Addition to Rockville,” sold in anticipation of the opening of the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad that opened in 1873, just across the tracks from the lot. Originally, the business sold “implements, grains, fuels, and provisions,” then from 1923-1964 it was operated by Frank and Porter Ward, who sold it to Paul F. Wire, who with his sons ran it has a hardware store until 1990.

The Welsh house and Store looking through St. Mary’s cemetery. Photo courtesy of Peerless Rockville.

The Welsh house and Store looking through St. Mary’s cemetery. Photo courtesy of Peerless Rockville.

 

Soon after Peerless took ownership, Preservation Maryland brought their Annual Meeting to the Store, simply placing folding chairs in the raw space and hosting the new Speaker of the Maryland State Assembly, Delegate Casper R. Taylor, who went on to become the longest serving Speaker in Maryland history. Enthusiastic attendees helped raise gap funding to kickstart the restoration process – and Peerless gauged their fundraising progress for the Emergency Repair Fund in the gigantic heart in the storefront window.

 

The tremendous effort put-forth by Peerless Rockville to steward the building for those critical 18 months was essential in waiting out the threat of demolition until a sensitive buyer could be found, and in Investment Properties and Insurance Associates purchased the building in 1995. They estimate that nearly $600,000 was invested to bring the building to code, mitigate pests, repair the slate roof, and provide for accessibility.

Wire, along with its neighbors the B&O Railroad station and Old St. Mary’s Church were listed as a local landmark in 1974, and accepted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Before selling the property, Peerless Rockville, applied permanent preservation easements on the exterior and interior – a rare protection. Bio-Health Innovation is the current occupant, and with historic guidelines in places, they have remodeled the interior as a super hip office environment with original historic elements like shelves, counters, and rolling ladders – all saved by Peerless Rockville.

RESOURCES

2008
Wire Hardware Store
Peerless Rockville

2004
Wire Hardware site also part of Peerless Rockville tour
The Gazette

A big Valentine’s Day thank you  to Nancy Pickard, Executive Director of Peerless Rockville, and our Preservation Maryland archive interns, Cynthia Heider and Bill Arey, for their assistance in telling this story – and to Eileen McGuckian and Peerless Rockville for saving Wire Hardware.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Meagan Baco · Director of Communications

Meagan Baco shares the stories of the Old Line State’s important history and unique places – and the people working to preserve it, through Preservation Maryland’s website and publications.

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