By Brandon BieltzNovember 21, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Nov. 21, 2012) -- More than six years after a six-alarm fire burned through the roof at Nathan Hale Hall, the Directorate of Public Works has begun the process of repairing the vacant building that had served as the headquarters for the 902nd Military Intelligence Group.
Last month, workers started clearing the top floor of the building located off Llewellyn Avenue near McGlachlin Parade Field. They are expected to complete the cleanup in December.
The cleanup is the first step to eventually repair and restore the World War II-era building.
"We have started at the top floor to clean up," said T.J. Singh, director of DPW. "All the furniture and everything that was damaged over there is still sitting over there and needs to be cleaned out before any work can be done."
On Oct. 20, 2006, the six-alarm fire broke out late in the afternoon in the brick and mortar facility. More than 100 firefighters responded to contain the blaze, which wasn't extinguished until the following morning.
While the interior of the building remains mostly intact, the roof was severely damaged by the fire.
"Only the roof has burned, but structurally everything is in good shape," he said. "It is in decent shape and it can be renovated and reused."
Once complete, the 65,000-square-foot facility will be used as administrative space.
With the additions of the Defense Media Activity, Defense Information Systems Agency and Defense Adjudication Activities during Base Realignment and Closure, and growth of the National Security Agency, space is at a premium on Fort Meade. Preparing Hale Hall for a new tenant would provide needed space.
"It is a high priority because we have a deficit of administrative space on the base," Singh said.
Although the building requires multiple projects to prepare it for use again, Hale Hall is a historic landmark and cannot be completely demolished.
After renovations, there will not be a noticeable difference in the facility's appearance.
"The exterior will still be the way that you see it because we can't change the exterior for its historic significance," Singh said.
The facility is named for the Revolutionary War soldier who volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in 1776 that resulted in his capture and death. Before his hanging, the 21-year-old Hale is said to have declared: "I regret I have but one life to give for my country."
The first step in preparing the building for use is constructing a new roof after the top floor is cleaned out. Architects can then begin designing a new roof. Once a roof is up, the rest of the work is possible, said Singh.
"Without the roof, the interior of the building is exposed to the elements," he said. "With that there is further deterioration, so I want to ensure the building doesn't further deteriorate. ... It's been open for the last six years with snow, rain and everything."
While the building is structurally sound, the interior will be demolished and rebuilt to current building codes.
It is anticipated that the total renovation will cost an estimated $25 million, but only the top-floor cleanup has been funded at this point. Singh said without a lump-sum fund, which DPW has not received, the restoration will be done in a gradual process.