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Officials say Millbank House needs to go

Home near water facility has fallen into disrepair

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

millbank.jpg
The Millbank House sits next to the Opequon Water Reclamation Facility on Va. 7. The Frederick County-Winchester Service Authority is trying to find a way to demolish, renovate or relocate the 180-year-old structure. Dennis Grundman/Daily
WINCHESTER -- An old home near a wastewater treatment plant in Frederick County needs to go, officials said Monday.

Stray cats and snakes make up some of the residents and visitors of the Millbank House next to the Opequon Water Reclamation Facility on Va. 7, according to Jesse Moffett, executive director of the Frederick County-Winchester Service Authority. The authority on Monday unanimously passed a motion to advertise for bids to remove the building from the site, either through relocation or demolition.

"I've been putting up with this thing for 20 years; it's time for it to go," Moffett told the authority as he showed recent pictures of the dilapidated house. "It's a disaster waiting to happen."

After the meeting, he recalled a visit to the house during which he found several cats living in the basement. He told the authority members that copperheads also have been seen on the site.

The L-shaped, brick building sits on a hill to the west of the facility, surrounded by a fence put up nearly 18 months ago by the contractor working on upgrades to the plant. People continue to enter the house in spite of the fence, Moffett said.

The authority has spent thousands of dollars on repairs to the building, including the roof, and to keep boards on windows. But the building continues to deteriorate, he said. Part of the porch had fallen and required the installation of supports. The structure also could be a liability, the director said.

The authority does not want the building to become a residence given its proximity to the wastewater treatment plant, he said.

Though the building is not on any historic registry, Moffett said, the agency has over the years received close to 15 different proposals to renovate and even relocate the structure. Moving the building likely would cause it to collapse, Moffett said, given the condition of the brick construction.

"The thing we've always run into in the past is who's gonna fund the restoration and, during the time that people are looking for the money, who's gonna put money into it to keep it together," Moffett told the board. "I think you'll agree with me; they wanted us to do that."

"We've kept it in stasis," said member Ned Cleland, adding "this board has been unduly patient waiting for that solution to step up and take this away, for 20 years, and it hasn't happened and I think that it's probably time to say 20 years is enough."

Patrick Farris, executive director of the Warren County Heritage Society, approached the authority in 2003 and indicated a desire to work with the local historic group in Frederick County to manage the property.

Farris, reached by phone Monday afternoon, said he agreed the 180-year-old building no longer served the mission of the authority and likely could fall apart if relocated, especially since it was built in stages. But the structure serves as a "rare and impressive" local example of the "federalist" architectural style, he said.

"When we lose something like that you just never can regain it again," Farris said. "It is the first view, the first image you see of Frederick County when you come into the community."




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