"Local company builds them like they used to," Frederick News-Post, Jannuary 31, 2007.Woodsboro, Maryland
By Liam Farrell
Frederick News-Post Staff
When Dean Fitzgerald was growing up outside of Thurmont , he would ride with his father every week to the wholesale fish and produce market in Baltimore, passing the historic barns of Maryland's countryside.
"Somebody should go around and get pictures of these because we're going to lose them all," Fitzgerald's father would say.
Although Frederick County is not as agrarian as it used to be, Fitzgerald, the 42-year-old president and CEO of Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction Inc., is doing his part to make sure those structural traditions do not fade away as his father feared.
For Fitzgerald's company, the adage "they just don't build them like they used to" holds no weight.
"That's not true," he said. "We do."
For about 15 years, the company has worked to build and restore timber frame structures, from covered bridges and churches to woodsheds, smokehouses and barns. Projects include the log restoration of the Frederick city-owned cabin at 527 N. Market St. and the conversion of a more than 200-year-old Woodsboro barn into a house.
"It's a passion of mine," Fitzgerald said. "I love being able to preserve them and leave them behind."
At 21, Fitzgerald bought a sawmill in the hopes of creating his own timber structure home.
In the early 1990s, an oversized truck damaged the covered bridge on Roddy Road near Thurmont . Fitzgerald, who as a child played in the stream underneath the bridge, organized volunteers and repaired it for free to make sure the structure, which dates to the 1850s, would not be taken down.
"I just didn't want to see that happen," he said. "If it's a useful, productive landmark, it'll be taken care of."
Fitzgerald's enthusiasm also is evident in his workers -- B.J. Miller has worked with the company for three years and described how the nature of timber work is satisfying for carpenters.
"This is me," said Miller, the foreman on the Woodsboro project. "You find something you want to do and you do it, because you can personalize it É It's an art."
That art revolves around techniques created long before the decades of suburbs and Sears houses, and uses wooden pegs called trunnels rather than nails to hold the buildings together.
The structures made by Fitzgerald's company rarely blend materials, such as wood and steel, because each reacts differently to weather.
"These things don't make much difference in 50 years," Fitzgerald said. "But in two centuries, it does."
Fitzgerald's work aims to be around 200 years from now -- by the time new wood is needed to refurbish a house, the trees that were cut to build it should have grown back.
Click on images below to view at larger size.
For about 15 years, the company has worked to build and restore timber frame structures, from covered bridges and churches to woodsheds, smokehouses and barns. (Photo by Sam Yu)
Frederick News Post Article, January 31, 2007