Wire Hardware site also part of Peerless Rockville tour
Oct. 13, 2004
Noelle Barton
Staff Writer

Expanding recent Peerless Rockville tours that focused on historic homes, this year's Historic Places Tour will feature other buildings and spots the organization has played a role in preserving.

One is the Wire Hardware building on Baltimore Road behind St. Mary's Church. The building, formerly a general store conveniently located along the rail line and across from the railroad depot, was restored in the mid-1990s and is now home to Insurance Associates.

On a recent tour of the building, a two-story, cast-iron front brick structure, David Manning, president of Insurance Associates, pointed out such items as a long saw and a harness that sit atop the tall, original wooden shelves lining the old store. He said some pieces that decorate the shelves were recovered during restoration, while others have been donated by former customers and passersby to be put on display.

Visitors can still walk on the original wooden flooring from the 1895 building and see employees working at thick wooden desktops converted from the store's old display cases. The storeowner's office, a wooden-and-glass-enclosed room in the back right corner of the building, still holds the store's original scale on which loads of goods could be measured from a wooden platform on the street.

Insurance Associates co-owns the building with Investment Properties. The two businesses bought the Wire building in 1995 from Peerless Rockville. The historic preservation organization had stepped in to buy the building in 1993 -- before it was purchased by another buyer who would have gutted the interior, according to Peerless Rockville.

Emergency repairs to the slate roof were a top priority , as was ridding the building of rodents and pigeons. Peerless Rockville Executive Director Eileen McGuckian estimated in 1993 that renovations to bring the building up to code would cost $400,000 to $450,000, according to a story in The Gazette in December 1993.

Investment Properties and Insurance Associates ultimately spent about $565,000 on renovations and bringing the building up to code. Staircases were widened, and bathrooms and an elevator added. They also added a second floor above the attached building that was built in 1944.

The building is located in a historic district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Paul F. Wire and his sons ran a store in the building from 1944 to 1990. According to an Aug. 25, 1988, story in The Washington Post, Wire spoke of being squeezed out of the hardware industry by shopping centers and large hardware chain stores. He also said there was a lack of traffic to the business and spoke of high tax assessments.

Today, Manning said he enjoys his customers' reactions when they come through the building and is glad to be in a space that fits the needs of his company and is part of history.

"I just like the whole feel of the place," he said.

Other stops on the Historic Places Tour, from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, include: the B&O Railroad Station, the Montrose School, the Red Brick Courthouse, the Baptist Cemetery, St. Mary's Chapel, F. Scott Fitzgerald's gravesite and the Victorian house where Peerless was born in 1974. Tickets for the tour are $15, or $12 for Peerless members or tickets purchased in advance at the Red Brick Courthouse. Call 301-762-0096.