Night Time Demolition of Historic Building

Christopher Robinson was a former Maintenance Manager for FDRPC starting in July 2018. On August 11, 2021, he submitted Public Comment to the FDRPC Board about the demolition of Building 58 stating that:

“During my tenure and at the instruction of the Executive Director, Jeffrey Randol and the Site Manager, Peggy Thomas, I was asked to work in secrecy and take actions that were both unethical and illegal, and then told to lie about them.  There are many such incidents, but for the sake of time I will describe only one. 

In February 2020 the FDRPC maintenance staff tore down a building that I found out later had been in the National Registry of Historic Places and listed in “fair to good” condition during the FDRPC’s initial development plan.  We were instructed to say that it collapsed in a windstorm if anyone asked.” 

The FDRPC Enabling Act listed eight legislated purposes and one of them was to maintain Fort DuPont National Register status. See § 4731 3(b) below. Building 58 is one of those properties.

§ 4731. Declaration of purpose 3(b) Fort DuPont’s National Register status (where applicable) will be maintained, and historic building and landscape resources will be rehabilitated and reused to the extent possible.

Another provision in the Enabling Act defines the “Redevelopment plan” as the draft master plan for the complex dated October 2013. See § 4732(5)below. This document is often referred to as the Sasaki Plan.

§ 4732. Definitions (5) “Redevelopment plan” means the draft master plan for the redevelopment of the Fort DuPont complex dated October 2013, as may be amended from time to time by the Board, which is intended to guide the redevelopment of the Fort DuPont Complex.

Below are screenshots from page 19 of the Sasaki Master Plan. Building 58 was in fair condition.

“Fair” is the second-best condition, followed by threatened or ruin. Buildings designated “ruin” were demolished with approval from the SHPO. Of the buildings designated “Fair” all remain except Building 58.

Tim Slavin was Delaware’s State Historic Preservation Officer during this period. A letter dated May 26, 2017, from Tim Slavin to Jeff Randol clarifies that “With the exception of Building 56, all remaining buildings and structures listed as contributing shall be preserved.”

The destruction of Building 58 was investigated by the Delaware City Police. According to Dave Baylor, Delaware City Manager and FDRPC board member, Building 58 was demolished “after hours” on February 11, 2020. The sun set at 5:34 that evening, so the work was done in darkness. There was no notification to Delaware City, to the SHPO, or to the FDRPC board.

Below are comments which Mr. Baylor made at a Delaware City Mayor and Council meeting on March 22, 2022:

In an interview with WDEL, FDRPC Counsel, Richard Forsten, denied that a permit was required:

However, a demolition permit should have been obtained as recommended by the Delaware City Building Inspector. Demolishing historic buildings can expose utilities, asbestos, lead, mercury, and other harmful substances. According to a representative from PSC Power, about 20% of Fort DuPont historic buildings had power.

A communication from Jeff Randol’s attorney, also refers to Building 58 as a “shed”. The National Historic Register labels Building 58 as the “Carpenters’ Stores.”  In no place is this building referred to as a “shed.” In the table below, the SHPO describes the building as a “One story, one-bay, front-gable, frame warehouse clad on corrugated metal and asphalt roof with a sliding bay set on terra cotta pipe piers filled with concrete.”

Mr. Forsten states that this building, constructed in 1913, was “in danger of immediate collapse at any time,” but no documentation is provided for this conclusion. The building was solidly standing in the SHPO 2018 photo below. On page 74, the Sasaki Plan states, “Most of the buildings at Fort DuPont were very well constructed. Vacant buildings have survived because of the quality of their construction.”

Mr. Randol’s attorney presents an alternative reality, that the building was already “almost completely collapsed”. However, there is no shred of documentation that Building 58 was “almost completely collapsed”.

Apparently, this nighttime demolition was done so casually that no photo was taken documenting the building’s collapse. If Building 58 collapsed after the above photo was taken in 2018, this event should have been investigated by FDRPC and reported to both the FDRPC Board and the SHPO.

The unilateral and secretive demolition of this building was a violation of the “Declaration of Purpose” cited above from the FDRP Enabling Act. The FDRPC board should investigate and acknowledge this failure. Clearer policies should be promulgated by FDRPC protecting and preserving historic buildings as a fundamental element of the Corporation’s mission.