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Outrage Over Demolition Of Historic Freedom House In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A historic Baltimore house with links to the civil rights movement is torn down. Now there is growing outrage in that community.

Amy Yensi with who is being blamed for allowing it to happen.

The house has a rich history, and neighbors say it could have been re-purposed to better serve the community. But the city could not step in to save it.

Outrage over this week's demolition of the Freedom House.

"All we're saying is at least be respectful enough to have a discussion with us," said Marvin Cheatham.

A pile of rubble is what's left of the house that was once NAACP headquarters, a civil rights movement hub and the childhood home of Harry Sythe Cummings, Baltimore City's first African American city councilman.

Community leaders say they learned too late that the owner and neighboring property, Bethel A.M.E. Church, would tear it down to build a parking lot.

"Devastating. And it's an eyesore," said Melva Rodwell, neighbor.

A church rep declined to comment, but city records obtained by WJZ confirm that Bethel A.M.E. does own the Druid Hill Avenue location.

City Councilman Eric T. Costello tells WJZ: "I have no doubt of the historic significance of the property in question, but everything was done legally. The property is privately owned. The owner applied for a permit, which was issued on October 16. It's not a part of the historic district."

The torn down house isn't protected by city law because it's a few steps away from Upton's Marble Hill Historic District.

"Slavery, at one time, was legal. Jim Crow, at one time, was legal. So the legality of something being the legal stance does not make it the right stance," said Louis Fields, Baltimore African American Tourism Council.

Even though the Freedom House has been completely knocked down, residents say they will continue to protest to prevent this from happening to other historic homes in their community.

Conservation groups are also investigating whether historic plaques that were inside the house were destroyed during the demolition.

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