Friday, August 26, 2011

MoCo condemns punk house in fenton village

The Corpse Fortress
We know that Silver Spring has long had a thriving punk scene, centered on do-it-yourself, all-ages shows in private homes. We know that there's serious anxiety about idle youth in downtown Silver Spring, but a dearth of hangouts for young people. And we had a venue right in downtown Silver Spring that despite its shabby appearance gives kids from Silver Spring and across the D.C. area a place for positive, albeit very loud, expression.

Until this month, that is. The City Paper reports that Montgomery County has condemned the Corpse Fortress (pictured above), a punk house on Philadelphia Avenue in Fenton Village. The article quotes this blog post from a Corpse Fortress tenant who suggests that neighbors' complaints brought the five-year-old venue to an end:

We saddened by this news, though it was not unforeseen. In fact, it was repeatedly foreseen due to the fact that our house was an “eyesore” (if you’re lame – actually, it looks cool) and some people have nothing better to do than complain to the state about the fact that their neighbors’ property offends their aesthetic sensibilities.

It is a shame and we are bummed / despondent / on a bender / nonchalant / etc. to see the end of the best venue in the area. We still have some slight hope that someone on our wavelength / one of us can snag the house when it goes on the market again. That’s not probable, though.

We're curious what neighbors there are to complain about this house, given it's practically in the middle of Silver Spring's around the corner light-industrial "Auto Row." Across Fenton Street is East Silver Spring, a mostly-residential neighborhood. I wonder what negative effects residents felt from the Corpse Fortress. Were they offended by the couch in the front yard and the paved-over driveway filled with old cars? Can the sound from a basement show travel across several houses and a busy commercial street? Are people attending the shows parking their cars/bikes in the surrounding neighborhoods? (This is a legitimate problem if it occurred, though I imagine there's plenty of parking along Selim Road and Philadelphia Avenue after all of the auto shops have closed.)

In an ideal world, the county might've approached the tenants (or more likely owners) of the house and sought a way to bring the place up to code. It's no Fillmore, but certainly a worthy member of the community. Punk houses like the Corpse Fortress are generators of authentic, local culture. They give kids an outlet for positive expression. They build community, as the kids who are coming out to shows here are probably more civic- and politically-minded than the ones filing into a Joe Jonas concert at the Fillmore. (In my adopted neighborhood in West Philadelphia, there's a punk-anarchist community center that's become a destination for more than just the spiky-haired set.)

Before moving to Philadelphia Avenue five years ago, the Corpse Fortress was preceded by the Death Star, a punk house on Cedar Street at Ellsworth Drive whose owner planned to turn it into a medical office before putting the building up for sale. (As far as I can tell, it's still vacant today.) I'm curious if the Corpse Fortress will rise again elsewhere in downtown Silver Spring, or if it'll be forced out of the community for good. And if that's the case, we'll have given up a lot more than an ugly house.


hockeypunk said...

great. one less venue in a desert of a forgotten scene. my band has no hope

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I wonder if some developer is angling for land under that row of houses.

WashingtonGardener said...

the houses are zoned for park use and eventually will complete the Fenton Street Park parcel - the current owner has had several offers for the land from MNCPPC but he has been sitting on the 3 houses for years presumably thinking he'll get wealthy off MoCo taxpayers one day - meanwhile, he is renting them out and from what I can see never investing in even the most basic improvements