City Historian Killed in Collapse Was Mired in Bureaucracy (Baltimore)





ALVIN BRUNSON DIDN'T EVEN WANT the house that broke his leg and then killed him.

He tried to leave it behind in 1994, but the three-story rowhouse across the street from his own home on the 500 block of Wilson Street caught up to him--or anyway, the back taxes did. The city took him to court, and he lost, so he paid them.

And then Brunson's nightmare really began.

The history of 562 Wilson St. and Alvin K. Brunson (friends call him Kirby) is told in a two-inch-thick stack of documents Baltimore Housing released recently to City Paper under the Maryland Public Information Act. There are court files, tax bills, e-mails, letters, building permits, and housing-inspection reports.

Combined with Brunson's own records, which his family shared with City Paper, the documents depict a 15-year rolling tragedy of bureaucratic error, legal bluster, and plain bad luck. In the end, it appears that Brunson's decision to make something good of the situation led to his death under tons of rubble when the house collapsed on March 30 ("Hot Property," Mobtown Beat, April 23; "In Appreciation," Mobtown Beat, April 16; "Building Collapse Kills Local Historian," The News Hole, March 31). Cheron Porter, director of communications for Baltimore Housing, says the city is not commenting further on the Brunson situation, but questions remain about the city's role in the tragedy....

Brunson, who has written some books on Baltimore history and landmarks, had founded the nonprofit Center for Cultural Education, which he operated from his home at 541 Wilson St ("Street of Dreams," Feature, Feb. 2 and 9, 2005). He also did significant work to that house, attaching a two-story brick addition to its western side. ...


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