ROCKVILLE, Md. - A massive fire destroyed a historic roadside bar in Rockville back in February. Now, members of the community are working on their own time to restore it.
Most of the electrical work is almost done while the framing and windows are in the process of being restored at Hank Dietle’s Tavern.
The bar has seen its fair share of history. It holds Montgomery County's first-ever issued beer and wine license and has operated as a bar since the 1950s. Before that, it was a general store with gas pumps.
It was built in 1916 and brings back plenty of memories for people who grew up in Montgomery County.
“It was icon along Rockville Pike,” said Bill Morris. “It was always there. It stood apart from every other building on the Pike. It had the iconic sign.”
That sign sadly looks a bit different these days. It melted in the devastating fire on Valentine’s Day. Investigators believe the flames were sparked on the porch by discarded smoking materials.
As news of the fire spread, some people had to come see it firsthand, including Chris Hanes. He drove to the bar and parked across the street.
“Literally watching them clean up as they were putting out the last smoldering ashes of the fire,” he said. “It was kind of heartbreaking.”
Hanes, a local contractor, along with Morris, an architect, are about a dozen volunteers who have been coming out in the months since the fire on their own time, pro bono, working to restore the building.
“I came in, I said, ‘I know what to do. We need a permit. I can help with that,’” said Morris.
He says they are currently working on replacing some of the front windows, the wiring and the HVAC system.
After the fire, Hank Dietle’s Tavern owner Tony Huniak let his insurance lapse. But he told FOX 5 he is eternally grateful for all of the help.
Building supplier TW Perry has donated a lot of the materials for the restoration effort and a number of local bands put together a benefit concert to raise money for the repairs. However, funding is running low.
“We can always use help, always use people,” said Morris.
“Realistically, I think within the next four or five months, we can have this thing running again,” said Hanes.
Huniak says another benefit concern is in the works.
If you would like to help donate with the restoration of Hank Dietle’s Tavern, go to www.gofundme.com/HankDietlesOFFICIAL