Part of Silver Spring House is Off Limits Due to Sinkhole
Geological formation affecting condominium at the National Park Seminary campus
A sinkhole, shown before it fully collapsed, threatens the structural integrity of a condominium in the National Park Seminary complex
Photo courtesy of Brian Kildee
This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2019, to correct a reference to communication about the section of the property that became a sinkhole. An earlier version misstated that there was a lack of communication between Abaris Realty, which manages the property, and Brian Kildee. Actually, Abaris Realty alerted Kildee that it was aware of the depression in the road and also alerted the master association, which has jurisdiction over that part of the property, of the problem.
Silver Spring resident Brian Kildee hasn’t been able to access one-third of his home the past two months, thanks to a geological phenomenon. He can’t have guests sleep over, work in his home office or access his family’s Christmas decorations.
All because of a sinkhole.
Kildee lives in a condominium at the National Park Seminary campus — a historic site dating to the late 1800s that was once a girls’ school and later an Army medical center. His condominium consists of a main section where he spends most of his time, and another part in an attached turret, where the guest bedroom and office are.
Connecting the two portions is a hallway in a covered bridge that crosses Sacks Street. The sinkhole lies at the bottom of a structure supporting the bridge.
What started as a small depression in the road on Sept. 6 collapsed six weeks later following a downpour, Kildee said in an interview on Dec. 7.
“We had a party for a friend of ours that was getting engaged,” he said. “We had 60 people over. They were walking up and down the hallway. They stayed in our guest room. If it [the structure] would’ve failed, it would’ve been really bad.”
The property manager, Abaris Realty, contacted Kildee Oct. 10 to let him know that it, too, had observed the sinkhole and had contacted the master homeowners’ association.
Arman Patala, the community association manager for Abaris, said in an interview Monday that after the sinkhole collapsed, the company had an engineer perform “emergency shoring work,” which helped stabilize the structure.
Patala said Kildee’s condo is safe, but the engineer is working on determining the sinkhole’s cause and a solution. He said the management company asked Kildee to not try to access the turret in the meantime.
“We’ve advised him not to out of an abundance of caution,” Patala said.
And that means more temporary uncertainty for Kildee, who has children ages 4 and 1.
“We have no idea the extent of the erosion. So there’s a possibility that our home could collapse. And living like that is not ideal,” he said. “Explaining to a 4-year-old that we can’t use part of our house because it might fall down is not the conversation you want to have with your kids,” he said.
Kildee said his children’s winter clothing is in the restricted portion of his home, along with his personal records, including tax records. He can still work using his laptop, but relies on others for printing.
“It’s not easy. We’ve got friends in the neighborhood who can print things off if I’ll email it, but it’s been disruptive,” he said.
Kildee said that as part of the inspection, workers had to remove insulation from the building that keeps it warm during the winter. This means the floor is substantially colder than usual.
“When it’s 30 degrees outside, it’s 30 degrees on the floor of our home, so it makes it difficult to heat our home because there’s this cold suck happening,” he said.
Since it collapsed in October, the sinkhole has been covered with a large wooden board with the word “HOLE” written in bright orange paint. Kildee doesn’t know when it will be fixed, but said this holiday season will be significantly different.
“We’re doing Christmas without any Christmas decorations,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com