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Hagerstown offers new home for Civil War museum

March 14, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown could save the National Museum of Civil War Medicine from its troubled home in Frederick, one of the museum's board of directors says.

"They are coming to our rescue..." board member Cornelius N. Stover said after meeting with Mayor Steven T. Sager on Friday. "We would be irresponsible as directors if we didn't listen to what they say."

"They're offering us what we need and we need life support right now. We have financial problems, structural problems," said Stover, a physician based in New Jersey

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Board members will meet today to discuss the building, which is owned by the City of Frederick.

Hagerstown leaders want the museum downtown as a boost for tourism.

Sager said the city would spend $600,000 in community development block grant funding to fix up the old Tristate Electrical Supply Co. Inc. building at 38 S. Potomac St. in downtown for the museum.

The Frederick building's roof leaks and its wiring is deficient, the mayor said. The building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can't protect the museum's artifacts, Sager said.

Board members are not expected to make a final decision today on whether the museum should stay in Frederick or move to Hagerstown, Stover said.

"I would come here tomorrow and sign a contract right now from what I see," Stover said Friday.

The museum has no restrooms for visitors and no elevator, Sager said. The building needs a fire tower and got a furnace only six weeks ago, he said.

"It is a conundrum to us," Sager said. "The only explanation is that the mayor of Frederick and the aldermen must not be supportive of paying for the building improvements needed."

Frederick Mayor James Grimes said city officials are willing to help renovate the museum and are having a new roof put on the building.

Grimes said city leaders are waiting for museum officials to complete a study of what else needs to be done to the building.

The museum's board members haven't met since last November and some aren't aware of the extent of the problems with the Frederick building, Stover said.

Stover said the three-story brick building in Hagerstown, which he toured with city officials on Friday, would meet the museum's needs. He is the only one of the museum's 15 board members to tour the building.

While no official study has been done on the repairs needed at the museum's current location at 48 E. Patrick St., Stover said he estimates the fixes would cost about $2 million.

The City of Hagerstown would continue to own the downtown building and would initially charge the museum $300 a month in rent. That figure would increase to $400 after three years, the city's proposal says.

"It remains a long shot,'' Sager said. "We hope that we are successful. We are very serious. The money is set aside. We're ready to go. We're waiting for them to say go."

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