Historic value of Letterkenny being debated

November 14, 1997

Historic value of Letterkenny being debated


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There's a story to be told at Letterkenny Army Depot and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission wants the rights to it before Franklin County proceeds with its plans to build an industrial and business park.

A public meeting with the historical commission and the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority is scheduled for 3 p.m. today in the second-floor auditorium of Building 500.

Set up by Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, the meeting is intended to give historical commission authorities the opportunity to explain their intentions and answer questions, said Pam Gaudiose, executive director of the industrial development authority.


"We don't have a clue what they're thinking," Gaudiose said.

The historical commission recently declared that the entire 19,500-acre depot north of Chambersburg should be considered eligible to be a historic district, including the 1,500 acres the Army is turning over to the county as part of a federal realignment plan.

"Our interest is in telling the story ... The depot is a great example of World War II history. It tells a great story about the American effort in the war," said Amy Riggleman, historical commission press secretary.

The announcement has raised concern among some state and local government officials who are worried that such a ruling could restrict the county's reuse plans.

"Needless to say, I'm quite alarmed of the potential impact that could have," Punt told the Franklin County Commissioners during a meeting Nov. 6.

A recommendation of eligibility as a historic district could put a strain on economic growth in the county, he said.

"We're talking about the economic viability of the community," Punt said.

Franklin County Commissioner Robert Thomas said the state's consideration of creating a historic district for the entire depot is irresponsible.

"To me, that's bureaucracy run amok," he said.

In its evaluation of the property, the U.S. Army recommended to the State Museum Commission that three buildings on the depot - the commander's home, a barn, and a chapel - be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The state commission came back with a list of more than 100 structures and 1,600 ammunition igloos, some of which are in the area the county plans to develop.

Punt said he's hoping the commission will contain the list to the three buildings originally recommended by the Army.

"To create a proper industrial park, a good bit here will need to be demolished because there is little use for the existing buildings," Gaudiose said.

Historical commission officials expect that some of the buildings on the depot will be demolished, Riggleman said.

But first they want to document the sites by recording histories in journals, taking photos, and using other preservation methods, she said.

Federal law requires that all land owned by the federal government earmarked for transfer must go through a cultural and historical review, Gaudiose said.

"This is part of the process," she said.

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