Support grows for saving historic house

February 16, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

see the enlargement

old houseSupport grows for saving historic house

The crusade to save one of Washington County's oldest homes has drawn interest from across the country.

People from Westmoreland County, Pa., Tacoma, Wash., Pekin, Ill., and other places have pledged their support by e-mail, said Dick Hartle, of the Middleburg/Mason-Dixon Line Area Historical Society Inc.

The unlikely allies are descendants of Johan Ludwig Kemmerer, the man who built the house in 1774. Kemmerer sailed to America in 1736 on the same ship as Jonathan Hager, the founder of Hagerstown.


The two-story limestone farmhouse is on a half-acre lot in the middle of parking lots and buildings owned by Citicorp.

To make room for development, Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., known as CHIEF, plans to tear down the house and nearby 1896 barn.

CHIEF is willing to sell the house if it were to be moved away from the development area, but moving the house would be costly.

Historians say moving the deteriorating home would be nearly impossible and would weaken its historical value.

"I think that it's just a crime," said one Kemmerer descendant, Caryl Simpson of Pekin, Ill.

Simpson, 47, said she is using the Internet to encourage others to join the preservation effort.

"I'd certainly be willing to donate time and money," she said.

Simpson plans to visit the house this spring because it might be her last chance see where her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather lived.

Kemmerer is ancestor to an estimated 1,000 people, said Simpson, who has exhaustively researched her family history.

He had 13 children and eventually moved to Westmoreland County, Pa., where he is buried, she said.

The effort to save his home is being led by Hartle, whose family once owned the property, and E. Lee Stine, president of the Washington County Historical Society.

A yellow bulldozer that had been parked in a lot overlooking the home was removed on Monday, said Hartle, who lives nearby.

However, he said he also saw what he believed were land surveyors in the area.

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