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Man gives $1,000 to Hagerstown Roundhouse rescue effort

June 03, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Smithsburg resident is leading a last-ditch effort to save the Hagerstown Roundhouse from destruction, and he's putting up $1,000 to get the ball rolling.

William Wivell said if 499 other people match his $1,000 donation, the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum will have the $500,000 it needs to prevent the historic buildings from being razed.

"It just seems like no one is interested in getting something started. It seems really a shame," he said.

CSX Real Property, which owns the facility and surrounding 40 acres, has set a July 3 deadline for roundhouse supporters to raise the needed money.

William L. Knode, museum treasurer, said officials are far short of their goal. He said about $30,000 has been raised so far and that 55 people have given at least $100.

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"This is not a wealthy community. People don't usually have that kind of money lying around," said Bob Tracey, the museum's president.

Tracey said the group has received donations from out-of-towners whose relatives worked on the railroad in Western Maryland.

"It's their heritage. At one time, we had 3,000 people working in there a day," he said. "It was a very family-like atmosphere."

Tracey said he hopes to convince CSX officials to stretch the deadline if museum officials can raise a significant percentage of the $500,000.

"We won't know until the 11th hour," he said.

Kevin Hurley, director of CSX Real Property, would not say whether the deadline is set in stone.

"I think that should be between us and the museum. This shouldn't be something we should be negotiating in the newspaper," he said.

Hurley said the $500,000 would cover the company's cost of cleaning up the site along South Burhans Boulevard. Even if the museum raises the money, he said the company would require a local government to take over the property in order to assume liability.

Wivell is a candidate for Washington County Commissioner, but said his roundhouse drive has nothing to do with his campaign.

"I'm kind of putting it out there to see if there's interest," he said. "If there's not, there's nothing we can do."

Wivell said he suspects there are enough people in the area with connections to the railroad that the money can be raised. He said there are three people on his block, alone, whose spouses worked on the railroad.

"I just think it would be a tragedy if it were torn down," he said.

Tracey agreed.

"It's what this town is all about," he said. "It's a railroad town."

Wivell said people wishing to make donations may send checks made out to the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum to him at 49 E. Water St., Smithsburg 21783. If he falls short of the $500,000, he will refund people's money, he said.

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