Kemmerer house's fate sealed

August 08, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

A decision has been made on whether to move or demolish the historic 1774 Kemmerer house, said Merle Elliott, president of Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., also known as CHIEF.

Elliott said action on the house is imminent, but wouldn't say whether the structure will be relocated or destroyed. He did not say the action CHIEF planned would be announced.

The house was built by Johan Ludwig Kemmerer, who sailed to America in 1736 on the same ship as Jonathan Hager, the founder of Hagerstown.

Final attempts to work out a solution satisfactory to CHIEF and those seeking to preserve the house led to a July 10 meeting between Elliott and members of the Washington County Historical Society.


At the meeting, Elliott said he told society representatives he would take action in about 30 days.

Patricia Schooley, secretary of the historical society, said the deadline for action was Aug. 10. She did not know what CHIEF planned to do with the house after that.

Elliott said that he set no specific deadline and he hasn't heard anything from the historical society since the meeting.

Staff at the Washington County Department of Permits and Inspections said no demolition permit had been issued for the home as of Thursday afternoon.

Elliott said he had offered the historical society some financial contribution to the cost of relocation and a site for the house. The site Elliott proposed was near the northwest corner of Henson Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The society's representatives did not think the site, also in the business park, was desirable, said Schooley.

Schooley sent a letter July 21 on behalf of the historical society urging preservation of the house to Michael Looney, general manager of Citicorp in Hagerstown. The Kemmerer House stands on half an acre in the Airport Business Park surrounded by parking lots and buildings owned by Citicorp.

Schooley said the historical society believes Citicorp is the only likely potential buyer of the property.

Looney has not responded to the letter, said Schooley. A Citicorp official referred reporter's phone calls on Thursday to a staff member who is out of the office until next Monday.

"Historical societies don't have money, they have suasion power," said Schooley.

Copies of the letter were sent to Washington County Commissioners. At a July 28 meeting, Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers urged other board members to support saving the structure.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said moving the house to the Agricultural Center was being explored. Commissioners Ronald L. Bowers and John Shank said they believed Citicorp should be encouraged to save the house where it stands.

The letter asked Citicorp to donate the house for a tax credit, but also said the society would consider a long-term purchase.

Elliott declined to answer questions on whether the property the house sits on was being purchased or who the buyer might be.

An informal estimate provided to the society said $50,000 would be needed to make the home presentable. The historical society also had an architect inspect the house.

A building inspection report by Kurt H. Cushwa, a registered architect in Hagerstown, said: "Considering its age, the building is in remarkable condition." Major repairs suggested were replacement of the electrical, plumbing and heating systems.

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