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Demolition continues at roundhouse site

January 13, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Of the four major buildings Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum members had hoped to turn into a working museum, only the semicircular roundhouse building remained untouched by wrecking crews on Wednesday, one day before a meeting being held in an attempt to save the historic landmark.

A 15,500-square-foot concrete and brick storehouse/office building was demolished Wednesday. It was one of the more structurally sound buildings at the complex, said Robert Tracey, president of the roundhouse museum.

The museum had planned to renovate the building, rent out part of it as office space and possibly move the museum into the rest of the building, said Tracey, who is a Herald-Mail Co. employee.

The museum is housed in a gray building at 300 S. Burhans Boulevard in front of the roundhouse.

On Tuesday, demolition crews razed the south erecting shop, a 30,000-square-foot brick and steel building where steam, and later diesel, locomotives once were taken for extensive repairs.

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The other two buildings seen as having the most historic significance, the north erecting shop and the roundhouse, were still standing Wednesday afternoon. About one-third of a wall on the north erecting house had been taken down, however.

The demolition contractor said it could take up to three months to demolish the entire complex.

He said he would tear down the roundhouse building last, if at all. State officials are scheduled to meet today with representatives of CSX Corp., which owns the roundhouse.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., is expected to mediate the closed-door meeting in Annapolis. Several state senators and delegates who represent Washington County and some roundhouse museum members are expected to attend the meeting.

CSX had offered to give the 42-acre roundhouse complex to the state if the state would indemnify CSX from future lawsuits related to the site.

State officials said no. The indemnification issue also has blocked the Hagerstown and Washington County governments from taking ownership of the property.

There has been no indication whether the state or CSX officials were willing to change their stances on the matter, prompting many involved to doubt the roundhouse will be saved.

"It would be nice. But they're at a virtual impasse," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, was more optimistic that a solution might be found this morning.

"I'm not convinced that tearing down the roundhouse is something that's going to happen," he said.

Munson said the decision appears to be in the hands of the Maryland Department of General Services, which so far has refused to accept liability.

Although another possible solution would be for the federal government to take the risk or pass legislation that would protect property owners from liability, he said.




Staff Writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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