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Kammerer House proposal rejected

March 18, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

One day after the Washington County Commissioners voted to recommend placing the Kammerer House on the National Register of Historic Places, they received a letter saying the historic structure must be moved or torn down.

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If the county does not respond by next Thursday, a private-public agency will proceed with plans to demolish the property, the letter from Citicorp Credit Services Inc., which wants to buy the property on which the house is located, says.

"Needless to say, I'm not happy. This is what we were afraid of," said Lee Stine, president of the Washington County Historical Society,

Much of the historic value of the structure, one of the county's oldest buildings, comes from its location and its being a limestone home with a basement, he said. Those would be lost if the house were moved, he said.

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The society had $50,000 in financial commitments toward the needed $150,000 to renovate the two-story building. Getting the property on the historic register would have made it easier to raise additional funds, preservationists said.

The historic designation, however, would not block its demolition.

While not saying so explicitly, Wednesday's Citicorp letter rejects a Feb. 23 county proposal to buy the land on which the house sits for $1 and lease it to Middleburg/Mason-Dixon Line Area Historical Society for $1.

The letter from Michael J. Looney, Citicorp general manager, repeats an earlier offer to pay $20,000 toward moving the house to a new quarter-acre site on the property and deeding the property to the Washington County Historical Society.

"If we don't hear from you or the Historical Society by March 25, 1999, we will assume you are not interested in our offer, and the owner of the property will proceed with their original plans," the letter to the County Commissioners says.

The land is owned by the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., known as CHIEF, but Citicorp wants to buy it.

The farmhouse, built by Johan Ludwig Kammerer in 1774, is on a half-acre lot in the Airport Business Park. It is surrounded by parking lots and buildings.

CHIEF received a demolition permit for the property on March 3, but its president, Merle Elliott, had agreed to postpone demolition until Citicorp responded to the county effort to save the property.

The effort came at the request of preservationists.

Elliott said Wednesday he has not heard from Citicorp in recent days.

A CHIEF-Citicorp contract requires the foundation to demolish the building if that is what Citicorp wants, Elliott said.

Phil Kelly, Citicorp spokesman, would not comment on the letter or its implications.

The commissioners will try to develop a response during today's meeting of the Washington County Commissioners, said Commissioner John L. Schnebly.

Last month Commissioners Bert L. Iseminger and Schnebly met with Citicorp to tell them of the preservationists' concerns. Iseminger then met with Stine and other preservationists, asking them to develop a proposal that would detail how they would preserve the property and how the work would be funded.

That proposal, written by Stine, was forwarded to Citicorp.

"We took our best shot at it. We knew it was probably a long shot to get them to agree to this," Iseminger said.

"I think they realized the public interest in support of saving it," he said.

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