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History we don't know

March 19, 1999

Citicorp Credit Services, Inc. says that unless Washington County responds by next Thursday to its request to move the historic Ludwig Kammerer house, it will raze the structure. After months of negotiation, the corporation and historic preservationists apparently weren't able to agree on a plan that would keep the home at its present site on the edge of Citicorp's parking lot. Like the Fox-Deceived log house on Mt. Aetna Road, the Kammerer property may soon be a pile of boards and stones.

If that happens, it will be in part because the general public was unaware of the Kammerer House's historical importance before last year. Considering its age - it dates from 1774 - and Ludwig Kammerer's status as a contemporary of Jonathan Hager, shouldn't citizens have known about it long ago?

Yes, we know that there's a survey of historic properties, but there's something wrong with the communication process if the most historic structures become well-known only when they stand in the way of a development project.

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Here's our suggestion: Have the preservation community put together a list of the top 10 or 20 historically significant properties in Washington County and explain why their loss would diminish the community. Such a list would be educational and would give the average person an appreciation of what exists now and why it's important to preserve it.

Why should historic properties be preserved? So that we don't forget what life used to be like or that without the sacrifices of many who came before, we wouldn't have the lives that many of us take for granted today.

We need also need hear about our history before we're in danger of losing it, because if the general public doesn't care, then the county's elected officials won't either, and won't put in place mechanisms like Hagerstown's Preservation Design District Commission, which reviews the proposed demolition and renovation of historic structures.

In an area rich in history, too many of us are unaware of what we have, and in danger of losing it before we find out.

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