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Park Service wants to raze grocery

June 09, 1999

Public meeting

* What: Meeting outlining the National Park Service plan to tear down the decaying Antietam Grocery on Harpers Ferry Road.

* When: Today, 7 to 9 p.m.

* Where: The C&O Canal National Historical Park headquarters in the flood building conference room at 16500 Shepherdstown Pike.




Antietam GroceryBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




ANTIETAM - For more than two decades, the Antietam Grocery Store was a focal point for this tiny village south of Sharpsburg.

Built in 1888, the two-story wood building was one of the blacksmith shops that grew up around the Antietam Ironworks. Later, it was turned into a general store.

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But commercial use of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which was the lifeline of the community, waned shortly after the turn of the century and the village faded away also.

The store closed around 1920, according to Douglas Stover, a historian for the C&O National Historical Park.

In the decades since, floods and inattention have taken a toll on the building. Now, the National Park Service wants to tear down the building and mark the foundation with signs explaining its historical significance.

"That way, we can still go ahead and interpret that site," Stover said.

The National Park Service will hold a public meeting on the plan tonight from 7 to 9.

Stover said the Park Service has signed an agreement with state preservation officials and has contacted area residents, some of whom had ancestors who worked at the grocery.

Stover said the Park Service tried for about five years to lease the property to an organization that would repair and preserve it.

"We've had people interested in it and then back out at the last minute," he said.

Stover said damage caused by a flood in 1996 convinced officials the building had become a safety hazard.

"The floods came along and damaged it more. It's almost beyond repairable," he said. "Flooding has done an incredible amount of damage."

The plight of the Antietam Grocery is in contrast to another nearby building that was part of the Antietam Ironworks.

The building's owner has been granted permits for grading work and electrical upgrades, according to Washington County Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich.

In addition, an application has been made for a building permit that would allow it to be used for living quarters, he said.

Local preservationists expressed frustration that the Antietam Grocery has not been better maintained over the years.

"It's just another case of benign neglect. Then it becomes a case of demolition by neglect," said Pat Schooley, secretary of the Washington County Historical Society.

Schooley said the Park Service lacks sufficient funds to maintain the many historic structures it owns.

"They wait until they're beyond repair and then offer it up and no one takes them up on it," she said. "It's just one more example."

Stover said many of the Antietam Grocery's immediate neighbors have expressed support for the agency's plan.

"It'd be a good thing if they would," said Leroy Crampton, who lives about a half-mile away on Harpers Ferry Road. "It's falling down."

The Park Service must hold the public meeting before work can begin.

"Because of the history of the building, some people might have some concerns about its removal," said Deborah Conway, a Park Service spokeswoman.

The meeting will take place in the flood building conference room at the C&O Canal park headquarters at 16500 Shepherdstown Pike.

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