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Preservationists revive Historical Trust

June 13, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A group of historical preservationists are resurrecting the Washington County Historical Trust so they can buy and protect threatened historical properties.

The preservationists cited the loss in recent months of the Kammerer house and a home on the Fox Deceived plantation as factors in their decision to start up the trust, which has been inactive in recent years.

The trust will also probably develop an educational campaign to remind residents and community groups of the value of historical structures, said Yvonne Hope, chairwoman of the Washington County's Historic Advisory Committee.

The goal is for the trust to have a revolving fund program, said Pat Schooley, secretary of the Washington County Historical Society. The trust would buy a threatened historical property, stabilize it and then sell it, she said.

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The trust currently has less than $5,000, Hope said. She thinks it can rise to about $500,000 through contributions and grants.

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell applauds the idea.

"That's the only thing they can do if they want to preserve the properties," he said.

The group will meet at noon Monday at The Washington Spy restaurant in downtown Hagerstown. New officers will soon be elected, said Hope, the group's spokeswoman.

It makes more sense to use the trust for preservation than the Historical Society, said Lee Stine, president of the Historical Society.

Since the society has been without an executive director for a few months, it shouldn't take on new responsibilities, Stine said, adding that a new executive director will be chosen this summer.

Additionally, the structure of the nonprofit, tax-exempt trust would better fit preservationists' plans, Stine said.

The group may also act as a watchdog organization, taking property owners to court when appropriate, Hope said.

Having the trust in place could help save structures, but it would not have prevented the early March demolition of a 1770s-era log house because it was so sudden, Stine said.

The demolition was criticized because the Washington County Permits Department approved it without verifying the applicant's claim that the property was not historical.

The house, on a plantation called Fox Deceived, was built by Conrad Hogmire, who in 1776 became one of the county's first commissioners.

Stine and others said the need for money to save threatened homes became more clear as they tried in vain to save the Kammerer house from demolition.

Until it was razed, the farmhouse, built by Johan Ludwig Kammerer in 1774, was on a half-acre lot in the Airport Business Park surrounded by parking lots and buildings.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc., a private-public agency known as CHIEF, owns the land and received a demolition permit for the property on March 3 so it could sell the land to Citicorp Credit Services.

The demolition was temporarily delayed, though, while Citicorp considered a request by the Historical Society in which the County Commissioners would buy the land from CHIEF and lease it to the preservationists for $1. That request was denied in mid-March and the demolition began April 5.

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