Group says Civil War museum site still undecided

July 14, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

If a proposed Civil War museum is built in Hagerstown it might not go in the vacant city-owned Baldwin Complex in downtown Hagerstown as some officials had believed.

Members of the nonprofit group proposing the museum said the complex at 32-46 W. Washington St. might not be the site recommended by a study for which city and county funding are being sought. There also is no guarantee the museum would be built in Hagerstown.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II on Wednesday said he was surprised other sites would be considered.

"But I understand. They have to keep their options open," Bruchey said.

"I thought it was a pretty much done deal that they wanted it at the Baldwin House," City Councilman J. Wallace McClure said.

Until a Tuesday evening meeting between the mayor and City Council, Washington County Commissioners and members of the Antietam Creek Coalition Inc., which is proposing the museum, some thought that the Baldwin Complex was the only site being considered for the proposed $30 million to $40 million museum.


During that meeting, coalition founder Randy Harper said the group did not know where the museum might be built.

"We haven't done our homework yet," said Harper, who works for a real estate consulting firm in Austin, Texas.

At that meeting, City Council members Susan Saum-Wicklein, Alfred W. Boyer and McClure said they would grant the coalition $37,500 to help pay for a study, which will serve as part of an application for a Smithsonian Institution affiliation.

Coalition member and Washington County resident Dennis E. Frye said Wednesday that the Baldwin Complex was the primary location being considered.

He said the complex, which consists of a former hotel, department store and warehouse, would be a good site for several reasons, including its proximity to Interstates 70 and 81.

"The Baldwin House is a site but it's not the only site," Frye said.

"The purpose of the process is to examine sites within the city. We expect to find enough appropriate sites in the city to build the museum within city limits," he said. "The only reason to go outside the city is if we can't find anything in the city."

City Councilman William M. Breichner, who said he would not vote for the grant, wasn't surprised the coalition might look at different sites.

Breichner said the Baldwin Complex is too small for a museum that could be roughly 80,000 square feet.

He said the museum, if built, should be in the city.

Saum-Wicklein and the mayor said they were confident that the site recommended for a museum would be in downtown.

"Right now I think it's about a 50-50 chance that it could go outside the city," McClure said.

Should the museum go outside city limits it would still benefit the city, he said.

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