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Residents propose uses for fairgrounds building

July 30, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

The fate of the historic two-story entrance building to the Hagerstown Fairgrounds is in the public's hands, according to Hagerstown's senior city planner, Kathy Maher.

Members of the public on Thursday suggested the 4,000-square-foot building be restored and used for such things as a museum, banquet hall, storage facility, restaurant, day-care center and children's library.

They were among the approximately 30 people went to the fairgrounds clubhouse to voice their opinions to Maher and Todd Ray and John Burke of Studio 27 Architecture, of Arlington, Va., who were hired to evaluate the structure and its possible uses.

Leon Fearnow of Hagerstown said he supports saving the structure but believes it should benefit the whole community and reflect its heritage.

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"If we have a historical place, why not have historical things to go with it," he said.

Fearnow said the building could be used as a museum commemorating the Civil War, black history and local railroads.

Peter Callas of Hagerstown said corporate sponsors and volunteer supplies and labor might be a way to make the project a reality.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to get the whole community involved," he said.

Renting some of the space to local businesses would raise money for the project, said Don Cowman of Hagerstown.

He said the upstairs area could be used for proms, dances and wedding receptions.

Maher said the building is the only one of its kind in the state.

"These buildings will disappear unless we have the public's support and come up with new uses to justify the expense," she said.

She urged people to call and write Hagerstown City Council members with their ideas.

No council members attended the meeting.

Maher said she hopes to present a plan for the building to the City Council in August.

"There's a lot of good support," said Maher after the meeting. She said the suggestions she heard are doable and funding can likely found by way of grants or loans.

Established in 1880 the fairgrounds were open until 1980, and then from 1985 to 1992. The entrance building and nearby gatekeeper's home, constructed in 1919, are sound, Burke said.

He outlined a $415,000 plan to restore the building and make use of its two stories.

Burke's plan calls for sectioning off the first floor into rooms to be used for storage, a concession stand, recreation office or computer lab.

The large, open space of the second floor could be a community meeting room equipped with kitchen facilities, he said. Additional space could be used for tutoring, museums or a computer lab.

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