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Museum funding detailed

March 21, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

The spokesman for a proposed $46 million National Civil War Museum filled in several gaps Tuesday concerning funding sources and a recommended site.

The museum would be funded with public and private money, including as much as $23 million from the state and federal governments, Antietam Creek Coalition spokesman Dennis Frye said Tuesday.

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Private funding would be raised by low-interest museum financing through Wall Street, admission fees that could be between $9 and $12 per person, and fund-raising efforts, coalition officials said.

In addition to seeking funds from corporations and foundations, the coalition would raise money through a Wall of Honor, where people could pay $100 to have the name of a Civil War soldier embossed on the wall.

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Frye said the coalition is not asking the City of Hagerstown or Washington County to fund construction of the museum, but the nonprofit group needs an entity to act as land owner. The coalition's role would be to have the museum built and operate it.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he has talked to City Council members informally about the city acting as land owner, but no decision has been made.

The land owner would be responsible for buying the L-shaped site at the southwest corner of West Antietam and South Potomac streets and demolishing several buildings that house 15 businesses and about 20 residences.

Bruchey said city officials had already discussed the possibility of buying and demolishing five buildings on West Antietam Street to make way for parking at an estimated cost of $1 million.

He did not have a cost estimate for the total acquisition and demolition to make way for the proposed 80,000-square-foot museum that would be situated in the middle of the site and surrounded by a park.

Frye said a Realtor has talked to property owners on the site about purchase options, but no options have been finalized.

Bruchey said he hasn't yet asked the city's attorneys to investigate the city's right to eminent domain in case a property owner doesn't want to sell.

Coalition members met with the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday at City Hall and are expected to return on April 25 with a full report.

Today coalition members were expected to be in Annapolis to update the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly and talk to Gov. Parris Glendening's staff about the project.

Frye said the coalition hasn't gotten feedback from the governor's office concerning a request for $450,000 from his supplemental budget to pay for site planning and exhibits.

If the coalition doesn't get that money in the fiscal year beginning July 1, the project is dead, Frye said.

"This is our only window of opportunity," Frye said. If Maryland doesn't move forward fast to get a Smithsonian-affiliated Civil War museum, then another nearby state could get the affiliation instead, Frye said.

A Civil War museum is already under construction in Harrisburg, Pa., but that museum focuses on the war years, whereas a Hagerstown museum would have a broader approach, said Chip Jeffries, the project's designer.

The proposed museum for Hagerstown would cover the years leading up to the war through the decades following the war, Jeffries said. It would put the war into context and include exhibits about what caused the war and who was in it.

With a $1 billion surplus, hopefully the governor can find room for the coalition's request, Frye told city and county officials.

The commissioners and City Council agreed to send letters of support to the governor, encouraging him to fund the $450,000 in fiscal year 2001 and to promote the Hagerstown site to the Secretary of the Smithsonian.

Coalition members are to meet with the Smithsonian's affiliation officials on Friday, but don't expect an answer to their affiliation application until this summer, Frye said.

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