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City may lease gatekeeper's house to curator

July 31, 2000

City may lease gatekeeper's house to curator



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Hagerstown City Council members are expected to review a state program that leases historic properties in return for renovations instead of rent as a potential alternative for saving the historic gatekeeper's residence at the city's Fairgrounds Park.

Kathy Maher, Hagerstown senior planner and the city staffer overseeing plans for the gatekeeper's and entrance buildings at the park, said Monday that she expects to have information on the state's Resident-Curatorship Program prepared for a council work session in August or September.

Maher also expects to inform the council during that meeting that the state has turned down a council request to use grant funds for only one of the buildings. The vacant, city-owned buildings are on the 400 block of North Mulberry Street.

Maher said the city has been awarded $73,122 to stabilize the gatekeeper's and the entrance buildings. The council has balked at accepting the grants because if it does, the state would have an easement on the property that would prohibit demolition, which some council members have mentioned as a possibility for the gatekeeper's residence. The council asked Maher to see whether the grants could be used for the entrance building only.

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Ross Kimmel, who oversees the Resident-Curatorship Program for the state Department of Natural Resources Forest and Park Service, said the program works by leasing historic structures to people for the rest of their lives. Instead of paying rent to the state, the residents are expected to renovate the buildings.

"Our department has many more historical sites than we can care for," Kimmel said.

He said the program started about 20 years ago and there are about 40 properties in the program, including the Shank farm house and the Widmyer farm house at Fort Frederick.

Kimmel said that if interested, the city would probably set up a program modeled after the state's.

Pat Schooley, secretary of the Washington County Historical Society, suggested last week that the city look into the state Resident-Curatorship Program as a way to preserve the gatekeeper's residence.

Her suggestion was praised by council members Susan Saum-Wicklein and Lewis C. Metzner. Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the city would give the building to anyone willing to fund the estimated $250,000 in renovations.

The Downtown Chapter of Hagerstown's Neighborhoods 1st, a neighborhood group, is holding a carnival at the fairgrounds to try to raise money to purchase and renovate the buildings. The festival is scheduled to run through Saturday.

The League of Women Voters - Washington County Unit recently wrote the Mayor and City Council to request that the buildings be restored.

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