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Letters to the Edior 9/22

September 22, 2000

Letters to the Edior 9/22



Use halts deterioriation



To the editor:

As an architect, I am deeply concerned about the preservation of the historic Newcomer House adjacent to the Antietam Battlefield. We have spent many hours preparing the documents for the restoration/rehabilitative reuse of the Newcomer House. The survival of this historic house is threatened by extensive deterioration and disrepair.

I direct your attention to letters from John Howard, the superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield. He has reviewed the drawings for the restoration/rehabilitation of the house and the site. The proposed work has received his approval and meets the guidelines for properties within the overlay. The property is zoned for the intended use as a museum and bookstore.

Empty buildings are at risk. Survival of the Newcomer House depends on rehabilitative reuse. This property has been available in the marketplace to potential buyers. No one came forward to restore this property. No one was willing to make the tremendous financial commitment required to restore the Newcomer House until it was purchased by Bill Chaney. But, all are quick to come forward to hasten its demise with their personal agendas. The preservation groups who support preservation of battlefields and structures seem to be "hell bent" on destruction of the very thing they purport to preserve.

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Buildings survive when they serve a viable use. Without a viable use, they fall into disrepair and ultimately disappear from deterioration and neglect. Take a look at the barns in our county. The needs of the farmer have changed. Therefore the structures that house his farming activities have changed. Old barns were not designed to meet current farming methods. Therefore barns are allowed to fall into disrepair and eventually collapse. Are historic district commission members willing to accept the responsibility of the eventual demise of the Newcomer House? Special interest groups with agendas constitute a small minority and should not be allowed to impose their special interests on a project that meets current county and park service ordinances and guidelines.

Let common sense prevail. It is time to move on and save the Newcomer House. The special interest groups should be reminded that they are better served to direct positive energy, not negative energy, toward preserving our local and national heritage.

The Newcomer House suffers from neglect. You as commissioners are charged with the responsibility to approve the site and restoration of this important element in the battlefield view shed. This amazing architectural survival is a significant element in the overlay of the battlefield and the historic fabric of the county. Yes, the restoration/rehabilitation of this property provides a new use, but also injects new life into a doomed structure. Approval of this project preserves the home of a family caught in the middle of the battle of Sharpsburg for future generations of Americans.

Standing in the dining room, holding a bullet pulled from insect ridden logs, I reflected on that terrible event in our history and the 200 years it stood in that place.

As an architect dedicated to preserving our architectural heritage, I implore you to commit your approval to the proposed preservation of this significant house and site.

Eleanor Lakin

President, Lakin & Moats Architects

Funkstown




Numbers need to be in context



To the editor:

Two recent articles in The Herald-Mail addressed problems we have within the school system. The topics were SAT scores and the number of high school dropouts. The real problem is not SAT scores or the dropout rate, but rather how these numbers were presented and how to interpret them.

The numbers themselves mean very little unless there is something to compare them to (e.g., previous results, other school systems) and a statement as to the statistical significance of the differences between the numbers.

Statistical significance is defined as attributing the difference between items being compared to some influence other than just the probability of occurring by chance alone. After reading the articles I had no clue whether the data indicated a good or bad trend, because there was no statistical analysis.

The inference was made that an increase in the dropout rate was partially due to a good economy with other comments on intervention programs, etc. However, this is all irrelevant if the rate increase is not statistically significant. The use of "significant" and "insignificant" occurred several times in the SAT article, but with no scientific basis presented (e.g., significance level) other than "opinion."

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