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Museum group pitches new plan

December 05, 2000

Museum group pitches new plan



By SCOTT BUTKI And DAN KULIN / Staff Writers


The private group proposing a $46.5 million Civil War museum for downtown Hagerstown is looking into preserving the facades of buildings that earlier plans had slated for demolition, group officials said Tuesday.

Museum proponents also faced questions Tuesday from some Washington County Commissioners who compared the Hagerstown project to a museum project in Harrisburg, Pa.

Dennis Frye, a spokesman for the nonprofit group the Antietam Creek Coalition, said Tuesday that saving the facades of existing buildings creates the "potential for more grant funding for the project."

Frye said the idea is "preliminary."

"We have to do a cost analysis to see if it's feasible," he said.

Frye said he did not know how much grant funding might be available.

Frye and Randy Harper, chairman of the coalition, met Tuesday with the County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council.

The coalition has proposed a Civil War museum for the corner of South Potomac and West Antietam streets, in an area bounded by The Herald-Mail building to the west and St. John's Lutheran Church to the south. The land is occupied by about 15 businesses and about 20 residences.

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County Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger noted that a new Civil War museum in Harrisburg has spent about $17 million on artifacts and the museum proposed for Hagerstown does not have money set aside for artifacts.

Frye said the Hagerstown museum will primarily house artifacts owned by the Smithsonian Institution.

Commissioner William J. Wivell asked why projections indicate 300,000 people would go through a Hagerstown museum in its first year while it is estimated the Harrisburg museum will have fewer than 100,000 visitors a year.

Harper said the Harrisburg museum will have less attendance because there are no major Civil War battles in that area, as opposed to Hagerstown, which is near Gettysburg and Antietam.

The marketing effort will also be different, he said.

Frye said the Harrisburg museum is expected to open in February.

Harper said the coalition sent a draft-affiliation application to the Smithsonian Institution about two months ago, and he is expecting a response within a week.

Frye said he did not know when the coalition would submit a formal application for Smithsonian affiliation.

A Smithsonian affiliation is seen as critical for museum plans.

The coalition is now asking Gov. Parris Glendening for $8 million - $3 million for fiscal year 2002, $3 million for 2003 and $2 million the following year.

During the last legislative session, Glendening refused to provide $450,000 in planning money for the project.

If Glendening turns down state funding again, the coalition would go to the federal government for additional funding, Harper said.

Frye said the funding plan already includes $15 million from the federal government. The other $23.5 million to pay for the museum would be raised privately by the coalition, Frye said.

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