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Panel closer to Roundhouse decision

March 21, 2001

Panel closer to Roundhouse decision



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va.- After discussing possible ideas for the future of the B&O Railroad Roundhouse complex for three years, the Roundhouse Authority is close to making a decision on the site.

"I think we're definitely in the homestretch" of studying possible ideas, said Judy Martin, a member of the Roundhouse Authority that oversees the complex. She chairs the committee for events and fundraising.

"But the last thing you want is an error in judgment because of a rush to judgment," Martin said.

Authority members will hold a meeting with Toronto-based consultant Janis Barlow Saturday in what they expect to be Barlow's final report and ideas on the project.

As officials have collected money to restore the old round building - a garage for locomotives built in the 1860s after the Civil War - and two other nearby buildings, they have begun collecting ideas for the day when they can make the site a national attraction.

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The two most frequently mentioned ideas are turning part of the complex into a national labor museum. The first labor strike in the nation's history began in 1877 at the Roundhouse complex in Martinsburg. The site was also central in the early days of the Civil War, when Stonewall Jackson dragged locomotives from the grounds.

"The idea is to preserve the historical nature while making it at national attraction," Martin said. "The (1877) labor strike is probably the greatest national attraction." The labor movement has no national museum.

Meanwhile, other ideas are being considered or moving ahead for the 13-acre site:

- A switching tower from eastern Berkeley County was just moved to the site. It will be reconstructed to be operated by the public.

- The Authority is buying a caboose with a cupola that now sitting unused at Winchester, said Richard Paden, treasurer for the organization. He hopes to have it on site by June 1. When not sitting on tracks, it will sit in one of the repair bays of the Roundhouse, he said.

- The Authority also may get two or three dining cars, and use them as a restaurant on site, Martin said.

- Military artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War collected by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Earl Wheeler may also find a spot at the site, if money can be raised by his son to do it.

- The Authority also wants to develop Tuscarora Creek that runs through the property.

_ They've acquired the old Fruit Exchange on the property although no specific use has been identified. The old train depot across the tracks from the Roundhouse has been renovated into Caperton Station, which serves the MARC.

-The Roundhouse itself has been deemed unsuitable for any kind of permanent performance center. But Martin said it might work for specific individual events like concerts or graduations.

"We've kicked around a lot of ideas and Saturday, we'll kick around some more," Martin said.

The Authority has raised more than $2 million to restore the buildings. Another $1.,5 million is needed to complete the restoration work, Paden said.

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