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Spanish American War Cannon Park will get a face-lift

June 10, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Although its neighbors say many local residents don't even realize it exists, Hagerstown is home to a park honoring Spanish-American War veterans that contains a rare cannon built in the 1700s.

The Spanish American War Cannon Park at North Potomac Street and North Avenue is scheduled to get a facelift and a name change at the suggestion of a neighborhood group.

As a result, the park will not only look nicer but it will be more recognizable as a park, said Nissa Putnam, secretary of the Broadway North Neighborhoods First Group.

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The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday gave general approval for a name change and planned improvements to the park.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue estimates park improvements will cost $65,000 and storm drain improvements will cost $45,000. Money for the changes is already budgeted, he said.

The council is scheduled to vote on the contract for the improvements in August, Tissue said. Work is scheduled to begin this fall, he said.

The proposed improvements include replacing a fence, rebuilding a stone wall and reconstructing a storm drain system.

The intent of most of the improvements is to return the park to its original appearance, said Steve Colby, vice chairman of the Broadway North Neighborhoods First Group.

The park was dedicated about 1900 on land donated by S. Martin Bloom, who lived across Potomac Street from the park. Bloom ran and owned a wholesale grocery store.

The group is suggesting the park's name be changed to Bloom Park.

"I think we owe it to Martin Bloom," said Colby, who lives next door to the park.

People stop at the quarter-of-an-acre park "very rarely," said Putnam, who lives across from the park on North Avenue.

"I don't think people even realize it's there," she said.

"People just happen upon it and are amazed," Colby said. "We are known for the Civil War, not the Spanish-American War."

There was a time when the park was more well-known.

Colby has a collection of postcards, printed in Hagerstown, featuring the park. Most of the postcards he has found are dated between 1906 and 1910.

The city-owned park probably received much media coverage when it was dedicated because it was the first in the nation dedicated to honoring Spanish-American War veterans, he said.

These days, people driving by on Potomac Street or North Avenue notice the cannon but they don't always realize that it is part of a park, neighbors said.

"People are aware there is a cannon there. But most people don't realize what kind of cannon it is," Putnam said

The cannon, which weighs about 6,000 pounds, was built in France in 1751.

The cannon was in Santiago, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War but it is not known if it was used in battles during the war, Colby said.

There are only two cannons of its type still in existence in the United States. The other is in California, he said.

A monument to disabled American veterans of all wars - "past, present and future" - will also be erected, said Anthony Pruchniewski, senior vice commander of the Washington County Chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

Tissue described the park as "an underpublicized historic attraction" and the least-used park in the city.

Veterans are probably more aware of the park than other residents, Pruchniewski said.

Colby said local children use the park - they play catch on it or climb on the cannon.

He speculated there have probably been attempts over the years to steal the heavy cannon. The result of the attempts by "inebriated" teenagers is most likely back pain and hernias, he said.

Colby said it is great living adjacent to the park.

"It is a place of history," Colby said. "The park itself is more than 100 years old. It is a treasure."

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