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Volunteers make park buildings pleasing to the eye

September 05, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Through the work of volunteers and funding from government grants, the appearance of the former Hagerstown Fairground entrance building and Gatekeepers House at Fairgrounds Park looks the best it has in many years, the city's Senior Planner Kathleen Maher said Wednesday.

"It is much more aesthetically pleasing," Nissa Putnam said.

Putnam is one of about 25 volunteers who helped paint the buildings along North Mulberry Street side on four Saturdays this summer.

The city provided paint and brushes, and volunteers provided free labor as they painted part of the buildings. Among the volunteers were Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire and Councilwoman Penny May Nigh.

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Two father-son teams, Robert and Lance Nigh and Zachary and David Abeles, also helped with the painting. Robert Nigh is Penny May Nigh's husband.

"It was great to finally see something was actually being done for the town by the people," Lance Nigh said.

Volunteer painter Ken Welch said fewer than four original fairground entrance buildings are still standing in the state.

The volunteers were only allowed to paint up to a certain height. City Public Works crews took over and completed the painting project, Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

City employees also repaired holes and deteriorated areas on the exterior of the buildings. They replaced dilapidated windows, put metal grids over the windows, fixed gutters and downspouts and removed dilapidated porches, Tissue said.

Contractors cleaned out the interior and scraped the loose lead paint on the exterior, Tissue said.

The total budget for the project was $168,545. The money came from grants and community development block grant funds, Tissue said.

In July 2001, the council unanimously agreed the city should spend state grant money to fix up the buildings. As a condition of accepting the grants, the city recorded a preservation easement that prohibits demolition on the property, Maher said.

Members of the previous council were split on whether the city should commit to saving the buildings.

But the feeling among the council members who took office in May 2001 is that the buildings are historically important and should be saved.

The work that has been done should prevent further deterioration of the properties, Tissue said.

The Gatekeepers House was built in the 1890s, Maher said. The Fairgrounds Entrance building was built in 1912, she said.

The city has not decided how it will use the buildings in the future, Maher and Tissue said.

Welch said he likes the idea of using the building to display artifacts related to the fairgrounds.

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