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Civil War museum eyed for Pry Farm

October 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard on Tuesday called a planned Civil War medicine museum set to open next year on the Pry Farm a "match made in heaven."

The Pry House Field Hospital Museum and Outdoor Educational Center would display Civil War medicine artifacts and educate the public about the medical history, Howard said in a phone interview.

The National Park Service is working out final details with the Frederick, Md.,-based National Museum of Civil War Medicine to open the center at the battlefield by April, Howard said.

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The center would be housed in the Joseph Pry House, which served as Union headquarters during the battle, and a barn next to it, Howard said.

"We're very supportive of it," Howard said. "We think it's a great idea."

Some Washington County Commissioners, however, weren't as excited.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook told the museum group's executive director, George C. Wunderlich, during a meeting Tuesday that it wasn't likely the county could afford his request of $25,000 a year to help with the facility's costs.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she was concerned about traffic the center would generate near the battlefield and whether the museum notified the public of its plans.

"Have you had any discussions with the neighborhood? Because this will increase traffic," Nipps asked Wunderlich.

Wunderlich said he had not told residents of the plans because he wanted to notify the commissioners first.

"I didn't want you all to read it in the newspaper first," he said. "I did not want the newspaper taking hold of this."

Wunderlich said the maximum capacity of the center would be no more than two busloads at one time and estimated it might attract about 10 percent of the battlefield's approximately 300,000 annual visitors.

Any more than that might cause wear and tear on roads in the battlefield and create dust, he said. He said he didn't want to "destroy the goose that laid the golden egg."

Howard said the entrance to the facility would be off Md. 34.

Wunderlich told the commissioners the center would have a budget of about $65,000 to $75,000 a year and start-up costs would be about $50,000 in the first year.

The group is funded through donations and grants, he said.

Snook said nonprofit groups seeking money from the county first must get on a list, a process he wasn't sure would pan out for the group.

"I'm not sure whether the county would support this request and put another nonprofit on our list," Snook told Wunderlich. "It's just something we had to taper back on a countywide basis."

Snook said Wunderlich might want to apply to the Washington County Gaming Commission to see whether the group would be eligible for tip jar funding.

Wunderlich said the group will move forward with the project whether or not the county makes a contribution.

"The program is going to go ahead with or without county funding," he said. "It's something we're going to press ahead with regardless."

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