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Developer considers museum for former base

December 14, 2004|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - The Columbia, Md., developer that has agreed to buy the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base is considering establishing on the property a museum that would focus on the fort's history.

Such a museum or "interpretive exhibit" is a requirement of a 1997 agreement that deals with the historic preservation of the base.

Dwight S. Taylor, president of Corporate Development Services, a division of Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), said Monday by phone that the museum would be located near the entrance of the base or along the main road at the fort, so that it would be easily accessible to the public.

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"There's a lot of history there - a lot of artifacts," Taylor said of the base, which had been used as a Maryland National Guard installation, in addition to an Army base.

COPT agreed to buy the approximately 630-acre property from the PenMar Development Corp. in July for $9 million. That price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over several years.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

Taylor said that the museum "was just a consideration," and that he didn't know how the facility would be paid for if it is approved.

PenMar board Chairman George G.B. Griffin said by phone Monday that he thought a museum was a good idea and that it would be a COPT initiative.

Griffin suggested that a copy of the documentary "The Ritchie Boys" be placed in the museum if one is established.

The 2004 documentary, written and directed by Christian Bauer, tells the story of a group of Jewish men who fled the Nazis, came to the United States and received training in espionage and psychological warfare at the base, known then as Camp Ritchie.

The men eventually were sent to Europe during World War II as U.S. soldiers to interrogate captured German prisoners of war.

The Dec. 18, 1997, Programmatic Agreement with the Army, Maryland State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, requires than an interpretive exhibit be established and is to include historical photographs and other historic fort materials, and may consist of a walking tour, pamphlets, displays and/or an overlook.

In July, PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said that the Programmatic Agreement would be included with the property's deed if the base is sold to COPT and that COPT would have to abide by the agreement.

The base dates back to 1926 and was built by the Maryland National Guard, according to the Army.

The property is eligible to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of the former base is known by the state preservation office as the "Camp Ritchie Historic District." That district includes at least 50 stone buildings, two lakes and approximately 30 acres of open space known as the parade grounds.

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