Clingan has developed a passion for research

March 28, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Alan Clingan caught something recently and he can't shake it - nor does he want to. What the 62-year-old Hagerstown native came down with was the "research bug."

"It all started 10 years ago when I got interested in a fire at a table works factory in the West End, which happened in the 1950s when I was a kid," Clingan said.

The memories of his father - the owner of a variety shop on Church Street - taking him to see the aftermath of the fire made an impression on that 9-year-old boy.


"I also remember I developed a fear of night fires after that incident," Clingan said.

Now retired from a 25-year career as a pastor at several area churches, Clingan began to seek all the information he could on the fire, first working at Washington County Free Library and then contacting people who survived it.

"I found a lady who had worked there at the time of the fire," Clingan said, noting that the building stood where Burhans and Wesel boulevards now meet. "It was exciting, so I started digging into other things."

More recently, Clingan unleashed his research bug on the subject of The Baldwin House building about the time the State of Maryland took it over for renovation into the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

With some prodding from his daughter, he harnessed those feelings about 18 months ago and decided to write his first book.

The result of this latest effort is a 30-plus page booklet titled "The Baldwin Story" which is filled with historical information and pictures of the building from its beginnings as the Globe Tavern, where, in 1790, George Washington reportedly gave a speech.

The Washington House was built in place of The Globe Tavern in 1853 and was there for 26 years before it burned down May 29, 1879.

A year later, The Baldwin House - owned in part by Christopher Columbus Baldwin, president of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad - was built.

The Baldwin House opened its doors to guests in September 1880. In 1914, The Baldwin House also was damaged by fire. Later, it housed The Academy Theater and a bowling alley (partially torn down in the late 1950s), the Leiter Brothers Department Store and Routzahn and Sons Inc., before falling into disrepair in the 1980s.

Clingan said he interviewed Frank Leiter for the book, noting that the Leiter family owned the building for many years.

He also stumbled across a rare find during his research. A rather time-worn copy of a 1908 Herald-Mail newspaper came into his possession and when he opened it, he found a two-page advertisement announcing the opening of the retail store with great detail about the merchandise that would be sold there.

The $7 booklet will be available April 1 at Borders Books Music Movies and Cafe, Clingan said. He has ordered 400 copies to see how much demand there will be. In addition, Clingan will be at the April 22 dedication of the university building on West Washington Street and hopes to have copies available then, too.

Clingan may be reached at or by phone at 301-797-1752.

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