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House could be fort museum

July 12, 2005|by TARA REILLY

CASCADE

tarar@herald-mail.com

The developer who has agreed to buy the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base is considering using the chaplain's house as a site for a museum focusing on the fort's history.

PenMar Development Corp. board member Jack Simpson said at a Monday morning PenMar meeting that he discussed the museum plans with Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) of Columbia, Md.

COPT has agreed to buy the approximately 630-acre base from PenMar for $9 million. That price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over nine years.

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

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

The chaplain's house is on the property near the entrance of the base.

"I think it's an ideal location for the museum," Simpson said.

Simpson said he would like COPT to draft an architectural plan for the museum and a cost estimate for renovations.

He also said he'd like the museum to be more than "a static display of pictures."

"That sort of gets old pretty quickly," Simpson said.

The base dates 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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