Hagerstown never had a 'Wall Street'

April 20, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

I've never been driven to say this before, but I think the time has come: I fear for downtown Hagerstown.

I mean, if the Holiday Motel succumbs to the advancing creep of progress, what becomes of our last line of defense against uptown civility?

Like a beacon of hope, the Holiday has stood through the years against a potentially baron tundra of professional office space and fine dining.

But, apparently, the dam is about to burst. CHS Inc. of Frederick is prepared to buy the venerable inn and turn it into business space.


I have no editorial comment to make on the Holiday one way or the other, not having much first-hand experience with it. My enduring memory, though, is that I was showing my brother around downtown Hagerstown some years back and when we drove past the Holiday, an employee was standing on the balcony casually hosing out one of the rooms.

According to The Herald-Mail, a surprise inspection at the hotel last fall turned up "problems (that) included vermin, mold, heating, lighting and ventilation..."

Oh come on, that could be anybody's bathroom. But apparently some people just have impossibly high standards, including a report called "Heart of the Civil War Area," which offered up some "constructive criticism" of communities hoping to tap into battlefield tourism.

Of Hagerstown, it states, "Current downtown accommodations are lacking. The one hotel housed in the downtown core, Holiday Hotel, is housed in an apparently deteriorating building that would not appeal to families or most heritage travelers."

Right. Not the type of place the folks would like to take Dick and Jane on an outing. "See Spot run. Run Spot, run! Really Spot, we are not kidding! Spot, it's gaining! Faster Spot! Oh nooo - poor Spot."

Not that it took a Civil War heritage report to tell the City of Hagerstown something it didn't already know. Remember that list of a dozen or two conditions that the city placed on Washington County Hospital for approval of a move out of town?

Included in the list was a demand that the hospital get rid of the Holiday Motel. What the Holiday Motel had to do with Washington County Hospital is as much a mystery to me today as it was back then, but you know what they say about desperate times.

Fortunately, free enterprise often succeeds where government intervention fails. When the time is right and the market will support it, change will come. And there it is, right on the company's Web site, the words "Holiday Hotel" and "professional office space" right in the same sentence.

If developer Skip Tovornik pulls this off, he's going to be a lot of people's man of the year.

On the Web site, he says he hopes "successful renovation of the buildings will help West Washington Street to regain its former reputation as Hagerstown's 'Wall Street,' and create a more amenable pedestrian transition from Prospect Street's commercial and residential districts."

A kind of smooth transition between Discovery Station and Nadia's, I guess.

I've lived here for some time, but I never knew that Hagerstown had its own Wall Street. Unless pawn shops qualify as high commerce. When our own Wall Street turned into our own Canal Street I cannot exactly say, but I'm all for going back in time, in this instance.

Although street names are not always what they seem. I don't look for irony where none exists, but the fact that most of Hagerstown's hookers took to populating Church Street has always seemed a bit curious.

But if we have our own Wall Street, the sky could be the limit. The Hagerstown Suns - a New York Mets affiliate, I should mention - could start passing themselves as being in Tribeca (the Triangle Below Cannon) and Big Lots lands squarely in SoHo (South of Howard).

So watch out, all you Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, The Maryland Theatre Hagettes might be closer to reality than you think.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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