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Preserving history, one building at a time

Preservationists gather at Rural Heritage Museum

Preservationists gather at Rural Heritage Museum

June 18, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

SHARPSBURG - About 70 historical preservationists from across Maryland gathered Saturday at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum to talk about their common interests - preserving history, buildings and an earlier way of life.

The museum, at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike, houses more than 2,500 artifacts depicting early Washington County life, said Leslie Hendrickson, museum administrator.

The museum is building a replica of a 19th-century village with cabins, a church, blacksmith shop, physician's office and a sawmill, most of which will be built by next spring.

"That's all that's on the radar for now," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson and John Krowka of the Washington County Historical Trust said they were pleased with Saturday's turnout, the first event of its kind.

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"Hopefully, it will get bigger and better every year," Hendrickson said.

Among historical and preservation groups represented Saturday were Antietam National Battlefield, Boonsboro Historical Society, Clear Spring Historical Society, Jonathan Hager House and Museum, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Speakers from several groups gave addresses.

Highlights of the day included tours of the Mary Locher Cabin at the battlefield. Built in 1760, the cabin is the oldest structure in the park, Krowka said, and is in need of restoration.

"It's among the very valuable cultural resources in need of preservation," he said.

Preservationists also have their eyes on another old structure in need of care - the 1799 Alms House in Hagers-town. Hendrickson said it is the oldest standing poorhouse in Washington County, and possibly in Maryland.

Tolson's Chapel in Sharpsburg also is on the list for restoration. Its cornerstone was laid in 1866 by slaves freed by the Civil War as a place of worship.

Land for the chapel was donated by Samuel Craig and his wife, both freed slaves.

The log church was dedicated in 1867. The next year, it served as a school for local African-American children.

Donations to the museum and the village project may be made through its Web site at www.ruralheritagemuseum.org.

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