Garrott remembered with Maryland Theatre garden

June 13, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A tended garden in front of The Maryland Theatre is a new testament to the late Jack Garrott's efforts to save the building from demolition three decades ago.

The Woodland Garden Club of Hagerstown has chosen the memorial garden as its project. Several members were in the theater's courtyard Thursday, digging holes, placing bulbs and patting down the soil.

"What we're trying to do is pick up the colors of Maryland as much as possible," club member Wilma Spangler said.

Their choices were purple salvia, purple and green coleus, and the Black-Eyed Susan, the state flower.

Garrott's widow, Ann, and her eldest daughter, Lois Snyder, watched the courtyard become prettier.

"I think this is fabulous," Ann Garrott said. "Jack would really appreciate this."

Garrott was 82 years old when he died Feb. 12.

A main part of his legacy is his leadership in keeping the theater intact in the face of plans to tear it down and sell the bricks.


The theater's board of directors unanimously voted to posthumously honor him with a courtyard garden.

Jenni Hatcher, the theater's executive director, said there also will be an inside wall of memorabilia and pictures devoted to him.

Ann Garrott brought a scrapbook of pictures and news clippings Thursday.

She said she likes that Spangler, of the garden club, is Hatcher's mother, a good connection that should ensure that the memorial garden is watched and maintained.

Betty Gray Easterday, another garden club member who worked in the morning sun, said she remembers when the theater's lobby extended almost to the street, where a formally dressed man greeted patrons.

She said her father managed The Maryland Theatre and two others downtown - the Colonial and the Academy - in the 1930s.

Her mother and father, Nettie V. Gray and Oscar Lee Gray, ran the Princess, a sandwich and ice cream shop that had a soda fountain, where the theater now has a bar.

The Maryland Theater, which opened in 1915, closed in 1973.

The building was damaged by a fire in 1974. In 1975, Gerald N. Minnich bought it, hoping to protect it.

It was then that Jack Garrott became inspired and fought to save the theater, his wife said.

The theater reopened in 1978.

"Mr. Garrott probably was one of the biggest inspirations for me here ...," Hatcher said. "To me, it's a very meaningful thing he did, having so much energy and enthusiasm and positive force."

His intervention had many followers. "People just came out of the woodwork," Ann Garrott said. "Oh, it was an exciting time. It really was."

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