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Future of Hagerstown's Alms House uncertain

October 08, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The future of the historic Alms House on North Locust Street in Hagerstown remains uncertain after the Hagerstown City Council debated the fate of the building during a Tuesday work session.

City Planning Director Kathleen Maher told the council it could vote to designate the Alms House as a local landmark, meaning any exterior changes to the building, including demolition, would have to be reviewed first by the City's Historic District Commission.

Built in the late 18th century, the city-owned Alms House has served as a poorhouse and a hospital during the Civil War.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he opposed granting the Alms House landmark status because the council doesn't need direction from the Historic District Commission. In addition, Metzner said, properties often require expensive maintenance after they become historic landmarks.

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"As long as the city is the owner of this property, I'm not going to vote for that designation," Metzner said.

Councilwomen Alesia Parson-McBean and Penny M. Nigh said they thought the city should try to get the public more involved.

Parson-McBean said she would support setting up a nonprofit organization that would be committed, in part, to raising money to save the house.

"We have to be able to have that dialogue to let people know they can come in," Parson-McBean said. "... We have not done anything to help people come together."

Nigh said she was aware of several people who would be interested in forming a committee to save the house. In the past, Nigh has proposed restoring the house and using it as a Civil War museum.

At the end of the discussion, the council directed the city staff to continue seeking ways to pay for the property's rehabilitation.

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