Clang, clang, clang went the Boonsboro Trolley Museum

September 12, 2009|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

If you go

What: 38th annual Boonesborough Days

When: Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Shafer Memorial Park, off Main Street, Boonsboro

Cost: Free admission. Free parking is available at the Boonsboro school complex off Campus Avenue near the intersection of Maple Avenue and Main Street. A trolley will take people to and from the park for free.

BOONSBORO -- It was a lofty goal.

It was the late 1890s, when most large moving objects were powered by steam or pulled by horses.

To many Boonsboro residents who heard talk of an electric trolley connecting Hagerstown to Frederick, Md., the idea seemed inconceivable.

"They needed a rail system. They needed a trolley system. They needed people to operate it and a reason to have it. They needed electric power to run it, and they needed to build a system to generate the electricity," said John Wilson, a professor in the Department of Environmental Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art.


Yet, developers moved ahead with their plans. The Hagerstown-Frederick Railway Co. went on to provide passenger and freight service until nearly 1940. Following its decline, though, little was made of the service in the town of Boonsboro.

That is, until several years ago, when the town was getting ready to demolish some dilapidated buildings. One such building sat on a corner of North Main Street, creating an eyesore at the entrance to Shafer Memorial Park.

"We never even knew what that old building was," said Doug Bast, Boonsboro's town historian. "No one thought much about it,"

Then, former town manager John Kendall learned the building had served as the Boonsboro Trolley Station from 1902 until 1938 and was the only remaining trolley station in Washington County. That's when local entities joined forces to preserve and restore the building.

About 100 people gathered Saturday night at the station for a ceremony to dedicate the Boonsboro Trolley Museum. Attendees perused artifacts inside the museum, then gathered on the sidewalk to listen as organizers and dignitaries provided comments from the porch of the red tin structure.

Bast said the Boonsboro Historical Society tried to re-create the ambiance of the station when it was in use.

Historical society members Mark and Cristen Moss enlisted the assistance of Wilson, Cristen Moss' father, who incorporated a study of the building into a preservation course he was teaching. His students documented, photographed and researched the station, then compiled a report with recommendations on considerations such as layout, furniture and inventory. Their suggestions included the location of the waiting room and the use of exposed porcelain electrical switches.

Wilson said he was moved by the transformation of the building.

"When we ripped out plaster boards, there were dead rats and birds falling out of the ceiling. Now, you can look around here and imagine people sitting on a bench in midwinter waiting for the trolley," Wilson said. "This project has been superb. For a town this small to pull this off so well is impressive and important."

The Maryland Historical Trust and the Nora Roberts Foundation provided grant funding for the project.

Dignitaries on hand included Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr.; Julianna Albowicz, Washington County representative for U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski; and Maryland Del. Christopher B. Shank.

Shank said the museum added another attraction, "another shining star," to the town of Boonsboro.

"This not only represents the town's past. It represents the town's future," Shank said. "This shows what can be accomplished when the mayor, the town council and the citizens of the community work together to realize a vision."

Musical duo Aca-perco provided live music at the dedication, including singer Jennie Avila's original songs detailing local history.

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