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O'Malley tours Hancock museum

April 24, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • Hancock Mayor Dan Murphy, left, walks with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley into the Hancock Museum on Main Street for a short stop Saturday.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer,

HANCOCK -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley stopped in Hancock Saturday afternoon to tour a new museum the town created to house geological and wildlife exhibits from the former Sideling Hill Exhibit Center.

"I just wanted to stop by, just to say thank you to Hancock for stepping up like this," said O'Malley, who was on his way to the Western Maryland Democratic Summit at Rocky Gap State Park and Conference Center.

The Sideling Hill Exhibit Center, built where Interstate 68 passes through a deep rock cut west of Hancock, was closed by the state last summer as a budget-cutting measure. A push by local officials to save the center was unsuccessful, but the state agreed to loan the center's exhibits permanently to the Town of Hancock for display in a museum on Main Street.

"Every level of our government has had to make a lot of painful cuts and difficult choices, and the mayor of Hancock stepped up in a positive way to try to make lemonade from the lemons of our decision to close the visitor center," O'Malley said.

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The new museum officially will open May 11.

O'Malley said many of the cuts the state had made had been difficult, but he noted that the state budget was shrinking in a way that hadn't happened since the Great Depression.

"The size of our state government is smaller now than it's been since 1973, which means it's smaller than it was when Harry Hughes created that visitor center in 1984," he said. "And these are the tough choices we've had to make in order to keep Maryland moving forward and out of this recession."

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said Saturday marked the first time a governor had visited the town in his 16 years as mayor.

"This is a big deal," he said.

Hancock Town Council members, town employees, Hancock Historical Society members and local residents and business owners gathered to welcome O'Malley. Several posed for photos with him or asked for his autograph.

O'Malley said he remembered Hancock from childhood road trips to visit his father's family in Pittsburgh.

"This was always our halfway mark," he said. "My dad always wanted to stop at the restaurant here, Weaver's."

Murphy showed O'Malley the rock samples, fossils and wildlife taxidermy displays that had come from the Sideling Hill center as well as town history exhibits such as enlarged black and white photos of the C&O Canal in operation, a sleigh and buggy built in Hancock around 1900, and the original tombstone of Maj. James Breathed, a distinguished Confederate artillery fighter who settled in Hancock to practice medicine after the Civil War ended.

The "last piece of the puzzle" in setting up the museum is getting highway signs to inform motorists about the museum's new location, Hancock Marketing Director T.R. Weaver Sr. said.

O'Malley offered to make some calls to help the town get the signs set up.




If you go



What: Grand opening ceremony for Hancock Town Museum and Sideling Hill Exhibit

When: Tuesday, May 11, 2 p.m.

Where: 42 W. Main St., Hancock

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