Group won't remove Almshouse from endangered site list

April 29, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Hagerstown's mayor wants the Almshouse at 239 N. Locust St. to be removed from the list of the top endangered historical sites in Maryland.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- Preservation Maryland will not honor a request from the City of Hagerstown to remove the Almshouse from a 2010 list of the state's most endangered historical sites.

In a letter dated April 16, Tyler Gearhart, executive director of Preservation Maryland, told Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II that the preservation group would not drop the Almshouse from the list, in part, because "featuring the Almshouse as part of Endangered Maryland will help to identify a solution that ensures the long-term future of the Almshouse as a vital part of Hagerstown's history."

"The Endangered Maryland Program is not an indictment of the site owners; indeed many owners nominate their site to the list," Gearhart wrote. "Sites on the list can be at risk even when all parties involved are sincerely working toward a positive outcome."

In March, Bruchey wrote a letter to Preservation Maryland asking the group to remove the city-owned Almshouse from the endangered list.


Bruchey said in the letter that the city purchased the building for $90,000 in 2004. Hagerstown officials intended to raze the building to make way for a parking lot, but changed their minds after research showed the building was historically significant. He said the city used an $85,000 Community Legacy Grant to protect the building from further deterioration.

The Almshouse was built at 239 N. Locust St. in the late 18th century to house the poor and mentally ill. The structure also is rumored to have been a hospital during the Civil War.

According to city documents, as many as 200 Union soldiers and 39 Confederate soldiers were buried on the property.

The Union dead were disinterred in 1867 and taken to Antietam National Cemetery near Sharpsburg. In 1874, the Confederates were reburied at the Washington Confederate Cemetery within Rose Hill Cemetery off South Potomac Street.

Bruchey said Wednesday that the Almshouse should be taken off the list because city officials have made a genuine effort to find a use for the structure.

"Given the fact that the city has purchased the property and looked for an adaptive use ... I don't think it should be on the list," he said.

Bruchey said he would like to see a developer renovate the building for a mix of commercial and residential use, but that idea might have to wait for the economy to recover.

Gearhart said in his letter to Bruchey that Maryland Life magazine, which publishes the most endangered list with Preservation Maryland, tried to get the city's perspective before the list was printed.

"City Councilman Martin Brubaker was listed as the contact person for the city in the nomination," Gearhart wrote. "He was contacted by Preservation Maryland to inform him of the nomination and that he would be contacted by a reporter from Maryland Life. The reporter contacted him for comment three times over the course of December, but did not receive a response."

Brubaker said Thursday that his failure to return the calls was an oversight on his part.

"It certainly wasn't deliberate," he said.

Like Bruchey, Brubaker said he wants the Almshouse to be restored for commercial and residential use.

"I'd like to make efforts to find an adaptive use," he said. "That's my stance on the issue ... The trouble is, we have a slow real estate market."

Pat Schooley, who serves on the board of the Washington County Historical Society, said earlier this month that she was one of a group of three of four people who asked Preservation Maryland to put the Almshouse on the most endangered list.

She said Wednesday that she supported Gearhart's letter.

"They have not been looking for a use," Schooley said of the city's effort to find a developer.

She said she would be willing to work with the city to find a suitable solution.

The Herald-Mail Articles