Welcome center to open near Sharpsburg

May 31, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • The Newcomer House on Md. 34 will be the site of a Civil War museum expected to open in September.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG --Joshua Newcomer found himself in the middle of chaos during the Battle of Antietam.

From the front of his house, Newcomer and his family would have seen the wounded being carried over a nearby bridge crossing Antietam Creek, said John Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield.

Like many farmers caught in Civil War conflicts, Newcomer and his family lost all of their crops as a result of the battle, Howard said.

Then there would have been the fear.

"They would have been terrified because they would have had artillery flying over their heads," Howard said.

The house, which still stands along Md. 34 east of Sharpsburg, is about to enter into a new phase in area history.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Antietam National Battlefield have entered into a cooperative agreement to open a welcome and exhibit center in Newcomer's old house.


The theme of the center will revolve around the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, which promotes stewardship of historic, cultural, and natural Civil War resources. Washington County along with Carroll and Frederick counties are the focus in the heritage area.

Although Civil War history will be featured at the center, visitors there will be able to learn about other area attractions such as the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, according to Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Officials have scheduled a grand opening for the visitors center for Sept. 17-19 and plans are to have the center open seven days a week from April to November, according to a news release.

The Newcomer House used to be owned by a private individual who constructed a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee near the house. The previous owner also planned to have a museum in the house and erected some exhibits inside, said Charissa Beeler Stanton, a Washington County Heritage Area assistant who has been working on the new visitors center.

After the museum closed, the National Park Service acquired the property.

Under the agreement between the park service and the convention and visitors bureau, the National Park Service will be responsible for ongoing maintenance at the Newcomer House and the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau will be responsible for training volunteer staff and keeping informational supplies stocked, according to a news release about the center.

One can almost imagine past life in the house with the worn wooden floors inside and a bank barn across the street that was part of a complex of buildings on the Newcomer farm.

Walking through such historic buildings is something tourists appreciate, Howard said.

"It's wonderful preserving these places. That's what we're here for," he said.

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