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Walking Hagerstown: A stroll through the city's West End

September 26, 2010|By CHRIS COPLEY
Graphic by Chad Trovinger,

Editor's note: This is the third in a four-part series of walking tours in Hagerstown.

o Part one: Downtown to fairgrounds

o Part two: Dry Bridge to lakeshore

Today's walk covers some familiar routes in the West End, traditionally a working class neighborhood in Hagerstown. The walk is about 2.7 miles long and should take no more than a couple hours. There are no public restrooms along the tour, but several facilities offer restrooms for patrons.

Start your walk near Washington Square. Washington Square United Methodist Church will allow readers to park in the church's lot behind the church except between 9 a.m. and noon Sundays.

1. When this area was developed just after the Civil War, Washington Square was originally the intersection of West Washington Street (also the National Road, which headed west to Clear Spring) and Green Street (later changed to Washington Avenue). As Hagerstown became a railroad and industrial hub, the West End expanded rapidly.

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2. Head westward on West Washington Street. Adjacent to the elegant, neo-gothic St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church, you'll see a row of eccentric brick duplex houses. Check out the second-floor entries, gothic attic dormers, colored window glass and other features. Across from these houses is TJ's Used Furniture and More, a second-hand home-furnishings store in a high-ceilinged, late-19th century building.

3. Continue walking westward on West Washington and you'll come to Corderman's Hardware, 718 W. Washington St., one of the few old-style hardware stores left in Hagerstown.

4. Just ahead, turn left onto Elgin Boulevard and walk southward. On the right, you'll pass a row of new homes built by the city between 2002 and 2006 as part of Gateway Crossing, a neighborhood redevelopment effort. The Hagerstown Housing Authority built about 370 residential units, mostly duplexes, in a quasi-Victorian style. Across Elgin Boulevard from these houses is Elgin Station, which was built about the same time and contains the Boys and Girls Club.

Up ahead is a stoplight, with South Burhans Street on the left and Lanvale Street on the right. Here is one of those unusual intersections in which a street, in this case South Burhans, makes a 90-degree turn but retains its name.

Cross to the sidewalk on the east side of South Burhans, continue walking southward and walk under a railroad underpass. Here you'll see murals painted by Henri Verdel, Bill Masters and Bettina Messersmith on the concrete bridge - rose vines on retaining walls adjacent to the bridge and locomotive No. 1200 of Western Maryland Railway (WMRY) under the underpass itself. Why roses? They're for "Wild Mary," a reference to WMRY, painted on the overpass.

5. On the other side of the underpass, follow Burhans 50 yards uphill to the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum. The original Western Maryland Railway roundhouse is gone (though its half-round footprint can be seen near the museum in Google Maps, at Maps.Google.com), but the museum preserves the history of the WMRY. Thousands of West Enders worked for the railroad, especially after the WMRY moved its repair and maintenance shops to Hagerstown in 1906.

The museum is not fancy, but it's got plenty of local railroad photos, maps, posters and artifacts, plus two model train displays and historic railroad cars, and it appeals to adults and to children. Admission is $3.50; 50 cents for ages 4 through 12. There are bathrooms for patrons.

6. A block farther south is the Train Room, a model train store with two display rooms packed with vintage and antique model trains, accessories, mid-20th century toys and related items. Admission to the displays is $4.50; 50 cents for ages 3 through 12.

7. Across from the Train Room is Center Street. Take Center one block westward. In the middle of the block is Center Street Market, 401 Center St., a neighborhood deli that also offers a small selection of groceries.

Continue on Center to the next street, Ridge Avenue, and turn right. Now our walking tour heads north. On the right is the Ridge Avenue Playground, with play equipment and a small pavilion. At the end of the block, follow the sidewalk along the west side of Ridge Avenue, back under the decorated railroad overpass to South Burhans Boulevard.

8. Turn left onto Lanvale Street and walk past more of Gateway Crossing. Walk a block to Summer Street and turn right. You'll walk from newer housing to older housing as you stroll along Summer, a narrow, one-way street originally built before automobiles were invented.

At Washington Street, cross to the north side of the street, turn left and walk west. Check out the houses along the south side of West Washington Street. A row of brick duplexes in the 800 block of West Washington Street is particularly interesting, some with stone quoins (real stone; not the more common faux stone seen around town) at the corners of the walls. This is about the halfway point of our walk today.

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