Letter to the Editor - March 30

March 30, 2011

Downtown has been overtaken by events

To the editor:

I read with interest David Hanlin’s two articles on revitalizing downtown. I first visited Hagerstown in 1954. Downtown was thriving.

There were two major department stores there (J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward, as I recall). Other businesses were a major draw for shoppers also, such as a five and dime and a drugstore.

There were two banks and two savings and loans. There was no neighborhood branch banking then. State, county and city offices were all there. The entire Board of Education was housed on the second floor of the County Courthouse.

The Maryland Theatre showed movies — a major draw. Most Hagerstown residents lived close to downtown.

County residents had to go to the town center to do much of their business. There is probably more anecdotal evidence that I’m not aware of, but you get the picture.

When I came here to live in 1975, the department stores had gone out to the mall, and had taken downtown's major attraction for shoppers with them. The Board of Education moved to a big complex on the east side.  The Maryland Theatre doesn’t regularly show movies anymore.

There are drugstores in every neighborhood now. All that’s left are state, county and city offices, the courthouse, and the banks and S&Ls. Branch banking has taken away that draw. That doesn’t leave much to give people a reason to go downtown.

Do the residents of Smithsburg, Williamsport, Boonsboro, Clear Spring or Hancock really care where they do their shopping? I think they prefer going to the most convenient place nearest to them.

Downtown Hagerstown has been overtaken by events. Why should the city pay anyone $150,000, whether it be a bureaucracy or “the private sector,” to flog a dead horse?

John Cable

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