Roger Fairbourn appreciates history

April 14, 2012|By SHADAE PAUL | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Roger Fairbourn is president of the Washington County Historical Society board of directors. He has been a member for five years and says he enjoys learning about local buildings.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Appreciating the history of Washington County is more than a passing hobby for some. It is a passion.

Roger Fairbourn, 52, shares his passion for the architecture and historic landmarks of Washington County with the community while serving as the president of the Board of Directors at the Washington County Historical Society.

Fairbourn's interest in the history of the county began at a young age. As a child growing up in Hagers-town, he said his parents always inspired him to be involved. He soon developed an appreciation for architecture and realized the stunning qualities of the buildings around him.

That love of buildings followed him into his career as real estate broker and owner of Fairbourn Real Estate.

But five years ago, Fairbourn was invited by his longtime friends Bill and Deanna Soulis to volunteer as a member of the board of the Historical Society.

"They realized my appreciation for history and architecture and thought I would be a good fit," Fairbourn said.

He progressed from being a board member to being the vice president to his current position as president of the board. This year is the first year of his two-year term as president.

"Any time you take a position on the board you have a responsibility to the organization itself to operate it in a straightforward forthright manner, but also to organize it," Fairbourn said. "This is a constant process that is always changing by taking in new ideas."

To ensure the historical society is as successful as possible, Fairbourn works closely with each member of the 16-person board.

"There is a lot of teamwork. It's a very cohesive (group)," he said. "There are a lot of people who bring a great array of ability to the board. One of the things as a volunteer that I've always enjoyed is that there are opportunities to establish relationships with people and to learn from people."

Volunteers also play an important role assisting Fairbourn and the board during functions. They range from high school kids to people who are in their 80s.

In 2011, the historical society celebrated its 100th anniversary. Throughout the years, the organization has been instrumental in a number of projects related to preservation of the history of Washington County.

"This county has some very unique aspects to its history and the historical society has been instrumental in preserving those aspects," Fairbourn said. "The historical society has extensive genealogical records and documents dealing with the development and growth of Washington County. It plays a pivotal role in preserving all of that."

One of his favorite projects was the restoration of Miller House on West Washington Street. Originally built in 1825, he has been working to make the building more accessible to the public.

"It's a remarkable mansion that looks like a regular townhouse when you drive past but it's enormous," he said. "Over the course of the past couple of years we've been working on it and you can just see the house become re-energized and come to life. It's a lot of fun."

In addition to renovations, the historical society has assisted in organizing annual public events for fundraising such as the Tour of Churches, the Girls Tea in the Garden and the Mad Hatter's Ball, on Saturday, April 14.

"We're a fun-loving crowd. We have a good time with one another and at our functions. You never come away from the interaction with the historical society where you don't learn something cool about the history of Washington County," Fairbourn said.

Although he is the president of the board of directors, Fairbourn always takes a hands-on approach to every project. He can go from wearing a tux at the Girls Tea to washing dishes afterward.

"In spite of the fact that he is a very busy man, he makes certain the Historical Society is on his radar every week," said Linda Irvin-Craig, executive director of the Historical Society. "He is always well prepared and I am very pleased with the work he has done."

In the future, Fairbourn hopes to continue with fundraising efforts and planning new activities that are in development so the historical society can look forward to celebrating another 100 years.

"It's a great organization that's got huge history and I want to make sure it's got a great future," Fairbourn said.

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