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Commissioners recognize preservation efforts in Washington County

Architect, city planning director, development review planner/zoning administrator and museum honored

May 22, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Commissioner President Terry Baker, middle, gives Kathleen Maher, left, and Stephen Bockmiller, right, the Washington County Board of Commissioners' Annual John Frye Historic Preservation Award at a Tuesday ceremony and luncheon.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

Three people and a museum were recognized Tuesday for their preservation efforts in Washington County.

“These are unique projects and unique people,” said Betty Shank, chairwoman of the Washington County Historical Advisory Committee. “But the commonality is their dedication to preservation,.”

Architect Kurt Cushwa, city Planning Director Kathleen Maher and Development Review Planner/Zoning Administrator Stephen Bockmiller were honored, along with the Model Railroad Museum at Antietam.

The awards, which were given out at the Washington County Board of Commissioners’ Annual John Frye Historic Preservation Award Ceremony and Luncheon, are for preserving and protecting the history of the county through historic rehabilitation, restoration and “infill,” letters and advocacy.

The ceremony was hosted by the historical committee in the dining room of the Academy Theater in Hagerstown. Members of the committee and the commissioners, along with city Mayor Robert Bruchey, attended.

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“People here are from across Washington County that belong to historical societies,” Shank said. “They have moved mountains to preserve things.”

A new award, the Urban Infill Award to honor a new structure designed to go with existing architecture in an area, was added this year.

Cushwa received it for his investment in The Clock Building on the northeast corner of Hagerstown’s Public Square that holds the original 18th century town clock. It replaced another building that had been torn down years before.

“It was a hole in the square, and it looked like there was a missing building,” Cushwa said. “The building fits into the corner very well.”

Cushwa, 63, is an architect who said he moved to the area in the mid-1970s. He is a senior partner with Cushwa and Stouffer Architects and has been involved with rehabilitating and preserving buildings in the area, according to an emailed release.

He said that designing The Clock Building was challenging because it needed to look like it belonged.

“The hole was so small that a one-story building would have looked out of place,” he said. “It needed a stairway and an elevator.”

The Hagerstown Model Railroad Museum at Antietam received the Preservation and Restoration Award for its work on the historic Antietam Railroad Station in Sharpsburg.

“We took a station destined to be torn down and saved it,” said Frank Schaller, the museum’s president. “All of us involved in saving it love railroads.”

In 1995, the museum began the restoration of the railroad station, where thousands of Civil War veterans and their families had arrived by train to visit Antietam National Battlefield for decades after the war, according to the release.

Restoration involved improving the roof, walls, floors, heating, and plumbing plus the addition of restrooms and walkways. The museum invested $150,000 of its own money.

“We’ve put quite a bit in it,” said Schaller, 67. “It has brought in a lot of tourism. People come by just to see this.”

Maher, 49, and Bockmiller, 46, received Historic Advocacy Awards for winning a grant that allowed them to research and place 49 plaques from 2008 to 2012 throughout Hagerstown, marking sites important to Civil War History, the release said.

“Hagerstown’s Civil War history has been overlooked because the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of South Mountain are so close,” said Bockmiller, who lives near Waynesboro and has been Hagerstown’s development review planner and zoning administrator since 2003. “People were already in the area visiting Civil War sites, and it was important to get this out as part of an effort to revitalize downtown and draw in tourism.”

Maher also said that the city can draw in more tourists with its history.

“It’s exciting because we have rich history here,” she said. “The plaques are important because when tourists come to the area, we have history to share.”

It was the second year an advocacy award was given and the second year a luncheon was held for the awards, Shank said.

The awards, named for local historian John Frye, have been given out since 1978. The historical committee  accepts and reviews the nominations and submits them to the commissioners.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored the ceremony.

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