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Happy birthday, Hagerstown: Hub City celebrating 250th anniversary

September 22, 2012|By CHRIS COPLEY | chrisc@herald-mail.com
  • Traffic heads south on Potomac Street on the square in downtown Hagerstown. A street festival to celebrate Hagerstown's 250th anniversary is from 10 a.m. to 4pm. Saturday, Sept. 29.
File photo

Two hundred fifty years ago, in 1762, Jonathan Hager founded a community near the stone house he built for his future wife, Elizabeth. He named the new town Elizabethtown after her.

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the city's founding, the City of Hagerstown will host a street festival Saturday, Sept. 29. The first blocks of North and South Potomac street and East and West Washington street will be closed off for vendors, local entertainers and other activities.

Hager died in 1775, but his local leadership and political connections helped develop communities west of South Mountain, which split off from Frederick County to form a new county in 1776. Elizabethtown became the new county's seat of government.

That town was known colloquially by residents and state politicians as Hager's Town, after Jonathan Hager himself. Eventually, in 1813, the city council officially approved changing the name to Hagerstown.

Over the years, the tides of time washed over Hagerstown, bringing war and peace, immigrants, stagecoach routes, railroad stations, more war, the industrial revolution, floods, more immigrants, the Great Depression, aviation links, more immigrants, interstate highways, the baby boom, the rise and fall of downtown businesses, the development of suburbs, the establishment of call centers and warehouses, and much more.

Now, many Hagerstonians look around their hometown and say, "Eh. There's nothing here to celebrate." But look again. It's not hard to find good things about this city.

Here is a list of some good things about Hagerstown, arranged in no particular order, put together by Herald-Mail employees and friends. You'll find some current delights, some past glories, some things to see, some things to do, all within the Hagerstown city limits. It's certainly not a complete list, but it's a start.

Did we miss good things you know of? Add to our list in the comments section at the bottom of the story on our website.

It just shows us that with 250 years of history and accomplishments, there is a lot to celebrate.


Exciting, noteworthy or unusual things to celebrate about Hagerstown:

  • Krumpe's Do-Nuts — Not only is the idea of getting a freshly baked donut at 1 a.m. a scrumptious delight, but they do good things for the community like the 5K for the Wounded Warrior project.
  • The garden and fountain at Pangborn Park
  • Little Heiskel, the iron weathervane atop City Hall and symbol of Hagerstown. Representations of Little Heiskel are found embedded in the sidewalk around downtown.
  •  City Park
  • Washington County Free Library
  • The Dagmar Hotel
  • The large, luxurious Dagmar automobile, produced in 1920s by the M.P. Moller Co.
  • The former YMCA on North Potomac Street
  • Self-taught chef Justin Warner, who won the 2012 round of "The Next Food Network Star."
  • William Preston Lane, who served as governor of Maryland from 1947 to 1951. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is named after him.
  • Professional baseball player Leo Burke, who played for the Baltimore Orioles and three other major league teams in the late 1950s and early '60s.
  • Justin Vivian Bond, an actor and singer-songwriter, won an Obie Award in 2001 and was nominated for a Tony Award in 2007.
  • Former downtown business Leiter Brothers Department Store
  • Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars, a Hagerstown team, earned a spot in the Little League World Series in 2008
  • Getting ice cream at Superior Dairy in the South End
  • Ordering a snowcone with seafoam on top at any local snowcone stand.
  • Small neighborhood restaurant's like Corsi's Restaurant, which is now called Charley's Restaurant
  •  The Crawford Bicycle, produced at the turn of the 20th century in a large brick plant on Pope Avenue in the South End
  • North High and South High football games
  • Pope-Tribune automobiles, built from 1904 to 1908 in the former Crawford Bicycle plant
  • The Alsatia Club's Mummers Parade, one of the largest nighttime parades on the East Coast
  • The cemetery behind Zion Reformed United Church of Christ, where Hagerstown founder Jonathan Hager is buried
  • The display of works collected by American Impressionist painter William H. Singer, who in 1929 founded Washington County Museum of Fine Arts with his wife, Hagerstown native Anna Brugh Singer. The museum is in City Park.
  • The sparkly streets in the downtown Arts and Entertainment District
  • The Peter Buys Band Shell in City Park, built in 1960. Buys, whose last name is pronounced "Bees," was a colleague of John Phillips Sousa and also was a longtime director of the Hagerstown Municipal Band.
  • Seeing "The Nutcracker" at Christmas at The Maryland Theatre on South Potomac Street
  • Steamers
  • Starland Skating Rink in the East End
  • Showcase of Bands at South Hagerstown High School stadium
  • Sitting on your stoop to talk to your neighbors
  • Cruising the Dual
  • City Farmers Market
  • Municipal Stadium was home to eight teams —Blues, Terriers, Champs, Hubs, Owls, Braves, Packets and Suns. Willie Mays got his start in professional baseball when his team played the Braves in 1950.
  •  Scuffy Duck, the Suns mascot
  • Thirty years ago, Hagerstown was Maryland's second-largest municipality.
  • Getting pizza at Rocky's on the Square (now relocated across the street on North Potomac Street
  •  The bollards installed on Public Square in 1975 and removed in 1988
  • Horse racing at Hagers-town Fairgrounds a century ago
  • Groups such as The Beach Boys and New Kids on the Block performing at Fairgrounds Park
  • Tiffany-stained glass windows at St. John's Lutheran Church on South Potomac Street
  • University System of Maryland — Hagerstown
  • Hagerstown Municipal Band concerts at the City Park band shell on Sunday nights in the summer
  • Neighborhood grocery stores like Gordon's Grocery, Locust Point and Corsi's. 
  • Family fun at Art in the Park at Doubs Woods Park
  • The Herald-Mail has published in Hagerstown for 185 years.
  • Hoffman's sausage and pon haus
  • Hartel's Subs
  • Rose Hill Cemetery's water tower, which was used by the Wroe family before the Civil War when the land was their farm
  • Celebrating the end of Ramadan at the Islamic Center of Western Maryland, built in 1994
  • The old-fashioned, free-standing clock in front of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers' shop on Public Square. R. Bruce Carson is celebrating 110 years in business this year.
  • The Washington County Historical Society research library
  • The Western Maryland Historical Library, housed in Washington County Free Library
  • Edmund McIlhenny, developer of Tabasco Sauce, was born in the Eagle Hotel on Public Square. The former hotel has been divided and is now home to several businesses.
  • A lemon variety, the Ponderosa, was first discovered growing at the home of George Bowman in Hagerstown in the 1880s; it was sold in catalogs at the turn of the 20th century
  • Hagerstown Hispanic Festival, held annually in Fairgrounds Park
  • Euge Groove, born Steven Eugene Grove, grew up in Hagerstown. He is a smooth jazz saxophonist with a career as a performer and studio musician.
  •  The Alms House on Locust Street was built in 1799 and is the oldest surviving alms house built for that purpose in Maryland.
  •  Western Maryland Blues Fest brings dozens of professional musicians and tens of thousands of blues fans to Hagerstown over three days
  • Augustoberfest, celebrating Hagerstown's German origins and heritage
  • The annual Kris Kringle Craft Show
  • Hagerstown Greens at Hamilton Run Golf Course
  • The Maryland Symphony Orchestra
  • The Potomac Playmakers community theater
  • Washington County Playhouse & Dinner Theater
  • The University System of Maryland-Hagerstown campus in the former Baldwin House
  • Seven railroad lines intersect in Hagerstown giving the town its nickname of "Hub City."
  • Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum
  • The M.P. Moller Organ Co. on Prospect Street, once the world's largest pipe organ maker, made custom-designed organs for hundreds of churches and other institutions across the United States, including the chapel of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. The company was founded by Mathias Peter Moller, a Danish immigrant.
  • The House of Pain Wrestling Federation is headquartered near the intersection of Cannon Avenue and East Franklin Street
  • The 189-year-old Funkstown Turnpike Bridge linking Hagerstown and Funkstown
  • Four murals in downtown Hagerstown — the giant mural (now removed) on the exterior of Elizabeth Hager Center showing people and places across Hagerstown's history; the mural in the Elizabeth Hager Center foyer showing Public Square as it appeared two centuries ago; the mural on West Franklin Street depicting downtown Wesel, Germany, Hagerstown's sister city; and the newest downtown mural, a scene of bicycles across history, painted by students with Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and installed on the exterior wall of the city parking garage on North Potomac Street.
  • "Little Heiskell," a 1928 children's book by Isabelle Hurlbutt, illustrated by Alida Conover featuring Hagerstown scenes such as the City Farmers Market
  • Hub City Cycles on North Prospect Street
  • William Thomas Hamilton served as U.S. senator from Maryland from 1869 to 1875 and as Maryland governor from 1880 to 1884. He practiced law in Hagers-town and lived in Oak Hill, the large white mansion still standing in the 800 block of The Terrace.
  • The 200-year-old millstones set into the sidewalk around Park Circle
  • The 19th-century "painted ladies" — highly decorated Victorian-style homes on Prospect Avenue between West Washington Street and Walnut Street
  • The Dry Bridge that carries Prospect Avenue over Antietam Street
  • The Spanish-American War monument, with the 250-year-old French cannon captured during the American assault on Havana, Cuba
  • National Pike Festival and wagon train, in which horse-drawn covered wagons rumble through town on the National Road and make camp at City Park. Live music and living historians tell about the role of the National Road in developing the United States.
  • Tiny Bloom Park, at the corner of North Potomac Street and East North Avenue, which contains monuments to veterans of the Spanish-American War and military actions in the Philippines and China and to Disabled American Veterans
  • The annual Greens Show at Miller House, the museum of Washington County Historical Society
  • Receptions at show openings at Washington County Arts Council
  • Just Lookin' Gallery on Summit Avenue, which displays art by black and African artists
  • Watching the action at Four States Livestock Sales, a farm livestock auction house on East First Street in Hagerstown
  • Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, with locomotives, cabooses and other train cars outside, and model trains and memorabilia inside
  • The old Washington County jail and sheriff's quarters were built from 1818 to 1826 as a log building at the corner of North Jonathan Street and Church Street. In 1857, a fire completely destroyed the jail but left the sheriff's residence standing. The jail was rebuilt in 1888, at which time the second floor was added.
  • A 1913 black granite monument at Fairgrounds Park honors John L. Cost, under whose leadership in the early 20th century, the Great Hagerstown Fair became the world's largest poultry exhibition
  • Medal of Honor Triangle, a small park honoring William O. Wilson, a buffalo soldier from Hagerstown who earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890
  • Western Maryland Railway Steam Locomotive No. 202, on display at Hagers-town Railroad Museum in City Park
  • Washington Square, a triangle-shaped street intersection in the West End where Washington Avenue, West Washington Street and West Antietam Street meet
  • The West End's Church Street, which is a wide residential street at its western end, but, heading east, narrows to an old-fashioned village street lined with small townhouses.
  • John Gruber opened a print shop on South Potomac Street, the site now used as the courtyard in front of the Maryland Theatre. Gruber printed the first edition of The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanac in 1795. The 217-year-old Almanac remains the second-oldest almanac in active circulation.
  • The Oak Hill district in the North End was designed a century ago by Clara Jenness Hamilton, widow of Gov. William T. Hamilton, in keeping with the then-progressive trend in healthful, green, urban design.
  • The Doleman Black History Museum, which is raising funds to build a facility for its extensive collection
  • Wheaton Park, which features a hexagonal gazebo moved from City Park where it served as the bandstand
  • Asbury United Methodist Church, the oldest black Methodist church in Hagerstown; the congregation was formed in 1818; the existing building on Jonathan Street was built in 1879
  • Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex on Security Boulevard
  •  Traffic circles, including Park Circle at the entrance of City Park and four circles in the north end.
  • Hagerstown Police Department on Burhans Boulevard was originally a railroad station
  • Hagerstown Choral Arts concerts
  • The soda fountains and lunch counters at Newberry's, McCrory's and People's drug stores
  • Hanging out at Burger Chef at Virginia and Pennsylvania avenue locations
  • Catching the 25 cent showing of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" at Henry's Theatre on South Potomac Street, and then staying and watching it again.. 



If you go ...

WHAT: Hagerstown's 250th anniversary street festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

WHERE: Public Square and the 100 blocks of North and South Potomac streets and East and West Washington streets in downtown Hagerstown

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: Call 301-739-8577, ext. 116

MORE: Live music, dance and other entertainment on two stages, Faire Off the Square, hayrides to City Park and activities in four themes — Tomorrow, History, Today and Transportation.

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