Advertisement

The Really Really Free Market evicted from Shepherd University's McMurran Hall wall

April 21, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Robbie Glenn, organizer of the Really Really Free Market, sits on the wall where the market was held one weekend a month for the last five summers in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
By Richard F. Belisle/Herald-Mail Reporter

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — The Really Really Free Market, a public exchange of unwanted stuff, has occupied the wall in front of Shepherd University’s McMurran Hall in downtown Shepherdstown one weekend a month for the last five summers.

It was a popular greeting spot, a place where the discards of daily living are dropped off to be taken to another home to be reused, reread or reworn.

It was all of those things and more until earlier this month, when Shepherd University officials told the free market organizers that they could no longer set it up on the wall.

The university, in a terse eviction notice, said, “Shepherd University is applying its facilities usage policy in a uniform manner. The use of the grounds of historic McMurran Hall by the Really Really Free Market is not in keeping with its institutional polices for use (of) the facility.”

McMurran Hall was built at the end of the Civil War, briefly served as the Jefferson County Courthouse, and in 1872 became then-Shepherd College’s first classroom and administrative building.

The building was eventually turned over to a three-member board of trustees to “manage it in the public interest,” said Trustee Mike Taylor.

John E. Stealey and William Knode are the board’s other members.

The university leases the building from the trustees and maintains it.

“They never asked permission,” Taylor said of the free market organizers. “They just took over the wall. It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not the right place for it. We’ve been listening to complaints for two years.”

The market was started in 2007 by Robbie Glenn and three friends. Glenn, 24, a Shepherd student, lives at 206 S. King St.

Glenn said he learned that the market had to close at a meeting with Shepherd Chief of Staff Shelli Dronsfield and Alan Purdue, the university’s lawyer.

He said he was told that he failed to ask for permission to start the market in the first place, that the university has received numerous complaints from residents and businesses, and that the market was not sanctioned by any student organization.

Glenn said petitions, in print form and online, have been circulating in town protesting the university’s decision. He said he doesn’t know whether to send the petitions to the trustees or the university.

“I just want people to know that the Really Really Free Market won’t end just because the university told us ‘no,’” he said. “Because it was free, it was a place where people interacted with each other, a place where they could recycle what they no longer needed.”

“It’s bureaucracy out of control,” said longtime resident Joe Matthews. “Why now? For five years the market never bothered anybody.”

“I’m sorry to see it close,” said Kendra Adkins, manager at Four Seasons Books on West German Street. “It’s a wonderful aspect of this community where many people promote sustainability. The Really Really Free Market put into practice what people talk about.”

“It’s not on town property, so the town doesn’t have a dog in this fight,” said Town Recorder Lori Robertson. “I like the idea of the market and would like to help them find another place for it.”

“This is a good thing for the community,” said Joe Merz, a Shepherd University faculty member. “It gets young people involved. The university should reconsider.”

“It’s a great idea, but unfortunately it’s unsightly and not well managed about what people can put there,” said Pam Berry, owner of the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery.

Roxanne Shields, owner of Shepherdstown Paint and Art across German Street from the wall, has mixed feelings about the market.

“It would be better somewhere else, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. I can take it or leave it. I picked up a rabbit cage once and I’ve left things, too,” she said.

“It really isn’t hurting anyone and it benefits the community,” said Annette Rakes of Shepherdstown.

“I’m not for it,” said Erwin Assam, owner of the Bavarian Inn. “It’s got to the point where everybody brings what they want to get rid of. It’s not good for tourism and it’s not a good thing for people to see.”

“I’m pretty neutral about it,” said Jenny Haines, owner of the Now and Then Shop on German Street.

“I never minded the market. They always cleaned it up afterward,” she said. “I’ve dropped things off there. It’s a positive thing. I’m not sure they’ve been given a fair shake.”

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|