Local developer considers purchasing former Wolfe's building in Williamsport

August 17, 2013|By DAN DEARTH |
  • The former Wolfe's on the Square building located at 1 West Potomac St. in Williamsport has been deemed not safe for human occupancy by Washington County's Division of Public Works.
By Yvette May / Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. — A local developer is considering whether to buy the historic former Wolfe’s on the Square building in downtown Williamsport.

Linda Ebersole, daughter of Don Bowman, owner of Bowman Development in Williamsport, said Wednesday during a meeting with Washington County liquor board officials that her father wants to buy the building, demolish it and build a liquor store in its place.

A good portion of the building that housed Wolfe’s on the Square at 1 W. Potomac St. was gutted by a fire on Feb. 4. Before the fire, Ebersole operated L & J Liquors in a section of the building that was less damaged by the blaze.

Ebersole told members of the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County that she wanted to reopen L & J Liquors, but that plan hit a snag because of insurance issues related to the condition of the fire-damaged building.

“Our landlord tried to get insurance for the building, and they said he could not purchase insurance for our portion of the building, because the other portion of the building is condemned,” Ebersole said.

A sign posted on the building by the county reads: “This structure is not safe for human occupancy.”

The situation with the insurance prompted her father to come up with an alternate plan, she said.

Bowman Development wants to purchase the Sheetz building on East Potomac Street in Williamsport and, after it closes, move L & J Liquors there on a temporary basis, according to Ebersole. Bowman then would purchase the Wolfe’s building, tear it down and build a new structure, she said.

When construction is finished, L & J Liquors would move back to the square, she said.

Bowman Development plans to make a presentation to the Williamsport officials next month, she said.

“We actually will do a formal presentation to the town of Williamsport, asking them if ... they’ll agree to this whole plan,” Ebersole said.

She said another Sheetz is to be built in Williamsport to replace the existing store when it closes.

Bowman said Friday that the plan “all depends on the agreement with the town.”

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said he and the Williamsport Town Council will listen to Bowman’s proposal next month.

He said the plan sounds similar to the revitalization effort renowned author Nora Roberts completed on the Town Square in Boonsboro, making it a vibrant part of the community.

McCleaf said he would support Bowman’s effort to replace the Wolfe’s building.

“Anything will look better than it looks now,” he said.

McCleaf said he wasn’t sure how some people with ties to historic preservation organizations might react when they hear about plans to raze the structure.

The Wolfe’s on the Square building dates to before the Civil War, Joan Knode, a councilwoman and local historian, said at the time of the February fire.

Over the centuries, it had been the Wabash Hotel and the Taylor Hotel. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stopped there during the Antietam campaign and tethered his horse, Traveler.

The building also housed a hardware store, a lunch counter, and a fishing and hunting shop, Knode said.

Jack Slick, owner of the Wolfe’s on the Square building, could not be reached for comment.

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