Kuethe Library Makes Room For The Past

Historical Society Needed A Home With More Space

October 28, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Mary Meyer won't hear ghosts anymore. And she won't have old newspapers filled with tales of Anne Arundel's past piled floor to ceiling in an old farmhouse.

And people who come to visit the Anne Arundel County Historical Society's library won't have to climb a narrow set of stairs or worry about bumping their head at the top.

Now, all the books and papers are neatly organized and cataloged.Researchers can move around and not bump into others. And there is table space -- lots of it.

Of course, visitors to the library won'tbe going to the Benson-Hammond House to look up old books anymore. Now they will go the the Kuethe Library in downtown Glen Burnie, whichtook in the society and genealogical research center.

"I will miss the Benson-Hammond House," said Meyer, the head librarian. "But this gives us a lot more room. The Historical Society is growing by leaps and bounds."

The society moved its collection from its cramped second-floor space at the Benson-Hammond House near Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the Glen Burnie location earlier this month. The old house will be maintained as the headquarters and a museum.

Along with the Historical Society, the genealogical center has moved into the Kuethe Library, giving people who wish to trace their roots more room to operate.

Wil Mumford, president of the Historical Society, said officials were worried that the Benson-Hammond House,which was built in the 1800s, wasn't sound enough to house the library. "We were afraid it was going to collapse," he said. "Now we don'thave to worry anymore."

Mumford said the Kuethe Foundation is leasing the building to the society for a nominal fee, basically whatever the group wishes to contribute. The society will pay for minor maintenance repairs and utilities.

Bill Kuethe, a great-grandson to William Kuethe, who built the library in 1934 and donated it to Glen Burnie, said he was happy the structure would again hold books. "We arevery pleased that the building will be used for such a useful purpose," he said.

The building housed a community library operated by volunteers until it became part of the county library system in 1957. But because of budget problems, the county was forced to close it andmove the books to the North County branch.

It took workers several months to pack up and move the Historical Society's collection, much of which was in boxes or simply piled on floors. Librarians had to sort through the stacks and organize the material, which is now neatly shelved in its new home.

Meyer said she found no surprises whilegoing through the collection. "I had a pretty good idea what was in there," she said.

But Meyer will miss the ghost, or whatever she heard one night while sleeping over on a cot in the Benson-Hammond House. She lives in Carroll County and sometimes got so absorbed in her work that she slept over.

One night, she says she was awakened by a music box playing downstairs. Shethought it was an item for sale inthe gift shop. "I asked if we sold one, and the lady said no," Meyersaid. "Yet I heard the music box just as plain as day. Everyone kidded me, saying, 'You have a ghost in the house.' We never found out what I heard."

But it wasn't apparitions that caused the Historical Society to leave, it was a need for space. And Betty DeKeyser, president of the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society, couldn't be happier.

"We have additional space to shelve our books," she said. "And people have additional space to do their research. In the Benson-Hammond House, if you sat down you were in the way of someone trying to get toa shelf."

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