Renovation of Westminster City Hall eases access for the disabled

June 13, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Anyone who has broken a leg realizes how important it is "to be able to enter a building unassisted," Daniel Schaeffer, who is confined to a wheelchair, told a crowd Saturday at the dedication of Westminster's refurbished City Hall.

Mr. Schaeffer, a Western Maryland College senior who rolled into the building unassisted, was explaining what the $250,000 renovation project means to him and other disabled people.

"Lack of access for people with disabilities is a type of discrimination," said Mr. Schaeffer, who has muscular dystrophy.

It's satisfying to see those barriers fall, he said.

The City Hall work included installing an elevator, a disabled-accessible entrance and council chamber sound system to aid hearing-impaired people. In addition, the council chamber was moved from the second to the first floor and restored with furnishings resembling those of the 19th century.

The 152-year-old building originally was Emerald Hill, the home of Col. John K. Longwell. It later was occupied by the family of prominent local businessman George W. Albaugh. The Westminster council bought it in 1942 for the local government seat.

The Longwell family had one of the most elegant homes in Carroll County, said Jay A. Graybeal, director of the Carroll County Historical Society. When the contents of Emerald Hill were sold at auction after the death of Colonel Longwell's daughter Sallie in 1909, the furnishings included oil paintings; a bronze statue of Diana (goddess of the moon and the hunt); volumes of Shakespeare, Byron and Tennyson; blue Canton ware dinner services; and silver serving pieces.

The dedication ceremony Saturday brought together elected officials, former officials, city employees and community residents.

City street crew members Brian Adams and Chuck Yingling were on the job at 6 a.m. Saturday to sweep Emerald Hill Lane, the renamed City Hall Drive. Wayne Reifsnider, Joe McKinney and Donald Myers arrived two hours later to set up tables for the food and chairs for the ceremony.

City employees Denise Rush, Carolyn Griffin, Marianne Sheehan and Joan Snyder missed the round of applause they received from the crowd. They were running back and forth to fill the tables with sandwiches, fresh fruit and a hot crab dip that Mrs. Rush and Mrs. Sheehan made.

Westminster artist Coni Humphrey contributed a sketch of Emerald Hill for the program and Charles Clark, who sings with the local gospel groups Soul Pleasers and the Strawbridge Ensemble, provided a cappella music.

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