Save Elmer Wolfe School

January 10, 1995

If the Maryland Historical Trust determines that the Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge has little historical significance and can be razed, some thought should be given to preserving the 64-year-old structure. Even as a run-of-the-mill building, the school is an important piece of the town's heritage.

First opened in 1931, the building had additions built in 1955 and 1969, but it has been overcrowded and inaccessible to handicapped students. Last fall, after much study, the Carroll County Board of Education determined that renovation is impractical and that a new school must be built.

The brick and limestone building may not have the interesting appearance of the Western Maryland Railroad station in Union Bridge or the historical significance of the original county courthouse in Westminster, but many residents have learned in its classrooms.

Its continued presence will keep successive generations of Carroll countians connected to their surroundings and their history.

As a rural county, it is not Carroll's man-made features but rather its hills, streams and large trees that have served as community landmarks. Many of these natural features are disappearing under the onslaught of bulldozers and earth movers. The result can be a rootlessness that afflicts many other fast-growing suburbs. Preserving older buildings helps maintain a community's identity and can be an effective antidote to suburban anomie.

Moreover, the trend in historic preservation is to focus not solely on the high-profile buildings of national heroes and architectural significance. The current thinking is that to understand history, we must preserve buildings that defined our communities as they developed.

Architectural and engineering surveys have determined that the Carroll County school system would be better off building anew rather than renovating Elmer Wolfe. Yet the building could be converted to other uses such as a senior center, a day care center or a library. By preserving this building, future generations of Union Bridge residents won't have to travel to a museum or an historic theme park to see what an old school building looked like, or to discover a broader understanding of the place they call home.

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