Walking tour to take town's history in stride Westminster group devised the attraction to promote merchants

April 26, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

No rain date is planned, they're serving free cider instead of pure corn whiskey, and organizers have high hopes for Westminster's first Business History Walking Tour tomorrow.

To promote Main Street merchants, Greater Westminster Development Corp. devised the attraction featuring historic buildings and businesses in the heart of town.

The self-guided tours run from at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., beginning at the Historical Society of Carroll County at 210 E. Main St. -- the first of 12 buildings featured on the walk.

"This is a first-time event. We thought this was a great way to show not only the buildings, but the businesses in downtown Westminster," said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of the not-for-profit corporation.

The second stop on the tour will be 175 E. Main St., the 90-year-old Mathias Monuments, which was owned by Mr. Mathias' family until 1988. Stone lettering will be demonstrated at the rear of the business.

Next is Union National Bank, dating from 1812, which will feature guides in early 1800s clothing pointing out a 130-year-old bank vault, old teller equipment and other memorabilia, and a mural of Carroll County with street scenes of early Westminster.

Although residents of Westminster once received a free drink of corn whiskey upon entering the bank, cider will be the 1996 offering.

Frequent users of Westminster post office can view photographs of its 1932-1934 construction and a turn-of-the-century horse-drawn mail wagon that once served the area.

T. W. Mather and Sons department store, which was named the business landmark of the year by the development corporation, will celebrate its 100th anniversary at its 31 E. Main St. location next year. But the store known for its personal touch was founded earlier at West Main and John streets.

The next two stops are the Winchester Exchange building at 15 E. Main St., which houses retail and professional tenants, and Sam's Bagels in the historic Albion Hotel building where the railroad tracks cross Main Street.

Just across the tracks at 4 W. Main St. is Johansson's Dining House, in a remodeled 83-year-old building still known for the G. C. Murphy store that operated there for decades until 1980.

White's Bicycles is in the 100-year-old Babylon building, a frequently photographed landmark at 10 W. Main St. with an upper facade featuring two round arches.

The 53-year-old former J. C. Penney Co. Inc. store at 56 W. Main St. now is Winchester West, renovated for retail and office space after a lull when the store closed in 1990.

The tour loops back at the W. H. Davis building, which was a downtown Buick dealership from 1923 until 1982 and now houses Ain't That a Frame antique and framing business at 31 W. Main St.

The last stop is the 100-year-old Westminster firehouse, with a 92-foot-tall clock tower that is a Main Street landmark. Its tour will feature firetrucks, a video and its museum of fire-fighting history.

"We're encouraging families to come," Mr. Mathias said. "We think the children will especially enjoy the tours of the firehouse and the post office."

Planning the event took eight months and "a lot of leg work," Mr. Mathias said, but the group enjoyed poring over old photographs and learning the histories of downtown buildings.

The tour, including a guidebook, costs $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens, with children under age 12 free.

"We know some people will start on time and roll through all 12 stops," Mr. Mathias said. "It's what you want to do."

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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