A point of departure for the Hampstead station Rail company proposes temporary lease to help preserve historic depot

July 07, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Hampstead may soon be able to take possession of its abandoned train station if town officials accept an offer by CSX Transportation Inc. to lease the depot until a sales agreement is approved.

The CSX proposal, under review by the town attorney, comes amid efforts by Hampstead resident Ken Hankins to organize a group of volunteers committed to preserving the Gill Avenue station.

Hampstead Councilman Wayne Thomas announced the pending deal with CSX last week at the first meeting of "Friends of the Train Station," attended by about 10 people. He said town officials have been negotiating with CSX for over a year in an effort to buy the station.

"They've [CSX] offered to lease the station to Hampstead for three months in anticipation that in three months we'll be able to close the deal," Thomas said.

The proposed lease agreement requires the town to erect a fence around the train station and assume liability for the property. Thomas said the amount of the lease and station sales price have not been decided.

Hankins said he was encouraged by the CSX deal, and is eager to recruit volunteers to begin cleaning up the train station site.

But Thomas said that work can't begin on the site until the Town Council approves the lease and obtains insurance for the property.

"Someone needs to do something soon and show some interest or it's going to go," said Hankins, a teacher and potter who lives just outside town.

Built in 1912, the train station has played a central role in Hampstead's history. For years, farmers made the trip to the depot to load dairy and grain products on trains headed for Baltimore.

"It's kind of a symbol of what Carroll County was like when it was the breadbasket of Baltimore City," Hankins said.

The once-busy station is now a decaying shell of a building, with a leaky roof, rotting floor and peeling paint.

"I think a lot of people feel passionate about seeing it preserved," Hankins said.

He envisions the restored station as a town museum or a local meeting place.

At last week's meeting, he announced that volunteers were needed for everything from fund raising to landscaping. He also said he hopes that the town will allocate money to replace the roof since it's such a big job.

Town Manager Neil Ridgely said Hampstead is not prepared to commit money to the train station restoration at this time.

However, the town does plan to sell baseball hats bearing the train station logo to raise money for the project.

Hankins plans to look into applying for state and federal historic preservation grants to help pay for repairs to the station. In the meantime he's trying to sustain community interest in the train station project. He'd like to start by having a work day to begin clearing out the depot property.

"People can bring their weed-whackers and saws and rakes and maybe we can get a Dumpster to haul the stuff away," Hankins said.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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