Hampstead agrees to buy train depot from CSX Price set at $7,500

environmental study next

February 26, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Hampstead officials have agreed to buy the abandoned historic train depot that graces the town seal, pending a routine environmental study.

Mayor Christopher Nevin and CSX Transportation, which owns the depot, have negotiated a purchase price of $7,500, which was approved Feb. 11 by the Town Council.

The sale comes with two conditions:

The town wants to conduct an environmental study for possibly dangerous contaminants -- a standard condition in such sales, Nevin said.

CSX wants the town to build a tall safety fence between the depot and the tracks.

The town has hired a firm to conduct the study for $1,700. Nevin said the study should be completed in about three weeks.

"I'm very glad to see this," said Neil Ridgely, town manager.

"We have a good chance to roll up our sleeves and go after it now," he said.

Town residents are lining up committees to find grants, raise money and plan the restoration, Ridgely said.

Possible uses for the building include a town museum and a meeting place for Scouts and other community groups, Ridgely said.

Union Bridge turned its depot into a museum. The old Sykesville depot is Baldwin's Restaurant. The Westminster and Mount Airy depots are stores.

For several years, town residents -- including former Councilwoman Jacqueline Hyatt and teacher and potter Kenneth Hankins -- have tried to launch a renovation and preservation of the depot. They determined that the town would have to own the building before the project could qualify for preservation grants.

CSX was reluctant to sell, mainly because of concern over safety. The depot is close to the tracks, where two freight trains pass twice a day. In earlier talks, the company wanted the depot moved at least 15 feet from the tracks.

CSX officials could not be reached for comment.

The town and railroad have been negotiating since last summer. The final price is half what the company originally asked, Nevin said.

"We're real pleased if we can pull this off," Nevin said, noting that the sale is contingent on whether the environmental study shows the property is relatively clean of contaminants.

But even if the soil and property are clean of contaminants, the site is still a mess. The depot roof is full of holes, the water-damaged floor could fall any time and the paint has flaked off the weathered wood.

Nevin said several volunteers are willing to direct the restoration and find money to pay for it. The sale could be final in the spring, he said.

"I think what we'd like to do is start with a cleanup, outside and inside the building," Ridgely said.

He said the roof probably will have to be replaced. He has investigated replacing it with slate, or artificial slate, which would save money. The rafters and floor need work, too.

The depot was built about 1899. No one knows how long the building has been vacant, but it was leased for years as storage space by building contractors.

It has been decades since passenger trains stopped in Hampstead. The depot was once a place where farmers came to send their produce and milk to Baltimore, and some people commuted to the city on the train.

"It's our link to the past," Nevin said. "It was at the center of town, and it's an important part of our history."

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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