Sykesville hires help to keep its history alive Gatehouse, schoolroom to serve city as museums

September 02, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville has a new caretaker for its Gatehouse and a new administrator for an abandoned schoolhouse, two aging buildings being restored as town museums.

One of the century-old buildings will house the local historical collection. The other will be a reminder of a time when the one-room structure was the only school for black children in southern Carroll and western Howard counties.

Volunteer labor and about $37,000 in state grant money have helped both projects.

Volunteers under the direction of the Sykesville Historic District Commission have been renovating the Gatehouse, once the main entrance to Springfield Hospital Center, for nearly two years. The town entered into a long-term, $1-a-year lease with the state in 1994 and won a $5,000 restoration grant from the Maryland Historic Trust to begin work on the project.

The town historic commission hired Jim Purman, a retired counselor and avid historian, to paint the three-story building on Cooper Drive last winter. Research helped determine many of the original Victorian color-schemes, like the forest green walls in the foyer and the maroon trimmed with soft gray molding in the living and dining areas.

"They let me pick the upstairs colors, where my office and library will be," said Purman, who chose creamy white.

When the curator job became available, Purman, who has lived in or near the town for more than 30 years, sent in his resume.

"History has been a longtime interest of mine and the town really needs an archivist," Purman said. "I have come to know the Gatehouse intimately. It has a lot of charm."

At 71, he sees himself starting a new career, tending town archives and classifying the enormous collection.

"This is really part of the warp and weft of who I am. Collecting from the past and putting it together for today," Purman said.

Purman credits area historians, particularly Thelma Wimmer, with the foresight to save the collection. The town has hired Duane Doxzen as assistant curator for the Gatehouse. His tasks will in- clude additional research and procuring grant money.

The Gatehouse opens officially Sunday with a reception for about 150 people who have contributed to the project.

Window to the past

Town officials are uncertain when the clapboard schoolhouse will open, but now that Barbara Lilly is on board as administrator of nearly $32,000 in state restoration grants, they expect it to be soon.

"I will be bringing all the pieces together," said Lilly, who recently earned a degree in historic preservation. "I see the schoolhouse as the genesis of a community-based project, one that will become valuable to the community."

The building has changed little in 103 years. Lilly wants to tackle the exterior first, particularly the roof and windows -- work she expects to be completed by the end of this year.

The interior, she promised, "will tell the story of a structure that functionned as an African-American school." Many similar school buildings have been lost, she said.

"This is a classic structure which would not be here without the role of our African-American forefathers," she said. "We should save anything we can."

The building, constructed in 1894, probably sat idle for a few years while the community tried to hire teachers, Lilly said. Once it opened, it remained in use for nearly 50 years. She sees parallels between then and now.

"It has sat idle for a while, but in its second cycle it will again be useful to the community," she said.

Lilly will work closely with Councilman Eugene E. Johnson, whose older siblings attended the school.

"He is largely responsible for this building not coming down," Lilly said.

Johnson researched the building's history and found it to be the only remaining black schoolhouse in Carroll County.

He envisions a one-room classroom in the building that "will show my own children how their family came up."

Rena Hudson-Toland, town secretary, will assist Lilly on the project.

The town has budgeted $4,000 annually for each of the curator and administrator positions.

"We have hired people who are truly interested in these projects," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager. "Hopefully, they can create and mold these positions and possibly find more grant money for them."

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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