City, CSX to settle depot purchase Town plans to restore dilapidated station as possible tourist center

December 24, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

After months of negotiations, Hampstead and CSX Transportation Inc. are scheduled to settle on the town's purchase of the railroad's abandoned train station on Gill Avenue next week.

Pending review by the CSX legal department, the deed to the property will be transferred to the town, said Kevin Hurley, director of CSX Real Property in Baltimore.

Once the sale is final, the volunteer group that formed last year to restore the historic depot can begin work on the rapidly deteriorating structure.

"I couldn't be happier," said Hampstead Councilman Wayne H. Thomas, who pushed for the town to buy the 85-year-old station. "We've been working for a year and a half to make this happen. Now the real work begins."

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

PTC Trains haven't stopped at the station for years, although a freight train goes by every morning and afternoon.

The depot had been leased for storage to builders and the town until the deterioration became too severe. Today the structure -- which is featured in the town logo -- is a decaying shell with a leaky roof, rotting floors and peeling paint.

In 1996, Thomas circulated a petition to gauge community interest in the station restoration. He gathered 2,500 signatures.

Potential uses for the renovated station include a museum, a visitor center and a gift shop.

In an agreement approved by the Town Council in August, Hampstead agreed to pay $7,000 for the station. The deal requires the town to erect a fence around the property and includes a provision stating that if 50 percent of the building should be destroyed, ownership would revert to CSX because of liability concerns.

The settlement was delayed because CSX requested some changes in the placement of the fence and access to the building, Thomas said.

A group organized by Hampstead resident Ken Hankins has been meeting for a year to discuss fund raising and to explore possible historic preservation grants for the project. Thomas estimated restoration costs at $110,000.

Although the project has committed volunteers, the group is short on cash. Thomas said he has completed the paperwork for the group to receive nonprofit tax designation, but doesn't have the $450 application fee.

Still, he is optimistic that the restoration will be a success.

"One of the reasons people probably haven't donated is the town hasn't taken possession of the property," Thomas said. "Once the town actually owns it, people can start to believe it's going to happen."

Thomas says he hopes the volunteer group can get started on the restoration project next month.

"The roof obviously needs to have some work done in a hurry," he said. "It's gotten a lot worse over the past year."

Donations to the train station restoration can be sent to: The Hampstead Train Station Committee, P.O. Box 727, Hampstead 21074.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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