Committee will restore train station

Panel to transform building into museum and visitor center

Completion in 3 years

Nonprofit group plans to buy control of site from town for $9,200

November 01, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Hampstead will sell its interest in the town's historic depot to the nonprofit Hampstead Train Station Committee, which has agreed to restore the building and maintain it as a museum and visitor center.

The price is $9,200, which the committee would pay in quarterly installments over 10 years at 5 percent interest. No closing date has been set, but the town and committee have come to an agreement, and are waiting for lawyers to draw up a formal contract, said Kenneth Decker, town manager.

Both parties have agreed to conditions set by the town to ensure the integrity of the project.

"The town's main interest is that the train station does become a visitor center and museum," and that it is done within three years, said Decker.

A renovated depot would aid the downtown revitalization plan and preserve the building that adorns Hampstead's official seal.

The sale will cover the $7,000 the town paid in 1997 for a maintenance easement to the building. The building is owned by CSX Transportation, but the easement's holder would retain control as long as the building is maintained, Decker said.

The price also would cover $1,700 the town invested in an environmental study of the property, and $500 in expected closing costs.

Conditions set by the town and agreed to by the committee are: The committee must remain in existence as a nonprofit corporation, and has direct control over the rehabilitation and operation of the station.

If the committee ever sells the station, the town reserves the right to buy it back.

The committee has to acquire at least $50,000 in cash or in-kind donations and make significant progress on the rehabilitation, which must be completed within three years.

The station must open within three years as a museum and visitor center, and operate only in that capacity.

The completed building must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Parking must be free, and the lot must include bicycle and pedestrian access. It also must allow parking for other downtown uses.

Gaining control over the station will make it easier for the committee to secure grants to rehabilitate it, said Councilman Wayne Thomas, who also is a member of the committee. He excused himself from the negotiations because of his dual role.

The 2-year-old committee has raised about $5,000. Thomas estimated that about $35,000 is needed for interior and exterior repairs, and $45,000 is needed for a slate roof.

The committee recently obtained nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. That means all contributions -- including those already made -- are tax deductible.

The train station, at Gill Avenue and Main Street, was opened in 1913 and served as a freight depot until 1979, when CSX closed it. In the past decade, various people have attempted to launch a restoration.

The one-story clapboard structure played an important role in Hampstead's development. For nearly 70 years, farmers took dairy and grain products to the station to be loaded on trains bound for Baltimore.

Since beginning the renovation, volunteers have contributed about 2,500 hours, Thomas said.

Kenneth Hankins, a potter and teacher at St. Paul School for Boys in Brooklandville, revived the drive to rehabilitate the station in 1996. He said the number of volunteers and donations have increased. The once leaky roof was covered with tar paper to keep water from further damaging the rest of the building, rotting wood has been torn out and replaced and floors have been redone, he said. Volunteers are out almost every Saturday, he said.

"We have at least a dozen all-the-time people we can count on," Hankins said. "And we've had people just wander by and work for a day. A roofer came out and helped for a couple of weekends."

Others have donated materials or promised to provide items of historical significance that are scattered throughout Hampstead.

One resident said he would make available to the museum an old telegraph key used at the train station, Thomas said.

The committee also is pursuing a private grant from the Western Maryland Resource and Development Conservation Organization.

"We have requested $35,000 and are awaiting word on approval and for how much," he said.

That amount would be enough to complete the interior and exterior work and possibly the plumbing needed to add a restroom, he said.

"We would like to get the exterior finished before the winter," he said.

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