Chamber to open center, museum

19th-century building across from City Hall is in move-in condition


December 26, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A 19th-century former bank building will provide long-sought quarters for the Taneytown Chamber of Commerce, which plans to open a tourist center and a museum at the downtown site.

The building is in move-in condition, and is being vacated this month by a satellite office of the Carroll County Department of Social Services, officials said. The city owns the two-story brick building at 24 E. Baltimore St., across from City Hall.

"The chamber wants to start right away," said George W. Naylor, a member and past president of the chamber, who helped look for a place.

"We're thrilled. It's something we've talked about for a long time," said Kimberly C. Carter, who took office last month as president. The chamber, founded in 1926, recently hired a full-time director who must work from home, she said.

For several years, Naylor has allowed the chamber's telephone number to ring at his home. "There's no headquarters. I just provide an answering service for the chamber at my house," he said.

In September, he said, the new chamber officers made Naylor and fellow member George Crouse "a committee of two" to look for a solution."

Naylor, who is a member of the city's planning and zoning commission, suggested that they also "take on a museum as a challenge."

The two men visited town-sponsored museums in Manchester and Sykesville and were hoping to find something in time for Taneytown's 250th anniversary, which will be celebrated Aug. 21-28.

Then things happened fast.

"Suddenly we heard the city's building was going to come vacant," Naylor said. "So everything started to pyramid."

The 1887 Taneytown Bank building was donated to the city years ago, Naylor said, but sat idle as the city debated whether to sell it, lacking the money to renovate.

Then it was restored with a state grant and leased to the state for $1 a year, opening in April 1998 as the Taneytown Human Services Center and helping about 300 northwest Carroll families with food stamps, day care and medical services, state officials said. These services will be provided at the main office in Westminster.

"This just kind of presented itself," Carter said of the timing. "We had just started a committee to look into the feasibility of a museum, then this fell open. It's a perfect location."

After Carter saw a newspaper article about the social services office's planned closing, the chamber leadership let city officials know of its interest in the space. Carter, Naylor, Crouse and other officials pitched the idea to the mayor and council at the Dec. 3 work session, with the support of Alice Unger, president of the Taneytown Heritage Committee.

"Sleep on it," Naylor requested of the council.

Less than a week later, the council voted to let the chamber use the building at no cost for one year.

"I think it's an excellent place for the chamber and the heritage committee to have a center, with all our many years of history. People traveling through town can stop in for information," said Mayor W. Robert Flickinger. He had suggested this as a use for the building when the social services closing was reported in October.

"This is a good startup point," Naylor said. "Now we have permission to use the building. We'll have a niche for the chamber of commerce offices, have a niche for tourist information. ... I think the time has arrived."

The only problem is there might be too many items offered to the museum, Naylor said, noting "a lot of interest" from people with collections of memorabilia.

"I think we'll have that thing filled when we start. We may have to limit what we take," he said, laughing. "People are big-time collectors: everything from farm equipment to knickknacks."

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