Park, fountain honor town's 100th birthday

Events slated tomorrow include dedication, parade


April 30, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville will celebrate its 100th birthday tomorrow with the dedication of a downtown park and centerpiece fountain, a parade led by bagpipers and its first outdoor movie screening.

Town restaurants will cook alfresco on Main Street. The Little Sykes Railway will carry children around its circular track, and model railroaders will display their elaborate layouts in restored train cars. Visitors can take a history walk with guides pointing out local landmarks.

"It's nice to have a reason to celebrate, and 100 years is certainly a good reason," said Jonathan S. Herman, serving his third term as mayor in the town of about 4,500. "This town has come a long way and has progressed in ways that we should be proud of. This is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate all the good things we have accomplished together and our good fortune to be part of this town."

In the past decade, Sykesville has enjoyed a renaissance that has spurred the revitalization of downtown and led to plans for the restoration of former Springfield Hospital Center buildings into a 100-acre business complex.

Sykesville recently built Old Main Line Park on 1 acre behind Main Street. It adjoins the Old Main Visitors' Center, which the town created from the remnants of a railroad switching tower. The fountain, surrounded by 3,500 bricks, is the focal point of the park.

Encircling the fountain are granite markers with dates and details of milestones that helped shape the town. The plaques tell how James Sykes established a mill in 1828 and the railroad arrived three years later. In 1863, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart ordered Confederate forces to burn the bridge over the Patapsco River at the entrance to town. A great flood inundated downtown in 1868. In 1896, the state opened Springfield Hospital Center, which quickly became the town's largest employer.

"This is a way to commemorate major historical events in a way that is appealing," Herman said. "This shows the spirit of cooperation in this town and the generosity people here have shown."

The largest plaque lists the donors who made the $45,000 park and fountain possible.

"One of the nicest things about the park is that it took very few town tax dollars," said Matthew Candland, town manager.

The town added state grant money to about $15,000 in corporate and individual donations and about $12,000 it earned from the sale of 350 commemorative bricks that surround the granite fountain.

Many of the bricks, which cost $50 each, are marked with family surnames, grandchildren's names, memorial dedications and bits of whimsy. Some recognize birthdays and anniversaries.

The Bontzos' family brick reads "Happy R We in Sykesville, Md." Former Mayor Lloyd Helt, who maintains a law office on Main Street, had one brick imprinted for his wife, "Ruth C. Gray First Lady 1990-1993," and another for his daughter, "Martha E. Helt First Child," with the same years.

Herman "covered all bases" with 11 bricks dedicated to everyone in his family, even a beloved pet.

Thelma Wimmer, the town historian, listed her years on the Town Council on her brick. Wimmer, 95, will serve as a grand marshal of the parade that begins at 4 p.m. and includes Herman, three former mayors, police vehicles, a fire engine and the town's newest trash truck.

"I am really looking forward to the parade," she said yesterday. "I will be riding in the police car. I have never been in a police car before."

Officials will then dedicate Old Main Line Park and the Centennial Fountain.

At dusk, The Wizard of Oz will be shown on a downtown wall.

"We are deliberately keeping this low-key for budget reasons and because we wanted a really local event for town residents and their friends," Candland said. "This is a party for all of us to celebrate our anniversary."

The park, with its redwood benches, mature pine trees, landscaping and fountain, is already popular, said Wiley Purkey, a Main Street business owner.

"I am amazed at how many people walk through the park and stop to look at the bricks," Purkey said. "We are giving people a place to take a break and take a look at downtown. People really want downtowns like this again."

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