Sailing Hall of Fame concept offered

December 12, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Organizers of the National Sailing Hall of Fame last night unveiled the first design for its $30 million interactive museum planned for Annapolis' City Dock.

The model, which uses sailing elements in its design and incorporates a standing 19th-century waterfront home, is in the planning phase. But positive feedback from some of the city's powerful historical organizations signals that the project is moving forward.

The city's Historic Preservation Commission must approve the museum's final design. A public meeting to discuss the design is set for Jan. 14.

"I'm excited," said Annapolis Alderman Samuel Shropshire, a longtime supporter of the project. "It's sort of going to be the crown jewel of the sailing capital. This is a statement on the sport of sailing. It talks about the past as well as the future. It's a grand design."

Sharon A. Kennedy, chairwoman of the commission, said the plans she has seen in two meetings with the architect "seemed to be indicative of a feasible project."

Architect Joseph A. Boggs, who presented his design to about 50 guests at the St. Clair Wright History Center, an Annapolis museum, said the building would "define and brand" the city as a world sailing capital.

Boggs said he reached out to the president of the Maryland Historic Trust and others involved in city history to see what would work best at the state-owned site.

To construct the 20,000-square-foot building, the Hall of Fame plans to buy a piece of land from a nearby seafood restaurant and lease the rest of the land from the state.

Since state officials recommended last year that a 19th-century home at 69 Prince George St. be demolished to make way for the museum, a battle has brewed between the city's preservationists and its sailors.

The Annapolis city council passed a resolution supporting the Hall of Fame's site plan but urged it to incorporate the home, known as the Burtis House, named for waterman Capt. William H. Burtis.

The Department of Natural Resources police currently use the home as a satellite office but plan to move.

The descendants of Burtis mounted a campaign to stop the museum, arguing that any change to the home would destroy one of the last vestiges of the city's blue-collar maritime heritage.

Richard Franyo, president of the Hall of Fame board, said he was pleased that plans were moving forward and that fundraising would now be the group's principle endeavor.

"The next thing is ... to raise big money," Franyo said. Asked how the current economic climate would affect fundraising, Franyo said, "If it takes us a year, that's OK."

A 2007 state feasibility report estimated the museum would draw 50,000 to 150,000 visitors a year and provide a $300,000 annual tax revenue boost.

Boggs said he envisioned the building, which he said would be environmentally friendly, at 35 feet tall and a combination of wood and metal, in a nod to the area's historic nature, and have viewing decks.

In attempting to bring the essence of boating into the design, he incorporated the design of boat hulls into the roof, which he envisions as copper and "very elegant."

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