Group moves to save historic Shore market

Still Pond residents form corporation, plan to bid on building

  • Walter Bowie stands with the boarded old general store and post office in background, in the heart of Still Pond, on the Eastern Shore.
Walter Bowie stands with the boarded old general store and post… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
March 20, 2011|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

Residents of the Eastern Shore community of Still Pond have taken the first step toward establishing a nonprofit organization in hopes of saving a historic market and post office that was heavily damaged by fire last fall.

The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation approved the paperwork on Friday creating Still Pond Preservation Inc., allowing the group to bid for the 19th-century building that stands in a National Historic District in Kent County. The historic designation established in 2009 does not protect the building from destruction, and the owners have a demolition permit that they can use starting on Monday.

"It's a really good beginning for trying to save the building," said Walter Bowie, who has been active in a group of residents trying to figure out how to preserve the building since soon after the fire Sept. 28. Bowie said the official incorporation represents "a start that allows the whole community to come together. … This doesn't really guarantee anything, it's just one step."

The two-story structure, built around 1870, served as a combination sandwich shop, post office, gas station, convenience store and social club for the town, which is north of Chestertown. Residents now have to drive a few miles away to get their mail or for quick grocery runs, and they miss the chance encounters with neighbors at the market where they can catch up on local news and gossip.

Those who live near the historic crossroads where the market stands, many of whom have moved to Still Pond in the past 20 years, have rallied around to salvage what one called their "community center."

Bowie said the group has raised enough money to make an offer to buy the property, listed for sale last month at $150,000, but could not do so until there was an incorporated entity to pursue the transaction. He declined to say how much money the group has raised but said that "we have enough to make a contract happen."

Bowie said he hoped the organization would be able to make an offer within the week. A core group of between eight and 15 people planned to meet at his home just down the street from the market on Monday night to elect corporation officers and consider next steps.

Andrew C. Meehan, a Chestertown lawyer who filed the articles of incorporation with the state agency on Friday, said Still Pond Preservation Inc. will still have to apply to the IRS to become a nonprofit. That's a more complicated process, and Meehan could not say how much time it might take.

Group members have said they felt a need to move quickly once the county granted the demolition permit in February, although the owners have said they would prefer to see the building saved.

"We want to sell it to someone," said Edward A. Price, the Eastern Shore grain farmer who bought the building along with Nancy Ziolkowski in 2009. "If we have to demolish it to get the property sold, that's what we'll do. I don't want to do that."

Price and Ziolkowski said they put the building on the market because they could not afford to repair it after the electrical fire, which left the structure sound but the inside heavily damaged by smoke and water. It's not clear how much it would cost to restore the building and bring it up to code.

Dave Leager, the agent handling the sale for the owners, said he's held four or five showings but has yet to receive a serious offer.

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