Armory, Board of Education Plans Begin

By Elizabeth Ransom
Senior Writer

This is the second and concluding article in The Elm’s series on buildings and grounds and construction changes occurring on campus.

As previously reported in The Elm, Washington College is well on its way to acquiring the Sgt. John H. Newman Armory.

Over the summer, the College ran into conflict with the Maryland Historic Trust. The Trust has final say on changes made to the building because of its historic designation.

“There would be an aesthetic appeal- everybody likes to look at the water,” said Reid Raudenbush, director of the physical plant in Buildings and Grounds. But the Maryland Historic Trust decided that the proposed change would hurt the armory’s historic integrity, and added an easement to the deed which would have given the Trust oversight on all modifications.

Chestertown had other ideas. In August, the Chestertown Town Council voted to redraw the boundaries of the town’s historic district to include the armory. Now its modifications fall under the purview of the town, which assents to WC’s plans.
“What they [the town of Chestertown] see as the best interest for everyone is for the College to own it. For a fairly minimal price, and some commitments we made for some funding of other projects, we reached a deal to acquire the property,” said Raudenbush. He noted that the town uses the armory for public events several times a year for events such as dances, a Christmas show, and various concerts. WC will let them continue to do so.
The process by which the state will transfer the armory to Chestertown, which will then sell it to the College, is underway. But it could be several years before the College renovates, and uses, the armory.
“There’s a fundraising period that has to occur, absent someone coming in with a big donation,” said Raudenbush. “There are some people who are really interested in historic preservation… [a project] like the armory could excite someone.”

Board of Education building
WC acquired the Board of Education building, located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Brown Street across from the Sears Publication House, about a year ago. WC bought the structure, an abandoned former Kent County school, in order to tear it down and construct a new building on the six-acre property.

The Chestertown Historic Commission will have a say in the new building’s architecture; as part of the historic district, it should not look too modern. In Raudenbush’s words, the structure will need to be “a nice quiet, reserved looking building, something that matches our campus and [is clearly] a college building.” Final decisions have yet to be made about what it will house, but there will likely be offices and classrooms- perhaps also labs and studio space.

WC recently began the process of applying to the state of Maryland for a grant of three million dollars, an amount which the college would have to match. The same type of grant, that time for $2.5 million which was matched by the College, was used to help fund the Miller Library renovation. According to President Reiss, the combined figure is unlikely to cover the cost of “the sort of academic building that we would like,” and additional fundraising will supplement the grant.

One thought on “Armory, Board of Education Plans Begin

  1. Just for clarification, the armory has not been used for any events for years and the old Board of e Education property is located on Washington Avenue,South of Campus Avenue and I believe that the front facade of the building is suppose to remain.

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