Elkton Commissoners Plan Busy Workshop to Discuss the Old Jail, Plans for Muddy Lane, Charter Changes and More

The Mayor and Commissioners of the Town of Elkton have released an agenda for a workshop on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. at the town hall.  It’s a jammed schedule full of important agenda items.

  • One day before the town’s historic district board formally hears plans a developer has to turn the old jail into low-economy senior citizen apartments, the mayor and comissioners will meet  with the company for a discussion.  No additional information on what that discussion is about is available at this time.
  • Long range plans for the Muddy Lane area.
  • Vacant building registration ordinance.
  • The town charter.

Elkton Officials to Hear Request to Convert Old Cecil County Jail Into Apartments on July 12

The Town of Elkton has released the agenda for the July 12, 2012, Historical and Architectural Review Committee meeting.  The primary business is a request from Frank Hodgetts, representing Home Partnership, to develop the old jail property at 214 North Street in Elkton into 50 units of age-restrict multi-family housing apartments.  The agenda for July is reproduced below this post.  An earlier meeting in June was canceled.

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Town of Elkton Historic and Architectural Review Committee

July 12, 2012, 6:00 PM –  Agenda

  • Approval of the minutes of the February 29, 2012 meeting 2.
  • Request by Frank Hodgetts representing Home Partnership to redevelop 214 North Street, Elkton, MD into 50 units of age-restricted multi-family housing apartments.
  • Old Business
  • New Business

Elkton and the War of 1812: The Sign Has the Story

Early this Monday morning workers in downtown Elkton were out at the corner of Main and North Streets putting up a new sign.  By lunch time, anyone passing that way was able to pause and read an informative  wayside interpretive sign telling the story of the War of 1812 in Elkton and Maryland.  Part of the Star Spangled Banner National Heritage Trail, it has information on the local attacks on Elkton and the broader Maryland campaign.

On the upper Elk Creek, just outside town, a series of defensive arrangements were hastily put up in the spring of 1813 in preparation for an attack on the county seat.  Fort Hollingsworth and Fort Defiance were part of the placements and here’s how the Alexandria Gazette described the enemy attack in 1813: “Two small batteries . . . in the town . . . opened their fire upon the barges, and compelled them to retreat with considerable precipitation.”

Similar signs are going up at appropriate places all along the trail.  Be sure to read these attractive boards as you travel around the county and region.

Cecil Whig Editorial: Elkton Fighting for its Future

As Elkton continues it decades long effort to revitalize what the Cecil Whig characterizes as a once bustling “’bygone’ Main Street,” that “seems deserted most days,” an editorial in the paper notes that what is most needed is “town leadership willing to make unpopular choices — men and women willing to take a risk towards making real, immediate change.”    This column came about following a discussion at a town workshop about the need to do something about “the vacant or blighted buildings dotting the town.”  The decline is multifaceted but in particular the impact of county government moving out of town and the economic collapse of the past five years are sources of the problem, the Whig wrote.

Commissioner Charles Hicks, taking note of conditions around the municipality, urged his colleagues to not worry about a “popularity contest” and make decisions that protect the community.  “Something needs to be done. I think it’s about time.”  The Whig agreed, saying that the paper hopes his passion is a sign of things to come.

The status of Elkton’s attempt to reinvigorate Main Street and improve the central business district has been the subject of in-depth reporting and editorials periodically for a long time now.  Seven years ago, the editor said something similar in an opinion piece titled “County Seat Due a Major Overhaul.”  Here’s part of what they said in that old column.  “Elkton continues to have a problem with abandoned building sites . . . that hamper efforts to revitalize the town.  . . County government officials are working on a plan for relocating some county offices.  It’s a shame some of the abandoned building properties in Elkton cannot be utilized for future county government office sites.

 

June Meeting of Elkton Historic and Architectural Review Committee Cancelled

The Historic and Architectural Review Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 27, 2012 has been cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.  The meeting will be rescheduled for early July, the Town of Elkton announced.  We’ll update readers once a new date is announced.

A non-profit affordable housing group was on the agenda to discuss plans for the old 1870s Cecil County Jail. Click here for more information on that project.

Affordable Housing Group to Present Plans for 140 Year Old Jail in Downtown Elkton

A non-profit affordable housing group, the Home Partnership, Inc., is interested in purchasing the old 1870s Cecil County Jail from the county for $400,000.  The developer want to transform the building into 50 affordable apartments for seniors in downtown Elkton, the Cecl Whig recently reported.A reprsentative of the affordable housing group will appear before the town’s Historic District Review Board on June 27th at 6: p.m., to discuss concept plans for the 1.12 acre pracel.  This regulatory zoning board is charged with protecting Elkton’s architectural and cultural resources.  At that time, the developer will probably present his plans for developing the 50 apartment unit structure at 214 North Street.

When it was built in 1871, the sheriff’s home and jail was hailed as a state-of-the-art monument to law and order, a credit to the county. Considering that it replaced “a so-called jail” where notorious types were “chained to the floor,” it probably wasn’t hard to make that claim.  For those who ran afoul of the law there were 20 cells at the new prison, surely enough to “accommodate any demand that Cecil county culprits,” could place on it, said the Whig.  Sheriff Thomas, the first official to turn the key and swing open the wide heavy grated iron door, let in his “house guests.”

In the years to come, those cells would have their own stories to tell and the jailhouse walls would stand as silent witnesses to more than a few tragic scenes.  Out in the old jail yard, more than one man would draw his final breath while at the end of the hangman’s noose.   One early spring day in 1912, as the county felt the first tentative nudge of the approaching season’s warmth, a cold-blooded shooting in the outer yard snuffed out the young life of a Cecil County Sheriff. The incident took place when Sheriff J. Myron Miller attempted to take a pistol away from a trustee who had refused to obey an order.

Somehow the place managed to outlive its usefulness to the county in a mere 128 years, so a modern detention center started sprouting out of a corn field at the edge of town early in the 1980s. Then in January 1984, in a secret nighttime operation, Sheriff John F. DeWitt moved inmates from the jail to Landing Lane.

One era had ended but another one might be getting underway for a structure that has been on the market since 2009.  The Elkton Historic and Architectural Review Board will get to weigh in on this matter at its public meeting in June.

Elkton Prepares to Celebrate 225th Anniversary

Elkton is preparing to celebrate its 225th anniversary in a few weeks, according to signs that sprouted up around town.  The municipality, Town Commissioner and Elkton Alliance Director Mary Jo Jablonski reported at a recent council meeting, was established on May 25, 1787.  To mark this important milestone in the annals of the community, the Alliance, the county seat’s revitalization authority, is hosting a number of activities.  These include a downtown classic car show, national marriage day, a 5K run & old fashion street dance, and Memorial Day parade, the elected official reported. For more information contact the Elkton Alliance at 410-398-5076 or www.elktonalliance.org.

It seems just a short time ago that the county seat, a place that always found its history important, was observing the 200th anniversary.   For that big celebration, there were publications detailing the history of the old colonial town, lectures, a reenactment of the charter signing, a theatrically inspired performance portraying an early town meetings, special postal cancellations, and lots of other heritage products.  Of course, the typical community festivities filled the calendar too, including a big parade and popular downtown festival.

One of the highlights we fondly recall was a program that brought history to life.  Mayor James Crouse and the commissioners skillfully played the role of those early founding officials.  Complete with council members in colonial garb, and motions and votes from the era,  some engaging theatrics filled the old original chamber hall, as the public enjoyed the performance.  Mayor Crouse, played his part well, bantering with the crowd.  Other commissioners fell right in line with the show as if they were regular performers on stage, joking with the town bailiff, newspaper reporters and the audience.

These are great life-time memories to be made as a community honors it roots and its heritage.  We have some video tape of that day (especially the reenactment) so perhaps we’ll digitize some of it to share with readers.  Those publications that explored Elkton’s history are also something we keep nearby on a shelf for frequent consultation as questions come up.  Mrs. Dorothy Robinson, Mrs. Eva Muse and others spent lots of time digging up stories about Elkton’s past and getting it into print.  And there were Mrs. Robinson’s informative lectures on town history.

And now we near another anniversary, a moment in time to be proudly recalled for decades, as the Elkton Alliance prepares to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the founding of a historic town and honor its roots.