HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — A team of archaeologists is hard at work on a downtown Hagerstown house of historic significance.
The structure at 417 Jonathan Street is at the center of the city’s historic African- American neighborhood. But the log cabin is believed to have ties to Maryland history dating back to the 1790s when there was a mix of free and enslaved Black people living side by side. Two churches in the neighborhood are believed to have been hospitals for Union soldiers during the Civil War. Preserving the structure may have a long-term positive impact on the neighborhood.
“This is just one step in regards to revitalizing the Jonathan Street community as a whole,” says Reggie Turner chairman of the Western Maryland Community Development Corporation. “But staring with this historic structure is a great place for us to start.”
Turner was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan to the Maryland Commission on African-American History and Culture.
Working with Turner is consultant Terrance Moore, a member of the Western Maryland Community Development Corporation. He feels strongly that restoring this structure is part of a broader mission, to make Jonathan Street a dynamic business district and tourist destination for its rich African-American history.
“It’s a great piece of history,” says Moore. “It’s also a great tool to bring pride back to the community. It’s an anchor for revitalizing the community for the future. “As if just restoring the structure isn’t enough, a team of archaeologists is at the site collecting whatever traces of history they can find. Something as simple as a button is being taken to a laboratory in Baltimore to help reconstruct the rich past associated with this home.
“We’re hoping these artifacts can tell us about the people from the 1840s all the way up to the more recent past,” says Dr. Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the Jonathan Street project. And a documentary film crew is at the site for a video project certain to be highly anticipated.
It is believed the timbers in the structure are strong, perhaps reflecting the will of the community to build upon this historic treasure.
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