Downtown Westminster, specifically the location of the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, was in the news 41 years ago this week.
The current site of the library on Main Street is the fulcrum of old traditional Westminster and is steeped in history.
The library was preceded by several different church structures for the St. John Catholic Church community beginning in 1789 when 4 acres had been donated to the Catholic community for a cemetery and a church.
Construction began on the last of the three church structures in 1865.
The history of the library in Westminster began only a few years before, during the depths of the American Civil War, in September of 1863, in the Odd Fellows Hall at 140 East Main St.
After relocating several times, the library moved to 129 E. Main St. on May 27, 1951.
At the time, it was known as the Davis Library and was located in the old Methodist Protestant church.
On June 24, 1972, a local newspaper reported that the Carroll County board of commissioners, "authorized the Carroll county Library Board to begin "non-obligatory" negotiations with St. John's Catholic Church for part of the old church property on Main street …."
About 20 years earlier, on Thursday, June 19, 1952, at 4:45 p.m., the steeple of the church was destroyed by a tornado and the integrity of the church compromised. Significant reconstruction was required.
In 1968, the building was deemed unusable for the growing congregation and in 1972, a new church was built on Monroe Avenue.
The June 24, 1972, edition of the now out-of-print Democratic Advocate newspaper reported, "The library board would like to acquire the land for a new Westminster library site.
"The commissioners told the board to begin negotiating a price for the land, but not to make any final agreements. In a meeting with the County Commissioners Tuesday, the director of the county library, Martha Makosky, said she thought the 3/4 acre could be purchased for about $50,000. Commissioners J. Norman Graham and John D. Meyer estimated it would cost another $15,000 to remove the old church building from the site.
"Meyer said that although he was not opposed to the idea of having a library built on the site he felt the price was too high. He suggested the library commission consider other alternative sites in and around Westminster.
"The library board presented the views of Carroll Dell, Westminster director of planning and development, and Dr. James P. Earp, chairman of the downtown Westminster Revitalization Committee, to support their proposal to use the old church site.
"Both men felt the library would serve as a 'generator' to stimulate people to come into the downtown area. Earp said he thought the library could 'pep up the center of town.' "
The current 40,000-square-foot library facility opened on the former church property in March 1980.
When he is not roaming the stacks of the Westminster library, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org