1890s in Westminster ripe with social, civic, infrastructure changes [Eagle Archive]

On Aug. 31, 1895, a local Westminster newspaper, the American Sentinel, published an article that the Westminster Fire Department was about to sell its building at 37 E. Main St. and build a new building at 66 E. Main St. up the street to the east of the existing building.

"The executive committee of the Westminster Fire Department disposed of the engine-house and hall belonging to the department, to Sheriff Elias B. Arnold, on Saturday last, for the sum of $4,700 cash. … "

The newspaper explained, "The sale is regarded as the best ever made of Westminster property … The transaction is an evidence of the growth and progress of this city. The town has not been boomed at all, but there has been a solid and substantial advance in its material prosperity, and this condition has been plainly indicated by this and other recent sales of property and the erection of a number of handsome private residences."

The 1890s in Westminster were marked by an emphasis on improving not only the social and civic structure of the local community but the physical public infrastructure, such as the railroad station, streets, sidewalks, and expanding the water system that had just started servicing the town in 1885.

All of this was certainly not accomplished without its fair share of hand-wringing, angst and controversy. The May 1995 municipal election was acrimonious and hard-fought.

According to the May 11, 1895 edition of the American Sentinel, "The great interest attending the election of Mayor and Common Councilmen of this city, on Monday last, brought out the largest vote ever polled at a municipal contest here, 589 ballots having been cast, nearly 40 more than the number at the election in 1890, when the issue was the bonding of the city for $25,000 for street improvements.

"In the present instance the contest was in relation to the method of lighting the streets. ... " whether to use gas lights or electric lights. The "Electric Light Ticket" prevailed.

Roaming dogs and hogs and invasion of bugs were other hot topics in the summer of 1895. On June 27, 1895, the same newspaper reported, "During the latter part of last and the first three days of this week this city [Westminster] suffered an invasion from myriads of insects of the beetle species, which night after night swarmed about the electric arc lights on the streets. … "

The American Sentinel reported on Oct. 12, 1895, "On Oct. 7, 1895, the mayor and Common Council of Westminster listened as Carroll County's health officer, Dr. J. Howell Billingslea, presented evidence for the prohibition of keeping hogs within city limits. Dr. Billingslea stated that no matter how clean the hog pens are kept, they are still a breeding ground for disease and thus a public health hazard. Officials were impressed with Billingslea's report and decided to take up the issue at a future meeting. The anticipated date for the prohibition of hogs within city limits was Jan. 1, 1896."

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