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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Kevin Dayhoff: Westminster Band to hold annual Belle Grove Square concert Sunday

The Westminster Municipal Band will play its time-honored, end-of-summer concert in the park in Belle Grove Square, at the corner of Green and Bond streets, at 6 p.m. Sunday. The concert is free.

The Westminster Municipal Band delighted more than 300 concertgoers at its traditional concert in Westminster’s historic Belle Grove Square on Aug. 22, 2010. The band played 24 musical selections that ranged from traditional standards to jazz to patriotic music.  Photo by Kevin Dayhoff

The origins of Belle Grove Square date to 1866, when a property that was farmland and woods was purchased by George and Maria Matthews.

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Up until the 1870s, Westminster was not much more than one house wide on either side of Main Street from Mitten’s Hill — which is nowEast Green Street between Washington Road and Colonial Avenue — to Irishtown, the present-day area at the intersection of Union Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Around the time of the Civil War, Westminster’s economy began to get away from the wagon stop, barroom and hotelier business and began its journey to becoming a regional mercantile center where unfinished goods were brought and exchanged for finished goods. As a result, a great deal of capital began to accumulate in town. The National Banking Act of 1864 provided a uniform structure for capital formulation and leveraging.

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Having a structured approach to capital facilitated industrialization and land speculation and the farms beyond Main Street began to be developed.

This stereograph dates to the 1870s. In the center rises the steeple of St. Paul's United Church of Christ, next to Belle Grove Square, at the corner of Bond and Green streets. At this time, Green Street (at the center of the image) ends at Bond Street, and farm fields stretch right to the edge of the city. To the left of St. Paul's is the steeple of St. John's Roman Catholic Church on Main Street. Courtesy of “Westminster” by Catherine Baty, 2009 Historical Society of Carroll County

It is in this context that Matthews had the property, “Matthews’ Addition,” annexed into the city and, in June 1875, transformed 30 lots bounded by West Green, Bond, Matthews (now Park Place) and Park streets, into a housing development, according to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal.

Graybeal notes that the development was initially mentioned in the council minutes as LaFayette Square, but the Matthews subsequently named the neighborhood and its park area Belle Grove Square after their daughter, Carrie Belle Matthews.

Belle Grove Square was formally donated to the city by George W. Matthews on May 8, 1877. As far back as 1876, there was a public celebration in Belle Grove Square for the nation’s centennial. The marker for that event still stands at the corner of the park.

In 1893, the same year the Westminster Municipal Band was formed, the community came together for a festival in Belle Grove Square at which $252.64 was raised for the Belle Grove Square fountain. Shortly afterward, the fountain was built for $398.37 — paid for entirely by private contributions.

St. Paul's United Church of Christ and Belle Grove Square are located at the corner of Bond and Green streets. This stereograph shows the park and the church as it appeared in the 1870s. Courtesy of “Westminster” by Catherine Baty, 2009 Historical Society of Carroll County

In an interesting twist of historic fate, George W. Matthews’ son, George E. Matthews, was the mayor in 1937 — 60 years after the land for Belle Grove Square was donated — when the Westminster Playground was dedicated. That same year, Carrie Belle died.

In the same spirit of civic-minded generosity, the Westminster Women’s Club in 1976 established the beautiful gardens and landscaping at Belle Grove Square that we now enjoy.

In addition to the annual Belle Grove Square concert, the band serves as an ambassador for the citizens of Westminster in concerts and parades all over the mid-Atlantic region. The band also represents Westminster at the annual Maryland State Firemen’s Convention in Ocean City.

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The roots of the present Westminster Municipal Band are found in 1920, but “there are records of a Westminster Band dating back as far as 1860,” the band’s director, Sandy Miller, said in a July 2004 interview.

The Westminster Municipal Band will present its historic annual community Belle Grove Square concert this coming Sunday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. Bring lawn chairs and blankets for seating. The event is a ‘shine’ event only. There is no rain date. Belle Grove Square is located at Green and Bond streets in Westminster. Submitted photo

However, to the best of our knowledge, it was 1893 when it was first incorporated as the Westminster City Band of Carroll County.

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Miller explained that in 1916, “many members of the band went into the Maryland National Guard under the heading First Regimental Band of Maryland National Guard,” and shortly after that were deployed to the Mexican border to participate in an undeclared war between the United States and Mexico.

In 1918, the band was deployed to France for World War I. After the members returned home from France, they got together with members who had remained stateside and folks from a Boy Scouts band and formed The Westminster Band, Inc., in 1920.

For multiple generations, the history of the band and the history of the City of Westminster have been interwoven.f the quality of life we enjoy today. According to a Nov. 18, 1921 newspaper article, the Westminster Band led the community in a parade and subsequent daylong celebration of Armistice Day. The festivities included Western Maryland College military students, the Westminster Fire Department and a machine gun demonstration on Liberty Street.

On Aug. 14, 1942, City Hall was dedicated at 1838 Emerald Lane and Longwell Avenue. The Westminster Band performed at the dedication ceremonies.

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For multiple generations, the history of the band and the history of the City of Westminster has been interwoven into the fabric of the quality of life we enjoy today. On Aug. 14, 1942, City Hall was dedicated at 1838 Emerald Lane and Longwell Avenue. The Westminster Band performed at the dedication ceremonies. Submitted photo

The name of the band changed to The Westminster Municipal Band when it reorganized in 1950 under the umbrella of the City of Westminster. At that time Mayor Joseph L. Mathias took a particular interest in the band and pledged the city’s financial support for it. The color guard was formed in 1961. A significant change occurred in 1984 when women were allowed to become members.

The Sunday concert is a ‘shine’ event only. There is no rain date. Bring lawn chairs and blankets for seating.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.


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