Beginning in 1947, WWII veterans lived off campus in Vetville while attending Western Md. College.
Beginning in 1947, WWII veterans lived off campus in Vetville while attending Western Md. College.

On Saturday, Aug. 24, approximately 600 new students from McDaniel College visited downtown Westminster. According to an article in the Carroll County Times by Catalina Righter, the students walked down from the college “to the lawn of the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library. There, Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick, College President Roger Casey, Greg Brock of Atlas Premier Realty, library Branch Manager Christina Kuntz, and Tiombe Paige, owner of Cultivated,” gave our new neighbors in town a warm welcome.

According to a recent conversation with McDaniel professor Pam Zappardino, there are approximately 587 students in the freshman class. Almost half the incoming class are “students of color,” according to Zappardino.

Advertisement

The annual festivities of the new school year at McDaniel have varied over the decades. McDaniel College has been changing Westminster and the way we think in Carroll County ever since Fayette Buell began the college when he first received a deed for 8 acres of “The Commons” on the hill overlooking Westminster in the distance, for $4,580 on May 1, 1866.

One of the more unique changes is discussed in a Nov. 29, 1946 newspaper article in the Democratic Advocate, “‘Vetville’ may become a most interesting suburban addition to Westminster when it is completed about the first of the year…”

Today, the housing complex located off of Wimert and Sullivan Avenues near Md. 140 in northwest Westminster is known as “Vetville.” It dates to 1946, when it was “under construction by the government for the GIs who are attending … Western Maryland College under the GI Bill of Rights…,” according to the 1946 article. When “completed [it] will house 40 veterans and their families. A one-story construction, set up on cement blocks, with a brick-like celetex finish… The apartments are made up of [a] living room, two bedrooms, two closets and a kitchen, to be fully equipped with sink, stove, and refrigerator. Dean Samuel Schofield, of Western Maryland College is almost a daily visitor at the site…”

The storied history of Vetville has been touched upon several times in the past as a result of questions from readers. A portion of this discussion has been published in the past. Twenty years ago very little history of the post-World War II development was easily available, except for some research by the Historical Society of Carroll County which unearthed the 1946 newspaper article. Amazingly, very little oral history is available either.

The late Dave Schaeffer briefly referred to Vetville in a March 2006 interview about a disastrous fire in Westminster at the Schaeffer Lumber Company, which occurred on Dec. 29, 1947 at the corner of Liberty and Green Streets.

According to Schaeffer, who along with his dad, Noah, and his brother, Edgar, was one of the owners of Schaeffer Lumber, said that after the fire, “Everyone in town went out their way to be helpful. We had insurance with Carroll County Mutual. The agent was Babs Thomas and he could not have been more helpful…

“In the early days, business was slow. It was a good time to re-begin because we couldn’t make too many mistakes because not much product (was) available. Vetville, (housing for veterans attending Western Maryland College, off Sullivan and Wimert Avenue) was one of our first projects. Because of that project we were able to get (supplies.)”

Fortunately, as a result of exhaustive research by Dr. Jim Lightner for a definitive history of Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College; more information has been brought to light in the publication, “Fearless and Bold.”

“The postwar years were busy ones, as the college got back to normal and picked up plans for the future. It also reacted to the influx of students attending college on the GI Bill. In June 1946 the college received from trustee Walter H. Davis, in the form of an annuity, four acres (valued at $5,000) about three blocks from the campus, between Schaeffer and Wimert Avenues and Sullivan Road, as a site for a veterans’ housing project, under the Mead-Lanham Act,” [according to the July 2, 1946 WMC board of trustees minutes.]

“The site was surveyed and the buildings prepared under the direction of Carl Schaeffer. By February 1, [1947] the project had been sufficiently completed so that some married students could move in, and eventually 40 families of veterans (70 adults and 16 children) lived in eight one-story barracks… Utilities included a kerosene space heater, a gas stove, a refrigerator, and a hot water heater…”

According to Lightner, “By the fall of 1951, Vetville housed only ten veteran families, the rest of the apartments were rented to seminarians and regular college students.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement