The Historical Society of Carroll County signed a formal lease agreement with the City of Westminster earlier this week to utilize the former City Hall, Emerald Hill, for outreach programming and exhibitions.
The organization will begin to use the building in early January. HSCC marketing chairman and board of trustees member Tom Gordon III said the building will give the organization additional space to accommodate larger audiences.
"We can use it for meetings and functions," said Gordon. "We will also be able to display and promote a lot of Carroll County history."
Gordon said the original owner of the property, Col. John K. Longwell, moved to Westminster to establish a newspaper, The Carrolltonian, in 1833. At the time, Westminster was part of Frederick County.
The newspaper was influential in establishing Carroll County, with Westminster as the county seat. Longwell constructed a seven-acre estate on Emerald Hill in 1842. The mansion's first floor originally consisted of 10 rooms, including an indoor spring house. The estate's outbuildings included a barn, chicken house, horse stalls and sheds.
Longwell was a member of the 1867 State Constitutional Convention, a county commissioner, a charter member of the Western Maryland Railroad, the Union National Bank's board director, and the Baltimore and Reisterstown Turnpike's president.
According to Gordon, Longwell lived at the estate with his wife, Sarah Harris McCaleb Longwell, and their family until his death in 1896. The family continued to live in the mansion until 1905 when his daughter Sallie died.
In 1907, Emerald Hill was annexed into the City as "Longwell's Addition." The property was auctioned on Oct. 27, 1908, to George W. Albaugh. He, his wife Ella and their family moved into the mansion, where they resided until Albaugh's death in 1933.
Gordon said the City of Westminster acquired the property from the George W. Albaugh Estate in 1939, and the mansion became City Hall in 1942. It recently underwent extensive historic restoration, and in 2014 was dedicated in honor of the city's 250th Sestercentennial.
HSCC Executive Director Gainor Davis said the building complements the society's mission by making another of the city's important historic properties accessible to the public.
"The building will be a learning center. It keeps with HSCC's commitment to preserving the historic landscape of our city as well as our county's heritage," Davis said.
Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said the building's new function is a wonderful use for the historic structure.
"It is now a gathering place, an exhibit hall and a symbol of our Westminster heritage," Utz said. "The City of Westminster, the Historical Society of Carroll County and our residents will benefit so much from this venture."
If you go:
What: Winter Wine Warmer, photographic exhibit featuring Carroll County winters
When: 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9
Where: 1838 Emerald Hill Lane, Westminster