Havre de Grace City Council has passed legislation which will allow the conversion of a former medical office building into a museum honoring the legacy of a school that served Harford County’s black youth in the early 1900s.
Ordinance 1022, which adjusts the definition of “museum” to indicate such institutions are allowed in all municipal zoning districts, was adopted unanimously by the City Council Monday evening.
In March of 2018, the Havre de Grace Colored School Foundation acquired the building at 555 Alliance St., where the segregated school served African-American children in Harford County in first through 11th grade was housed from 1910 to 1949, with plans to turn it into a museum and cultural center.
“The intended use will soon be a museum dedicated to celebrate the students, faculty and community leaders who endeavored to obtain quality education for Afro-American children in Harford County,” Council President David Glenn said during Monday’s meeting.
Glenn said that “the mayor and City Council will need to modify the definition of museums” following the Foundation’s purchase of the building and “its new intended use.”
Ordinance 1022 adds the language “and its primary purpose and operation is to commemorate the unique and historic significance of the property upon which it is situated, shall be a permitted use in all zoning districts” to the definition of museum in the zoning code.
City code defines museums as “a building, place or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, cultural, historical, or artistic value.”
The council accepted, as a “friendly amendment,” an adjustment of the text offered by Councilwoman Casi Boyer (formerly Casi Tomarchio).
The final language states that a museum in Havre de Grace is defined as "a building, place or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, cultural, historical, artistic value or if its primary purpose and operation is to commemorate the unique and historic significance of the property upon which it is situated, shall be a permitted use in all zoning districts.”
Prior to the passage of the ordinance, museums were allowed only in the city’s RB (residential business) district, which covers much of the older and historic areas of Havre de Grace, such as the downtown commercial section, residential neighborhoods and developed areas along the waterfront, according to the zoning code.
Glenn said the Alliance Street building is in an RO (residential office) district, and its former use as a “professional office building” is allowed in RO zones.
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The Havre de Grace Colored School Foundation is part of the nonprofit Community Projects of Havre de Grace. More information about the foundation’s project, including raising funds to restore the facility, is online at https://www.hdgcoloredschool.net.