Arts museum left $1 million by John P. Paca, city lawyer


HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has received a $1 million gift -- the largest in its history -- from the estate of a Baltimore lawyer who was descended from a prominent Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The bequest from the estate of John Philemon Paca V, a direct descendant of William Paca, one of four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence, comes in the midst of a $3.2 million expansion at the museum, the only one of its kind in Western Maryland.

Mr. Paca, who died in 1992 at the age of 91, had been a member of the 64-year-old museum since the mid-1980s and was a frequent visitor with friends and cousins in the area, said Jean Woods, museum director.

"Because of his interest in culture and his love of Maryland history, it was natural for him to enjoy the museum's collection, which focuses on Maryland artists and 19th-century American art," Ms. Woods said.

Theron Rinehart, president of the museum's board, said Mr. Paca's gift will be added to the museum's $1.3 million endowment fund.

Proceeds will be used to help with costs in running an expanded museum, as directed by the late attorney, who specialized in estate law. Interest from the fund is used for operating and other costs, which now amount to about $200,000 a year, Mr. Rinehart said.

"We are very happy and pleased to receive it," Mr. Rinehart said.

"It was most timely with the doubling in size of the museum."

A 12,000-square-foot addition is scheduled to open in 1995, doubling the museum's size.

The addition also will enable visitors to see well-known works more regularly.

The museum attracts about 60,000 visitors a year.

Much of its nearly 5,000-piece collection is late 19th-century and early 20th-century American art.

Its treasures include "Scene on Catskill Creek," an oil by Frederic E. Church and one of his earliest and best known works.

Mr. Paca, the great-great-great grandson of William Paca, who also was a three-term Maryland governor, was actively involved with Historic Annapolis Inc., which operates the William Paca House and Gardens in Annapolis.

He was the founder of the Paca Family Fund used for restoration and maintenance of the house.

Mr. Paca practiced law in Baltimore from 1922 until his death.

His wife, the former Olive Virginia DeCatur, died in April 1993.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad