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Avid preservationist retires from panel


Jean Hannon, a longtime preservationist who helped create the Ellicott City historic district, has retired from the commission that oversees the neighborhood.

On Friday, Mrs. Hannon officially concluded her eight years on the commission. She'll continue attending Historic District Commission meetings, however, until a new member is appointed.

Among her accomplishments, Mrs. Hannon helped create the county's first historic district in Ellicott City, participated in numerous development plans to revitalize the area and designed the county flag.

"I like things that are old," said Mrs. Hannon, 68. "If you don't know what's happened before, you don't know what's going to happen in the future."

During the past 35 years, she played an integral role in shaping historic Ellicott City.

"There's probably no one more knowledgeable about Ellicott City than she is," said Herbert Johl, chairman of the Historic District Commission which oversees historic districts in Ellicott City and Elkridge.

Mrs. Hannon's interest in historic preservation began in 1960, when she supervised a clean-up effort in Ellicott City for a civic improvement contest sponsored by Sears & Roebuck Co.

Although Ellicott City didn't win the $500 prize, the clean-up campaign drew the attention of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, which awarded Mrs. Hannon a $1,000 grant that she used to open historic Ellicott City's first antique store, called The Old Line Shop.

At the time, the shop was one of the few new businesses in the historic area. Many merchants were leaving for the newly opened Normandy Shopping Center on U.S. 40.

"We opened the antique store in an effort to get people into Main Street," Mrs. Hannon said.

The effort worked.

Ellicott's Country Store, which also sells antiques, opened a short time later.

"That was our first big break," recalls Mrs. Hannon. "We were hoping we could bring in someone like that."

Now the community features about half a dozen antique shops in addition to restaurants, jewelry stores and art galleries.

Mrs. Hannon later organized the town's first walking tours. She helped create the Ellicott City historic district in the mid-1970s by drawing boundaries and submitting historical material to the Maryland Historical Trust Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

The process, which included photographing and researching historical sites, was tedious, she said. "It was lot of work."

In designing the county flag, she said the sheaf of wheat in the flag's upper left-hand corner symbolizes the county's agricultural heritage, while the outline of the county embraced by a golden triangle in the lower right-hand corner represents the area's geographic location among Baltimore, Washington and New York.

In her retirement, she plans to spend time with her three granddaughters and paint watercolors.

Although Mrs. Hannon is retiring from the commission, she doesn't plan to stay away from historic preservation. In the past, she has strayed from her calling only to find herself fighting to save antiquated buildings.

"I stop and then come back," she said. "Something will happen."

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