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Exhibit Center is worth preservingIt is difficult...


Exhibit Center is worth preserving

It is difficult for some people to view a relatively contemporary site and say to oneself, "This site is historically important."

Preservation Howard County has done just that with its recognition of the importance of the Columbia Exhibit Center. I am grateful to this organization for its hard work and vision.

Carole Conors

Ellicott City

Keep Exhibit Center from being leveled

After reading the editorial "Howard's 'Top Ten' List" (May 19, 2001) concerning the inclusion of the Columbia Exhibit Center in Preservation Howard County's Top Ten Endangered Sites list, I was struck by the following sentence: "You can't seriously mention the Exhibit Center in the same breath as the William Paca House in Annapolis or the 18th-century Georgian brick home of Owings Mills founder Samuel Owings -- a house recklessly demolished in 1996 in Baltimore County." I hope that through the efforts of Preservation Howard County and the inclusion of sites with future historic significance, that it won't be necessary to modify the end of this sentence in a few years to read "the Columbia Exhibit Center -- a building recklessly demolished in 200x in Howard County."

A few years ago, The Sun chronicled the "plight" of the Kraft family who wanted to demolish their Padonia Road home (also known as the "Thomas Fortune House" or Padonia Station) but were temporarily thwarted by the fact that their house had been listed as of historical significance by the Maryland Historical Trust/National Register of Historic Places. Alas, the Krafts were successful in their efforts, and the building has been demolished, paving the way for absolutely nothing in its place as of the last time I visited, except for some remaining rubble. Present and future generations lost a place of significance in the history of Irish immigrant workers in Maryland.

Let's not lose a place of significance in the history of multicultural diversity in Maryland to a pile of rubble in Columbia.

Cassie Kilroy Thompson


Center deserves immediate preservation

I am responding to the editorial ("Howard's 'Top Ten' list," May 19) in which Preservation Howard County (PHC) was criticized for listing the 1967 Exhibit Center (designed by Frank Gehry) in Columbia as one of 10 endangered landmarks that should be preserved for public benefit. Hats off to PHC for understanding precisely what the National Register of Historic Places outlines in its published Bulletin on designating properties of less than 50 years in age. "The 50-year period is an arbitrary span of time, designed as a filter to ensure that enough time has passed to evaluate the property in a historic context. However, it was not designed to be mechanically applied on a year-by-year basis." Seeing Columbia as a 20th century planned community within the vista of time, rather than comparing it to an 18th century house, suggests analytical maturity on the part of PHC. Why wait until 2017 when the Exhibit Center reaches its 50th year? The center is important in history now and should be preserved starting now!

Kay Weeks

Ellicott City

Saving 'recent past' is an important goal

The Sun's editorial "Howard's 'Top Ten' list," (May 19) raises the interesting question of, "How could the Columbia Exhibit Center, built only 34 years ago, be historic?" Merriam Webster defines historic as "Famous or important in history. Having great and lasting importance." In other words, "historic" implies more about a site's great and lasting importance than it does about a site's age. Preservationists have recognized that saving the "recent past" is an important goal of preserving a historic context. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's current endangered list includes the San Anita Racetrack in California, which was built in the 1930s and noted for its elaborate Art Deco exterior. Recent additions to the National Park Service's list of Historic Landmarks (the highest "historic" designation available nationally) include the First Christian Church built in the 1940s in Columbus, Ohio, as well as a series of Visitor Centers built during the same time frame as the Columbia Exhibit Center.

The Columbia Exhibit Center is significant to our county from a heritage perspective. Howard County changed forever with the birth of Columbia, and the Columbia Exhibit Center, in many ways, represents that birth.

The "downtown" exhibit center was the unofficial gateway to the new community. For longtime county residents, this was their glimpse of the future. For many prospective residents, the exhibits in the center were their first introduction to Howard County's past. James Rouse was a pioneer in his concept of a new design for community living. The exhibit center could be considered as much of a gateway to this pioneer effort as was the Cumberland Gap a gateway for earlier pioneers.

Just as Rouse was a pioneer in community planning, he was also prescient in his choice of architects. The Columbia Exhibit Center was designed by noted architect, Frank O. Gehry. Mr. Gehry is the acclaimed designer of the Guggenheim museum in Bilboa, Spain, and the recipient of the prestigious "Pritzker Architecture Prize" -- the Nobel Prize of architecture. The Guggenheim Museum in New York opened the "Frank Gehry, Architect" retrospective this week. The New York Times in its review of the retrospective states that it "goes far toward dispelling the anger that has restricted our age from acknowledging artistic greatness in our midst." A recent article in the Los Angeles Times proclaims that "Few architects have attained the raw technical skill that Gehry has over a 40-year career. Fewer still have created a body of work that so fully encapsulates the transition from one historical era to another." Howard County residents are indeed fortunate to have such a fine example of early Gehry architecture, which most certainly, will be of "great and lasting importance."

Preservation Howard County firmly supports the vision that history is as much about looking forward, as it is about looking back. Our "Top Ten" list supports this view by having sites from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We look forward to developing plans that seek to preserve each of these endangered sites, and we encourage interested citizens to join us in this endeavor. For more information, visit or call 410-465- 5011.

Mary Catherine Cochran

Ellicott City

The writer is the president of Preservation Howard County Inc.

Coaching dispute a disservice to school

Articles in The Sun, both last fall and in recent weeks, have presented a rather one-sided account of the events relating to the varsity basketball coaching position at Howard High School. At the recommendation of the attorney representing Mr. Gregory Smith on behalf of the Howard County Education Association (HCEA), Mr. Smith has refused comment on the matter.

Unfortunately, published accounts have contained inaccurate information and comments primarily from those supportive of the actions of Mary Day, the principal of Howard High School. Because of the overriding importance of this issue, not only to the Board of Education employees involved, but also to the student athletes, their parents, and the Howard High School community in general, it is imperative that the facts be made known to everyone.

In late August, 2000, it was brought to the attention of HCEA that Ms. Day had appointed Mr. Derrick Dunlap as the new head coach of the boys varsity basketball team. Mr. Dunlap was not then, nor is he now, an employee of the Howard County Board of Education.[One] reason that Mr. Dunlap's appointment by Ms. Day was disturbing was that there had been an "acceptable and qualified" applicant from within the staff at Howard High School. Mr. Gregory Smith, an experienced teacher and basketball coach at the school, had applied for the position. Mr. Smith had been the head junior varsity boys' basketball coach at Howard for the preceding two school years and was scheduled to continue for the 2000-2001 school year until the head varsity coaching position became available. Having completed all of the requisite courses to be a public school coach in Maryland, Mr. Smith was "qualified" to be the head varsity coach at Howard. And, by any reasonable standards, given his prior successful experience as the head junior varsity coach, he should have been considered to be "acceptable."

Nevertheless, applying her own unique definition, Ms. Day apparently concluded that Mr. Smith was not "acceptable" to her. Otherwise stated, Ms. Day apparently felt that Mr. Dunlap could produce more "wins" for her team than Mr. Smith could.

The fundamental flaw in Ms. Day's judgment, however, lies in her treatment of the Howard High School basketball team as being akin to a sports franchise, where winning is everything. Maryland law, however, plainly states that her judgment is absolutely wrong in the arena of high school athletics. The Maryland State Board of Education has long regarded extracurricular activities such as athletic teams to be integral parts of the instructional process; hence, the State Board's regulations specify the clear preference to have teachers in each locale be coaches, rather than outsiders unfamiliar with that school district's instructional standards and objectives. Under Maryland law, winning is not the primary objective -- learning is.

Thus, when this very difficult issue came before the Board of Education of Howard County, the board ordered the only reasonable remedy then available -- the immediate replacement of Mr. Dunlap with Mr. Smith.

However, because the 2000-2001 season was already under way, and since he recognized that a mid-season change in coaches would have the potential for creating a serious disruption in the basketball program, Mr. Smith agreed that Mr. Dunlap should be allowed to complete the 2000-2001 schedule, and that he (Mr. Smith) would await assumption of the head coaching duties until the 2001-2002 school year.

Right from the beginning, Ms. Day was fully aware of this resolution of the coaching dispute. For reasons only she knows, Ms. Day apparently chose to withhold this information from Mr. Vince Parnell, the athletic director at Howard High School, who recently advertised what he thought was a vacancy in the basketball coaching position. The only reason we can fathom as to why Ms. Day chose to conceal this information from Mr. Parnell (and apparently everyone else on her administrative team) was that, in a fit of pique at the board for overriding her choice for coach, she did not want to do anything to support someone who she had not personally "anointed" for the job. We are appalled by such conduct on the part of someone who is supposed to be the instructional leader of the school. Ms. Day should have been in the forefront of those trying to do everything possible to facilitate the success of the basketball program for the school year. Instead, it seems that she decided to place her own petty disputes with her superiors ahead of the interests of the students and parents in the Howard High School community.

We applaud the Board for having the courage to make a difficult decision.

We only wish that the principal at Howard High School had demonstrated similar courage in implementing that decision.

Joseph Staub

Ellicott City

The writer is the president of the Howard County Education Association

Smoke ban doesn't hurt Howard's businesses

While it is certainly disappointing that any restaurant in Howard County would go out of business, Piccolo's statement that local smoking restrictions contributed to its demise should be taken for what it is worth ("Unprofitable, Piccolo's faces the music," May 21).

In contrast to that view, Romano's Macaroni Grill opened its doors to Howard County diners as a 100 percent smoke-free establishment when it could have chosen to allow smoking in a separately ventilated room. A full parking lot on any given evening suggests it is doing very well. The fact is that people go to good restaurants to eat, not to smoke. Good food and atmosphere in a smoke-free environment will attract both smokers and non-smokers.

Howard County smoke-free restaurants continue to be crowded, including places like Carabas, Clyde's and the Outback Steakhouse, which also have bars. With much business to be had for the restaurants with good food and good service, Howard County should see the smoking ban as not something to lament but to embrace. The ones who have evidently are getting all the business

Mark E. Breaux


President, Howard County Smoke Free Coalition

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