Trust opposes museum site

The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Historic Trust has recommended against allowing the state to approve the National Sailing Hall of Fame on a waterfront property in Annapolis because of the site's significance in city history.

Director J. Rodney Little advised the Department of Natural Resources, the property owner, not to negotiate a lease unless the museum backers could come up with plans that preserve the Burtis house, one of the few remaining vestiges of the state capital's blue-collar maritime roots.

"It would be ironic for the State to facilitate the destruction of a place so closely associated with the history of Chesapeake Bay conservation, or for the NSHOF to erase this maritime history in the name of sailing heritage," Little wrote Feb. 27.

While the DNR does not have to follow the trust's recommendation, Little said, Maryland law requires the agency to take it under consideration. Little said the Hall of Fame should look into incorporating the site at 69 Prince George St. into the museum.

"My own sense is that in order to make that happen, they would probably have to scale back the scope and size of the project," he said.

The state is in the early stages of the evaluation process and has not yet reviewed the trust's opinion, DNR spokeswoman Olivia Campbell said, adding that the agency would not negotiate a lease during the "clearinghouse process."

DNR must consider opinions from other agencies, nongovernmental groups and the public before seeking approval from the state Board of Public Works.

Natural Resources Police use the Burtis house as a satellite office but plan to move to Sandy Point State Park because of the building's deterioration and vulnerability to flooding.

Lee Tawney, executive director of the Sailing Hall of Fame, said the trust cannot judge the site's suitabilty for its project because no plans have been drawn up.

"What's happening here is things have gotten ahead of themselves," Tawney said. "We haven't even hired an architect."

The nonprofit Sailing Hall of Fame formed in 2004 and chose Annapolis, nicknamed "America's Sailing Capital," for the site of its estimated $20 million museum. In December 2005 it announced its intention to use the property near City Dock.

The Hall of Fame erected a giant tent on the site for the past two summers to show images of top sailboat racers and dramatic footage of famous sailboat races. This spring the group will open docks adjacent to the Burtis house where it will display classic boats.

The permanent museum will offer interactive exhibits on famous sailors, sailing technology and sailing's cultural impact.

The feasibility study estimated the building could draw as many as 150,000 visitors each year and provide a $300,000 annual tax revenue boost.

But that same study also said it was cost-prohibitive to include the former home of Capt. William H. Burtis, who ran a local charter service.

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