A preservation group's annual bid for publicity to help save endangered historic sites in Howard County has a new twist this year - its criticism of the design for a new library along Frederick Road.
Construction of the $30 million brick, stone and glass Miller Library, which will also house the county's Historical Society, is to begin late this year.
"The new library will be a looming postmodern structure completely out of place along what used to be the wagon trail that pioneers traveled during the great westward expansion," Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County, said in a news release.
She said the design "is just an example of what happens when you don't use common sense."
Cochran wants the county to adopt guidelines for building along Frederick Road, one of Maryland's two National Road Scenic Byways. The road itself is new to the preservation group's ninth annual list of top 10 endangered historic sites.
Also new to the list is the Forest Diner, which is to be razed in four years for redevelopment of the U.S. 40 site, which is home to an ice cream stand and a closed motel.
"The Forest Diner is a real piece of Americana, and few are left," Cochran said. She said she hopes the publicity might attract someone who would move the old railroad car to another location. The other eight sites on the list were on it last year.
Dropped from the list were the Mount Hebron stone barn, which was demolished for development, and Woodlawn, a historic ruin off Route 108 near Bendix Road "whose historic integrity was irrevocably compromised by insensitive development," Cochran said.
Cochran said she did not discuss the library design with her sister, County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, a Democrat who represents the area. Watson was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Shelley Wygant, the Historical Society president, said she was surprised by the criticism of the library building's appearance.
"This is news to me," she said, adding that the society is not opposed to the 63,000-square-foot building's exterior design. "We're sort of guests of the library."
County public works director James Irvin called the criticism "bizarre," because the building will house the Historical Society, which now uses a cramped, 18th-century wooden house next to the county Circuit Court building.
"There are plenty of modern houses and businesses along there," Irvin said of Frederick Road. The new building will be just west of the current one-story library, which was expanded in 1985 and will be used for administrative offices.
County library director Valerie Gross said project architects have worked closely with the community and have incorporated "suggestions" of the area's history into the new building.
"The community has overwhelmingly embraced all components of this proposal," Gross said.
More stone was added to the exterior design at residents' suggestion, she said, and a stone bridge to the parking lot will evoke the area's past.
"We're building a library for the next 50 years. We're looking to the future and also the past," Gross said.
"I don't quite see the suggestions," said Cochran, speaking of the architect's rendering on the county's Web site.
Joetta Cramm, a local historian, said the road from Ellicott City to Frederick was built by the Ellicott brothers, the founders of Ellicott City, before the National Road was carved westward across the Appalachian Mountains from Cumberland.
She expressed dismay over the criticism of the library design.
"You hate to see this criticism because there's such a need," Cramm said.
Other endangered historic sites
* Belmont, the 18th-century Elkridge estate owned by Howard Community College.
* Clover Hill, a stabilized but unrestored 18th-century home in Rockburn Park.
* Doughoregan Manor, the nearly 300-year-old Carroll family estate in western Ellicott City. Erickson Retirement Communities withdrew last week from plans to develop there.
* Ellicott City Jail, the original county jail behind the Circuit Court building. It is used partly for storage.
* Highland Crossroads, at routes 108 and 216 and dating to 1759. It has been undergoing development.
* Mooney's Cabin, near Dorsey Mill Road. It is one of the few remaining log structures in the county and is need of restoration.
* Rouse Co. headquarters building in Columbia, at the center of General Growth Properties' downtown redevelopment plans.
* The former U.S. Post Office on Main Street in Ellicott City, dates from the 1940s and is owned by the county. County public works director James Irvin said it will be renovated and preserved when money is available.