Upper Marlboro plans to acquire land after Pr. George's County tears down 1940s building

January 18, 2013

Helen Ford of Upper Marlboro said she remembers when a small stone building was built in town to serve as a switch station for telephone services in the 1940s.

Now, Ford, a former town board of commissioners president, said the time for nostalgia is over and supports the town’s plan to let Prince George’s County demolish the building and give the property to the town.

“I remember when it was first going up, but now I just don’t see the need for the town to have this building as another expense,” she said.

The one-story stone building, on about one-tenth of an acre of county-owned land on Church Street near Old Crain Highway, also was a command center for the county fire/EMS department but has since been vacant, said Steve Sonnett, president of the board of commissioners.

Town officials first weighed whether to acquire the building from the county in 2011 but could not see any legitimate use for it. One proposed option was a heritage attraction, but the dilapidated structure is not good for hosting visitors, Sonnett said.

If the building is demolished and the deed is given to Upper Marlboro, the town can use the land as a place for open space, he said.

“We’ve been scratching our head for any way we can use this building, and given the location, the size and the condition, we can’t do anything with it,” Sonnett said. “An attractive green space would lighten up the area. It’s really the first entrance into the town when you’re coming from that [north] area.”

The building sits near the Crain Highway Monument, erected in 1922, at the junction of Main Street, Old Marlboro Pike and Old Crain Highway. The 20-foot-tall monument commemorates the completion of Crain Highway, Maryland Route 3, which served as a main thoroughfare from Southern Maryland to other parts of the state to transport tobacco and other goods.

Ford said she could see turning the plot into a flower garden for people to see as they drive by the site, at 14500 Church St.

“Maybe it can be a pretty place for everyone in the town,” she said. “Maybe it can be a nice flower garden to coincide with the monument.”

Sonnett also said some stones from the building could be reused for a garden wall or other type of accent depending on what becomes of the site. The town is still considering ideas.

Town Commissioner Joseph Hourcle said he’d like to see the building stay for its historic qualities, but given its condition and residential zoning status, he doubts that it could be salvaged.

“We’d be stuck with maintaining something we don’t have a use for,” said town Commissioner James Storey.

A letter was sent Jan. 9 to the county’s Office of Central Services to complete the agreement, starting the demolition process and eventual transfer of property ownership, Sonnett said.

Jack Sloan, an associate director for the county’s central services office, said he received a letter from Upper Marlboro that stated that the town would accept the property if the building were demolished. He said the county favors demolishing the vacant building.

“It’s a potential hazard in its present condition, so it would make sense to tear it down,” Sloan said.

Sloan said the decision to give the land to the town will be made by the county executive’s office.

Sonnett said the demolition will be scheduled for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.

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