German immigrant Jonathan Hager arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1736. In 1739 he purchased 81 hectares (200 acres) of land just over the Pennsylvania border in Maryland. Selecting a site where there were fresh water springs, he built a house and a barn. He married 15 year old Elizabeth Kershner in 1740 and they lived in the house for 5 years before moving to another property that he had acquired. In addition to farming the land, Hager worked as a gunsmith and fur trader. In 1762 Hager founded a town of 520 lots close to his old house, which he named Elizabethtown after his wife. Jonathan Hager died in in an accident while helping to build a church in 1775 and by then many townsfolk referred to the town as Hager's Town in recognition of his founding role. The City Council officially changed the name to Hager's-Town in 1813 and it was endorsed by the Maryland State Legislature the following year. The railroad arrived in 1834, spurring the growth of Hagerstown. During the Civil War, Hagerstown’s location between the Mason-Dixon Line and the Potomac River made it an important supply centre. In 1864 the town was invaded by Confederate troops who demanded and received a ransom of $20,000 and a large amount of clothing, in retribution for the destruction of farms in the Shenandoah Valley by Union forces. During World War I, biplanes were built in Hagerstown and from 1931 to 1984, Fairchild Aircraft operated a factory in the town.
Museum of Fine Arts
The centrepiece of City Park is the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The museum was built using a donation from Anna Brugh Singer and her husband William H. Singer, Jr who was a landscape artist and collector. The Singers gave the museum a substantial collection of American and European art for its opening in 1931. Hagerstown was Anna’s home town and in 1949 she funded the addition of two wings in memory of her husband who died in 1943. The collections in the museum include American Art from the 18th to the early 20th Century and Old Masters. There is also Decorative art from around the world including art deco glasswork by Tiffany and Lalique. The museum is open daily apart from Mondays and admission is free.
Round House Museum
The Western Maryland Railway Roundhouse was built in 1939 for the maintenance and repair of steam locomotives and rail cars. Sadly the roundhouse it was demolished in 1999 but a museum has sprung up on the site featuring historical exhibits from the local railroads plus extensive model railroads. The Roundhouse Museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons year round. Unortunately, we were in Hagerstown on a Wednesday and Thursday, when the museum was closed.
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City Park, Hagerstown
In 1916, the City of Hagerstown purchased land adjoining the Jonathan Hager House to create a new park. The land was used to create City Park, complete with man-made lakes, wooded walking trails, outdoor concert stage and active recreation facilities. Also in the park is a Georgian-style mansion built by John Heyser in 1846. Now known as the Mansion House Art Gallery, it is the headquarters of the Valley Art Association.Click Tab 2 to see the Mansion House Art Gallery.
Beaver Creek School Museum, near Hagerstown
Beaver Creek, a short distance south east of Hagerstown, still has its 1904 two-room schoolhouse. The building was used as a school up to 1961 when ownership passed to the Washington County Historical Society. They recreated a schoolroom of the early 20th century and used the other former schoolroom to display other historic items including tools, clothing and toys. We we visited Beaver Creek School Museum was open on Sunday afternoons but now it is only open by appointment only. Sadly, at the time of writing, the Historical Society has put the building up for sale, casting doubt about its future.
Jonathan Hager House
The two storey house that Jonathan Hager built in 1740 still stands complete with two spring-fed pools in the basement that provided a water supply. In 1745 Hager sold the house then known as ‘Hager’s Fancy’ to Jacob Rohrer and it remained in the Rohrer family until 1944. It was then sold to the Washington County Historical Society who restored it then in 1954 the house was given to the City of Hagerstown. In 1964 the Jonathan Hager House opened as an historic house museum. It is open Fridays and Saturdays in season.
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