Preserving The Past

Photos Courtesy Of Site Resources, Inc.

Photos Courtesy Of Site Resources, Inc.

In many ways, downtown Westminster in Maryland has changed little in the last 100 years. Located in Carroll County, the city’s street-level shops and upper-floor apartments capture a glimpse of olden days. Local business owners greet passersby, and farming still dominates the landscape on the outskirts of town. Westminster is the quintessential “Main Street USA” community, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and stunning historic architecture on every corner.

A Look Back

The Westminster Branch Library is on East Main Street near the center of town, just up the hill from the railroad tracks, which travel past the building east to Baltimore. Library service in Carroll County has a colorful history. Service began in 1863, according to the Westminster Branch website, when the Rev. J. A. Monroe and Dr. Charles Billingslea founded the Westminster Public Library. It was relocated over the years, and in 1949, Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Davis announced they would donate a public library building to Westminster and provide an endowment. The Westminster Public Library turned over operation and assets to the Davis Library, housed in a former Methodist church building, and dedicated in 1951. A county-wide system was established in 1958, with the Davis Library operating as the central branch. After a decade of lobbying for a modern library facility, the Westminster Branch Library opened in 1980. The current library branch is on the former site of the St. John Catholic Church, according to Lynn Wheeler, director of the Carroll County Public Library.

Defining The Space

The site’s historic church rectory, which remains as office space for staff members, and the library building were set back from the street, creating a rectangular front yard. This area, approximately 1/3 of an acre, contained a series of walkways surrounded by mature landscaping past its prime. The nearly 30-year-old plantings were overgrown and created a dark, heavily shaded environment. It became apparent that the grounds were no longer meeting the needs of library patrons, nor the city’s residents and visitors, who frequently attended events and festivals along Main Street, and activities hosted by Carroll County Public Library (CCPL). Officials thought the grounds could be redeveloped not only to meet the needs of the library and its programs, but also to serve the growing demand for open space in the downtown area. The library declared its intent to create a more useable open space that could also function as a much-needed town green. In a series of input sessions, library staff, city and county officials, business owners, residents, law enforcement, and many others participated, voicing their opinions and desires for the new space. The concept of a city green remained the focus.

Conversations And Discussions … At the conclusion of the sessions, it was decided that the new site needed to relate to its surroundings and reflect the historic character of Westminster. Attendees also decided that it should complement Locust Lane, a small, metropolitan plaza and pedestrian corridor that hosts concerts and houses the city Christmas tree every year. There would also be an artist’s garden with room for demonstrations, art shows and sales, and civic exhibits.

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