Strolling Thru the Park
Strolling Thru the Park
by Mary Ellen Mitchell
City Park is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll and a great way to spend an afternoon in Hagerstown. This little jewel of a park offers walking trails, a lake and access to two of the town's historic homes and its art museum.
The first owner of the land on which the park is situated was Daniel Dulaney, who laid out nearby Frederick, Maryland. In 1739 Jonathon Hager, a German immigrant purchased 200 acres at 44 pounds from Delaney , built a stone house and named it "Hager's Folly". This historic home is a must see as part of your afternoon in City Park.
The Hager House was built over a spring to provide a water source and out of stone to protect the residents from an Indian attack. In 1745 Hager sold the house to Jacob Rohrer for 200 pounds. Rohrer added 300 acres to his holdings. After Rohrer passed away in 1806, his son sold a portion of the land to a Dutch immigrant, William Heyser. The house was handed down through the family until 1944, when it was acquired by the Washington County Historical Society. The home is furnished with period furniture and artifacts found on site are also on display.
The Jonathon Hager House is located at 110 Key Street. Information can be obtained by calling 301-739-8393. Open Tuesday thru Saturday from 10-4 and Sundays from 2-5, the home is closed in January, February and March.
In 1846, John Heyser, great grandson of William Heyser, built a house known as Cedar Lane. The name was derived from the cedar trees that can still be seen lining the way to Virginia Avenue which borders City Park. In 1852, the first Hagerstown fair was held on Heyser's property and a horse race track was added in 1854. During the Civil War the parkland surrounding the home served as a campsite for both Confederate and Union forces.
Today, Cedar Lane is known as Mansion House and is home to The Valley Art Association. Stop by as you stroll thru the park and admire the works of twenty local artists, which are available for purchase in the gallery. Mansion House is also used for meeting space and classes offered by the Association. From April through December operating hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11-4 and Sundays from 1-5. For more information call 301-797-6813.
By the late 1890's the land of City Park had begun to see a little industry. The Hagerstown Ice Company and the Cumberland Valley Spoke and Pending Company operate on the fringes of the parkland, as most of it was too swampy. In 1916, the City of Hagerstown purchased the land for $40,000 to develop for a city park. By 1921 the swamp was drained and landscape architect George Burnap began to design the outlay of City Park. Burnap was a student of Olmstead, the famed designer of New York's Central Park.
In 1924, Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Singer, Jr. donated the Museum of Fine Arts, which overlooks City Park. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, a permanent collection of over 6,000 items are rotated in exhibits. The collection includes America paintings, Old Masters and European and African art. In addition, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions from both regional and nationally known artists. Upcoming special exhibits will focus on Asian decorative arts, the American Water Color Society, the 72nd Annual Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon, sculpture by Rachel Rotenberg, Corn: Paintings & Works on paper and Drawings from the Permanent Collection.
If you are lucky, your visit may coincide with one of the regular musical concerts, lectures or films that are part of the programming at the Museum. Art classes and special events for both adults and children are scheduled throughout the year. Hours are Tuesday thru Friday from 9-5, Saturdays from 9-4 and Sundays from 1-5. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. For more information call 301-739-5727 or visit the on the web at www.wcfma.org.
It would be a great idea to pack a picnic lunch and stop the tours of the surrounding museums to enjoy one of the pavilions or picnic tables in City Park. Pick a place near the lake or the band shell, in order to take in the views. If small children are in your group, make sure you stop at the playground and tire them out.
In 2004, marked and measured walking trails were added to the park . A map on the kiosk near the bridge by Virginia Avenue details the walking trails. A series of way side exhibits or markers have also been added to the park. Make sure to stop and read the markers, which provide details about the park and the Hager House, the Mansion House and the Washington County Fine Arts Museum. From 1739 to 2005, City Park and its surrounding attractions have been a source of pride and pleasure to the residents of Hagerstown. After a day spent strolling thru the park you will understand why.