Historic Structures

Westernport Public School - Hammond Street School, Westernport Maryland

Date added: April 18, 2022 Categories: Maryland School

Westernport is located at the terminus of the Georges Creek coal basin in western Allegany County, an area that was developed for its coal deposits in the middle third of the 19th century. The town of Westernport, however, actually was established much earlier, in the late 18th century. Located where Georges Creek enters the North Branch of the Potomac River, the site is the westernmost point to which the Potomac River was navigable by freight boats. The town was laid out in 1800 and was officially named Westernport in 1802.

The coal industry and railroad transport contributed to Westernport's growth and development in the 19th century. In 1888 a pulp and paper plant was established in nearby Luke, Maryland, just upstream from Westernport. The paper mill contributed to Westernport's continued growth as an industrial town. This growth led Thomas Hammond, a land speculator from Frederick County, Maryland, to purchase and then lay out lots on the mountainside just west of Georges Creek. Hammond's Addition to the town was officially recorded in July of 1888.

Three years later in 1891, the public school, a square brick building was constructed on the hillside, on the west side of Hammond Street in the addition. The cost of construction was $12,997.00 according to a school plant inventory for Allegany County Schools made in January, 1950. The corner stone, set in the northeast corner of the building is inscribed with the following information: Westernport Public School, 1891; Frank E. and Henry R. Davis, Architects; E.J. Fredlook, Builder; Oliver H. Bruce, Principal; Carrie Hepburn, Ida K. Kalbaugh, B. Edna Duckworth, Annie Bissett and Anna Grimm, teachers.

Sources vary slightly as to the date and cost of the first addition to the Westernport School. The Annual Report of the State Board of Education for 1911 states that the Westernport School was enlarged with brick construction at a cost of $14,550.86. The school plant inventory made in January 1950 for Allegany County Schools records the date of the first addition as 1913 and the cost as $12,148.00. It lists the second addition as 1916, which concurs with the date tablet on the westernmost addition to the building.

According to local informants, a fire on April 30, 1922 gutted the building, although there is no reference to the fire in the 1950 school plant inventory. The fact that all interior finishes in the building date from the 1920s or later and that the interior treatment is consistent throughout the building, in the original section as well as the additions, indicates that the interior was rebuilt after the fire. In 1923 a new high school opened on Church Street and the Hammond Street facility became an elementary school. The school was last used in 1958. Since then it stood vacant except for use as a storage building.

In 1990, the school was purchased by the Westernport Housing Board, Inc. The owner and the developer, Westernport Apartments, L.P., hd the former Westernport Public School demolished to construct an elderly housing complex on the site.