History of Hagerstown: Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why do the old industrial buildings so tall and narrow?
A. Loft-type Industrial buildings used daylight to light the interior before
there was electricity. The narrow floor plan allowed windows on both sides
of the building to provide a continuous source of light. Once factories
incorporated electricity, they could build in a more efficient floor plan
that would accommodate a linear production line.
What is the Flying Boxcar?
The Flying Boxcar, introduced in 1947, was a plane manufactured by Fairchild for the military. It was a cargo troop carrier used extensively during the Korean War.
Q. How many courthouses has Washington County had?
A: Three courthouses. The original courthouse, like most medieval
town halls, consisted of a two-story structure with an arcaded open
market downstairs and an official enclosed space upstairs. A
market, livery and whippping post served early residents on the
lower level, while the court was on the top floor. The structure
was built in the middle of the public square around 1776 and served
the community until 1816. Renowed architect Benjamin Latrobe
designed the second courthouse, located on the spot where the
current courthouse sits. The second courthouse burned in 1871, and
was replaced with the existing structure.
Q: What various forms did development take in Hagerstown
as the city grew away from its historic core?
A: The original pattern of development in Hagerstown, in the portion originally platted by Jonathan Hager in 1762, was a series of narrow lots on a regular grid of streets surrounding a central public square. As the city grew, it maintained this pattern for a long time. By the late nineteenth century, some residents developing on the city's peripheries sought to create neighborhoods that were more open and park-like; they included broad sweeping lawns and stately manner houses, in accordance with popular trends in "Landscape Gardening," such as those promoted by theorist Andrew Jackson Downing. The large lots on the west side of North Potomac Avenue (above North Street) are an excellent example of these emerging ideals.
In the early twentieth century, the idea of creating park-like neighborhoods had gained momentum. In Hagerstown, the Oak Hill neighborhood is a prime example of this type of development. The estate of Mrs. Clara Hamilton was subdivided in 1909, and the neighborhood was planned with gently curving streets (breaking away from the traditional grid pattern), open spaces, and abundant trees. The central section of Oak Hill, known as "The Terrace," was planned to be the most elegant part of the subdivision. Here houses were required (by covenants in the deeds) to be large and have spacious front lawns. The rest of the sections in the subdivision permitted more modest development, but still established an elegant character.
In the years following World War II, the entire nation experienced a boom in suburban housing. Suburbs built in this period were generally located farther out on the peripheries of cities, they were relatively low density, and they were built with houses that were architecturally similar. Hamilton Homes to the north of Hagerstown is an excellent example of this type of development in Hagerstown. The houses were pre-built and were of modest size and cost so as to be affordable. Here, the streets are long and broad and each house has a spacious back yard.