Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Historic building? Just tear it down Federal, state and local officials had three options of what to do with a century-old rail freight station in Elizabethtown:
·Turn it into a historic museum, surrounded by a parking lot for the town's restored Amtrak station.
·Move it down a freight rail line to another borough-owned property.
·Move it even farther down the line to the property of White Oak Mills, an animal feed mill that pledged to restore the building and use it to store records.
Faced with these three competing but plausible alternatives, federal, state and local officials chose a fourth option: destroy the building.
"I just don't get it,'' said Kathleen Forney, president of the Elizabethtown Historical Society, which had promoted the museum plan.
How could anyone "get it''? Three options for preservation and government chooses a fourth: destruction?
Elizabethtown Borough Council joined the Federal Transit Administration and the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office in signing off on the deal.
But the demolition must be "mitigated.'' Mitigation, in this case, means that the doomed building's history must be fully documented.
Some mitigation: trading a few pages of historical notes for a historic building.
Constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1912 to handle light freight, the Railway Express Agency station operated from 1929 to 1972. Everything from locally-manufactured shoes to chocolate bars was dispatched from that station.
The historical society said there are no other Railway Express Agency museums in the country and had begun collecting artifacts to fill the building. Projected cost to renovate the modest facility: an equally modest $10,000.
The town's original plan was to demolish the structure to allow more space for parking for the Amtrak station. Then the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission determined the building was historic, necessitating additional thinking.
Thus, the three alternatives.
But somehow, over the past few months, representatives of local, state and federal governments determined, without informing anyone else, to go back to the original plan.
Somehow the state changed its mind on the historic value of the building. The feds, who are paying muh of the bill for the parking lot, apparently didn't care. The town council simply wanted the building out of the way.
So a historic freight station that might have become a unique museum drawing railroad history enthusiasts to Elizabethtown will be replaced by a handful of parking spaces. It won't even be preserved at an obscure location.
This is government action that can only be characterized as ill-advised.
The state Historical and Museum Commission, especially, should be embarrassed by the outcome.
Faced with three alternatives, federal, state and local officials chose a fourth option: destroy the building.