Dream On, Sykesville – Wiley Purkey Remembers and Suggests

by Jack White on July 28, 2012

After reading a draft of our article about Matt Candland leaving Sykesville, Wiley Purkey sent me this. Although he’s no longer in the town and not completely on top of some of the things taking place, he remembers the original vision that took hold in the late ’80s and early ’90s and would like to suggest an update.

Wiley Purkey Painting Sunflowers in front of his house on Main Street in Sykesville

But first, a picture of Wiley in front of his home of 20 years in 1993. If you don’t recognize the house, it’s 7557 Main Street, right beside Becks. If you don’t recognize Wiley, he’s the guy with the paintbrush.

There is no time like the present…and there is no present like the past

by Wiley Purkey

“And so dear friends, You just have to carry on.” - from “God” by John Lennon

If we are going to quote John Lennon, as Jack White did in his article about Matt Candland and the restoration of Sykesville, we must “Imagine” a continuation of the dream that will come. We are slowly becoming the “old timers” replacing Thelma, Jim and Dorothy. We see growth in investment and interest in the town that comes from the accomplishments of our recent past.

Sometimes we imagine setbacks and indignities to the Historic District, coming from policies of the current Mayor and Town Council, but the beautiful reality is that so many parts of the jigsaw puzzle that is referred to as “The Vision” are cast in concrete.

From the restoration of the Train Station, the Colored Schoolhouse, the Town House, the building of the “Little Sykes Railway,” the creation of the Gate House Museum of History, the new storm management system, the building of Town Maintenance buildings for employees and equipment, the Police Department moving from one room in the Town House where they had to handcuff prisoners to the cast iron radiators to a newly built facility, the creation of events to bring in tourism dollars, the creation of over 10 miles of the Hiker-Biker trails and on and on and on, these things are permanent.

Sometime soon there will be younger arrivals that are attracted to Sykesville’s bucolic beauty, and they will group together to make their own vision. Perhaps they will follow our blueprint for success, perhaps not. For them, I would say, yes there is much remaining to be done from the original “Five-Year Plan”:

  1. New brick crosswalks at the intersection of Main Street & Sandosky Road, between the two alleys connecting the parking lots with Main Street, and at Main Street and Springfield Avenue.
  2. New lights at each crosswalk, for a total of 12.
  3. Paving the alley with brick and granite between the McElroy parking lot and Main Street.
  4. Closing off the old intersection of Oklahoma and Main St., adding new brick & granite paving and an information kiosk with bollards to restrict vehicle access.
  5. Connect the Historic District with the newer sections of town to encourage pedestrian uses of Main Street through creation of new connector routes.
  6. Improved facilities on trails and routes, signage, benches, picnic tables, etc.
  7. Realignment of Oklahoma and Main St., using existing Baldwin’s Drive.
  8. Patapsco River bridge lighting and detail work (Painting, lighting).
  9. Streetscape improvements (New lighting, benches and trash cans, with old ones repaired and moved to secondary uses such as parks, lots and trails).
  10. Signage at three main entrances that give a sense that “You have arrived at your destination, so there’s no sense in going any further.”

And some new things:

  1. Development of a River Walk on the Howard County side of the Patapsco River.
  2. Development of the Apple Butter building and the South Branch Park into a proper use that benefits the town.
  3. Development of the property around the Train Station the the town already owns into a mixed retail, office and condominium use.
  4. A plan for the use of “Infill“ properties. There are many empty building lots in the Historic District that should be developed as an overall plan for improved economic conditions in the town. New retail and residential properties mean increased tax revenue, more people spending money on Main Street, more tourism dollars.
  5. The role of the Main Street Manager should be expanded into a newly financed Town Department, with additional staff, and given the additional duties of developing tourism for the town.
  6. Creation of a new events plan and calendar that showcases everything cultural that is happening in and around the town. What we often fail to realize is that all local events are integrated in some way, through families, or similar interests. People are always looking for something to do, and if they fail to find it locally, they will take their dollars to other events.
  7. The continuing development of the Warfield Commerce and Cultural Center.
  8. Creation of a volunteer recruitment and training program. The volunteers that gave us all so much support and did some of the “heavy lifting,” helping to move ideas forward seem to be missing from the current scene.
  9. We need to encourage the creation of support groups that exist outside of local government, that are made up of public and private individuals that work to the betterment of the area through providing “seed” money or use of town facilities. Historically, there were the “Friends of Historic Sykesville,” ” The Sykesville Improvement Association,” and the “Sykesville Gardening Club,” among others. Yes, sometimes their interests overlap, but that means more than one group is working toward a common goal.

“We are on the threshold of a dream, so dream a little dream with me, for the best is yet to be.”

About Wiley:
Wiley Purkey is one of the original architects and participants in the movement to save Sykesville. He’s a former member of the Town Council. He ran a custom framing shop on Main Street with Mark Rychwalksi and later renovated the building, expanded next door, and ran Wiley’s Toy Trains for several years. Here’s our story on the closing of Purkey’s Toy Train store.

He also renovated this 1931 home beside Becks on Main Street and lived there 20 years. Prior to the arrival of Wiley and Claudia Purkey, the home had been a beauty salon for many years.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy August 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Mr. Purkey, I recently saw a print of one of your paintings of Sykesville, as it was many years ago, displayed at the old Sykesville Federal, now Carroll Community Bank. It was a view of Main Street in the center and bordered by smaller pictures of various old buildings. I would love to find out where I can purchase one of these prints, if at all. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks so much!

Jim Purkey January 30, 2013 at 9:22 am

Your thoughts and ideas brought back memories of the town. I put many a mile up and down main street before I left in 1946.

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