But once he lived here. Oh, just a thirty second walk across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic.
Hard to believe that the massive structure that is now the Sykesville Townhouse was once a private residence, but it was. John McDonald lived there with his wife, Kate.
McDonald came to Sykesville from Ireland around 1856 at the age of ten and somewhere along the way became owner of the big stone building that serves as the St. Barnabas Parish House. He ran a store there for many years. His wife, Kate, continued to run the store and sold it in 1916.
And in 1910, four years after John died, the house looked like this.
It’s not every day you see a yellow submarine in Sykesville, so it’s good to have your camera on hand just in case you do.
Sunday was my lucky day. I happened to be in the big parking lot off Main Street with my camera, when there it was.
I said to myself, “that looks like a yellow submarine.” It was on a yellow trailer. It wasn’t wet, so I’m pretty sure they didn’t just pull it out of the Patapsco, which is only six inches deep anyway at the moment. [read more...]
Well being as I have to get to work, I don’t have time to listen to my tape and give a detailed accounting of what happened at the town council meeting last night, but here are some quick impressions and here’s an article in the Carroll County Times. I believe one will also be following in the Carroll Eagle.
First of all there were lots of people there, at least 50, maybe 70, every chair taken and a crowd spilling out into the second room. I had to kneel on the floor.
As is usually the case when I attend any sort of public meeting it seemed that most of the crowd was older, beyond 50, beyond 60, beyond 70.
People really like the post office. They really like the people who worked there. And they’re angry about the loss of the post office, the loss of these women, and the town’s handling of the matter.
Mayor Miller did something very kind and wise by introducing the new town manager, Dawn Ashbacher, before starting the meeting, and everyone gave her a big applause. She wasn’t prepared to speak, but did say something along the lines of, “I thought everyone came here to see me.” Which sadly, wasn’t true, but did get a big laugh. I like her.
Then the mayor did something not so smart. He read a well-prepared statement, and said that the council had decided it would be imprudent to discuss the post office matter at this meeting, because the council needs more time to discuss the matter.
Which might have started a riot, but didn’t, because after saying that, he answered questions anyway. Everyone behaved well, no one lost their temper. And here are the pertinent facts as I remember them. [read more...]
Although the post office is not specifically mentioned on the agenda, there will be a period for addressing public concerns near the beginning of the meeting, and I’m sure the post office will come up then.
I never realized how popular the ladies who worked there were, but we keep getting comments like this one.
If only all employees were as resourceful, pleasant, honest and hardworking as Jean, Kathy, Connie and Judy. They not only run the OML Post Office they also manage the feral cat colony on their own time, at their own expense.
They promote the town at the fairs and events on their own time, at their own expense. They decorate and plant flowers and beautify Sykesvile on their own time, at their own expense.
They visit the town’s sick and elderly on their own time at their own expense. They send Get Well Wishes and Condolences. They worry about their patrons and their patron’s families in every part of the world that mail reaches.
They are good citizens and ambassadors and their letter is fabulously written unlike Mr. Miller’s. Bravo and many thanks for your many years of service to the city. I am sorry our support is too little too late.
I guess there are really three issues here.
Why was Jean Maher fired, was it done fairly and properly, and will she get a chance to clear her name?
When will the post office reopen?
The third issue might be, does Sykesville need a post office, but I think a better one is this. Does Sykesville want a post office?
You can’t always measure value just by looking at the bottom line.
Oh, they’ll also be introducing the new town manager tonight. Probably not the best situation for her.
You online posters are such babies. It’s ok for everyone here to post their negative comments and I can’t dish a little back. Seriously, you shouldn’t even be posting negative comments unless you understand the situation which 99% on here don’t. This is like a gossip board, serves no constructive purpose. Has any one of you reached out to any Council members or myself to get more information, No? Why not? I got a few emails from some upset residents and cordially responded with as much information as I could give. That’s called communication folks. I should be ashamed, of what? You all should be ashamed for your quick judgements and false accusations. Everyone who knows me understands that I’m a straight shooter, I don’t bs and I say what’s on my mind. May not be politically correct but I’m no politician, so there. Gossip on …
That’s Sykesville’s Mayor Mike Miller on our Facebook page. Facebook.com/sykesvilleonline in a discussion of the closing of the Sykesville post office.
There will be a town council meeting at the townhouse this Wednesday night, November 14th at 7pm.
Here’s the background
The town fired the post office manager, Jean Maher, and the other three women who worked there quit. Andrea found out that the post office was closed, contacted the town, heard from the mayor and posted this.
Today, the Sykesville Post Office on Oklahoma Ave. has been closed, until further notice.
We contacted Mayor Mike Miller and he told us that “the Town has experienced some problems staffing the contract postal unit and has closed the unit until these problems can be assessed. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused with the closure of this service.
“The decision to suspend operations was made by the acting Town Manager in collaboration with myself today Nov 5 at approximately 9am. At this time we do not have post office employees to run the service thus it had to be closed.”
Mayor Miller cannot currently offer more details about certain aspects of this matter because it’s a confidential personnel matter.
When asked whether the town intends to ensure we have a working Post Office in the near future, or if a permanent closure is being discussed, the mayor responded that at this time, he cannot say whether the Town plans to maintain a working Post Office in the near future. He believes the council will be discussing this matter over the next few months.
Well, I heard from Helene Taylor, owner of The French Twist Cafe that will be coming to the green building in Sykesville soon. And she thanked me and pointed out that there was one small error in my story.
That being that, how did she put it? ”I will be serving a full menu of savory and sweet crêpes but my coffee will not be French because there is no such thing as French Coffee, you moron.”
So, how’s that saying go? “Well that’s awkward.”
Actually, she didn’t call me a moron. That was just me embellishing.
Now I could sneak back and fix the original story, but then people who already read it might get confused when the coffee in question is no longer referred to as French. In fact, the coffee will be coming from Cleveland. No, wait, I could be wrong about that, too. Let me check the email.
I’m not sure what a micro-roaster is. I’m picturing a tiny little creature in a beret, but more likely a micro-roaster is some sort of machine. Anyway, I’m glad we’re going to have a roaster here in Sykesville, no matter how diminutive.
Also, I would like to point out that in most other aspects of the story, I was correct. The building is green, Helene is named Helene, she does have a daughter who rides the bus to Sykesville Middle with my daughter, Anna, and all my coffee will be free. But only my French coffee. Helene also expressed her hope that her customers would wear berets.
The daughter, by the way, is named Madeline. Which is perfect, because they made a movie about her, and my God, the whole thing is on YouTube.
I’ve always been a big fan of the pretty green building across from the closed Post Office and Visitor Center downtown. It’s a beautiful building, and potentially a great story, but there was always that one problem.
The building was empty.
Well that, my friends, is about to change.
The French Twist – Coffee is an Experience
In an interesting plot twist, Sykesville is about to get its coffee shop at last. And it’s going to be a French one called The French Twist Cafe, with French gourmet coffee, and run by Helene Taylor, an actual French person with an actual French accent, who moved here to become an actual live-in French nanny, and who has a daughter who rides the same bus as mine to Sykesville Middle.
Which means I get all my coffee free.
So far Helene’s cafe has already won Best Emerging Business at the Carroll County Business Awards, and according to The Carroll County Times, the business is a finalist in the Carroll Biz Challenge. If it wins, Helene’s going to take the $5000 prize and add a drive through window.
And what makes it even cooler is that the coffee shop will exist inside a historic building that started life on Main Street in the late eighteen-hundreds, moved behind Main street, where it stood and rotted in vinyl behind a chain link fence for many years, and then moved again to its current location across from the closed post office on top of a truck a couple years ago, an event we covered in one of our first stories.
This means you can drink French gourmet coffee in a cafe built when someone like the great Chester Arthur was President, and Wade Warfield (more about him in an upcoming story) was just in the early days of building Sykesville. Plus, if you’re a guy, you can wear a beret for that cool sophisticated French look, or a derby for the 1889 American look that young Warfield sported. And if you’re a woman, you can laugh at the guys.
And one more thing. Have you ever seen any of those old French posters by guys like Toulouse-Lautrec? Of course, you have. Well the heart of that movement in the arts was Paris, and the era when all that stuff was going on is referred to as La Belle Epoque, and it coincides almost exactly with the years when the green building was a young American place on Main Street.
It’s quite likely that while carpenters were hammering nails into wood in Sykesville to create this building, Toulouse-Lautrec was helping to invent poster art in Paris while sipping French coffee and getting wasted on absinthe.
There’s something cosmic about it all.
A Happy Ending
This was a story that deserved a happy ending.
And when The French Twist opens sometime around March, that’s what we’re going to have. A happy ending, and apparently, some sort of coffee education to boot.
The French Twist will be a sit down retail coffee shop that will source extraordinary coffees from a great local micro-roaster, and will offer a full breakfast and lunch menu featuring savory and sweet crêpes.
For the vast majority of the world, coffee is a commodity. For those among us who are coffee lovers – fanatics even – coffee is an experience. The experience is profound and multi-layered, but can become even more so with additional exploration and thought.
The mission of The French Twist is to introduce its customers to gourmet coffee and authentic French cuisine in a unique and comfortable surrounding. The food menu will be simple, with a focus on traditional French crêpes.
Sounds great. For me coffee is definitely a profound and multi-layered experience. I refer to it as a buzz, and the more I drink the more profound it gets. But I’m more than happy to drink my coffee less in search of a transcendent head rush and more in the spirit of becoming sophisticated in the ways of French gourmet coffee.
I will not, however, do the beret thing.
Now Back to the Building
Here’s a picture of the building, recently stripped of its siding, shortly after the move, when lots of people thought moving a building was really a dumb thing to do.
And here’s our little video of the move. I take no responsibility for the musical accompaniment, and if we get sued by Willie Nelson, we deserve it.
When I wrote my recent article about Matt Candland, I had this in there about the green building, which I suppose we can now start calling The French Twist Cafe.
Candland says, “It was another controversial project, even among some existing council members. People said, ‘Ah just tear the thing down.’ But the building moved over there and then it started coming alive. And it’s a handsome building now. We put about $15,000 of town money into it and just recently Fred Gossage bought it, and the town will net between $120,000 and $130,000 in profit.
“The building will start paying taxes and will ultimately have a use in there that generates economic activity in the downtown.”
Needless to say, if they’d torn it down, the town wouldn’t be collecting $130,000 for a building that has slowly worked its way down Main Street and dates back to the presidencies of men like Hayes, Cleveland, and Arthur.
There are already negotiations going on to bring something new and exciting to the building. (I’ve been sworn to secrecy on that.)
Well the secret is out. French Twist Cafe is coming soon. Happy ending. Berets optional, but not recommended.
Correction: There’s actually a slight mistake in this story, a matter of detail really, which you can read about here. Or I can just tell you. There’s no such thing as French coffee.
As you probably know by now, the Sykesville town post office closed abruptly last week when one of the women who run it was fired and the three others walked off the job in protest. The former employees have been circulating a very well-written letter through the regular old US mail, which we thought we would pass along.
So here goes.
November 7, 2012
Dear Friends and Patrons of Old Main Line Visitor’s Center and Post Office,
The Carroll County Times published a story on November 6, 2012, relating the details that led to the closing of this facility. On Thursday, November 1, 2012 Interim Town Manager Chief John Williams, Jr. fired the manager of OML, Jean Maher, as a result of a unanimous vote by Mayor Michael Miller and the Sykesville Town Council. The reason given for this dismissal was “employee misconduct”. Maintaining that this was a grave injustice, the remaining employees of Old Main Line, Connie McKay, Kathy Gambrill and Judy Lettie handed in letters of resignation and building keys to Chief Williams’ designee on Monday, November 5.
We were baffled by the reason given for this abrupt dismissal. Questions as to Mrs. Maher’s termination were answered with “this is a personnel issue and cannot be discussed”.
Jean’s April budget hearing presentation in defense of keeping the Post Office was mentioned at her termination as a contributing factor for this abrupt action. This was followed by a charge of recent employee misconduct, which is strongly denied.
We wonder how and who could make such an accusation; what could be the facts that could dismiss the manager of this business — one with no record of any complaints during the past ten years of service. It is our desire and hope that Mrs. Maher’s name be cleared of this injustice.
We believe that the services provided to our patrons have value as supported by the many, many verbal and written responses we have received over the years. It has been our pleasure to serve our loyal customers and we will surely miss our daily communications across the counter.
Due to the fact that we are no longer employees of the Town of Sykesville, we no longer have a say in the operations of Old Main Line. If this is a matter of concern to you, we would encourage you to attend the next Town Council meeting on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 7 pm at the Town House. Perhaps you could get the answers to these questions.
Thank you very much for sharing your lives and stories with us along with your support and patronage for the past ten years.
Jean Maher, Connie McKay, Kathy Gambrill, Judy Lettie
My word, I was so shocked that at first my brain couldn’t process it. I turned the corner near Fairhaven on my way to the bank with a couple measly checks to deposit and there it was. Hovering in the air, huge and beautiful and weirdly out of place with a loud gushing flame shooting up into it.
Just floating there in the blue sky where usually there’s nothing but a long field of grass, some half grown and dying trees on a hill, and cars rushing by on 32 on the other side. I almost drove straight off the road. I forgot all about the bank and called Andrea and said, “Get over here quick with the camera. I think I found Dorothy and she’s heading back to Oz.”
And Andrea said, “What?”
I said, “I mean Kansas, she’s flying back to Kansas.”
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.
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. [read more...]
I used the J & B Auto Salvage Shop as an example of one of the successes in the revitalization of Sykesville. Here Jeannie Nichols, former Town Council President, tells how it was done. Rather than seek re-election after ten years on the council, Jeannie let her term expire so that she could pursue her own business.
Here’s the building that stands where the junkyard used to stand. The builder, Howard Saslow, made sure it blended well with the rest of Main Street.
The Junk Yard on Main Street
By Jeannie Nichols
How we got rid of a junkyard and added a nice new building without spending any money. From my office in the old fire station overlooking Main Street in Sykesville, I can see many of the dramatic changes that have occurred in town since I moved here in 1994.
Do you remember that ugly junkyard on Main Street? Today it’s the site of an attractive building with space for four retail stores on the first floor and office space on the second.
How did this beautiful building emerge from a junkyard? Well, let me tell you.
Uncle Mort was some guy who used to write columns for the Sykesville Herald way back when it first started out. So about one hundred years ago, July 16, 1914, he came down on slang-whangers and town knockers, and I came across him while doing a little research for Sykesville Online. He also has opinions on shirt tails and hair.
So, if you’ve got any gripes about our article on Matt Candland and The Great Restoration, make sure you listen to Uncle Mort before you start your slang whanging. [read more...]
884 is still dead, of course. But he’s no longer just a number on a hill. He has a name.
Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about just scroll down a bit and you’ll learn that there’s a place called Sunny Side on the Springfield Hospital grounds where they used to bury the dead and mark the graves with a single number. 884 was the last of these.
Well, not long after I wrote that, Springfield put up this nice wall of names. And no, it wasn’t because of my blog post. And now we know that 884′s name is…
Osborne Broadwater. Who most likely died in 1961, since he was the last, and that’s when they stopped burying the dead on the hill.
So here lies Osborne Broadwater, dead 50 years, but no longer forgotten.
Okay, I’ll get to the naked swimming in a minute, but first, did you notice the big black tube hanging out down Main Street?
Well, you can rent that thing, or several, for ten bucks a day and take a two hour ride down the river, no kidding, courtesy of Undersea Outfitters.
They just moved here from Finksburg a month ago, and although their focus is scuba diving and not river rafting, they’ll set you up with a tube, show you where to get started, and off you’ll go for a couple hours of riding the Patapsco. Fully clothed, of course.
The Days of Naked Swimming
Now for the naked swimming. I’ve been interviewing Warren Dorsey, who used to live up the hill in the part of town called “the Bottoms,” where the “colored” folks lived, and he says a long time ago when things were simple and Sykesville was a totally segregated community, there was only one place where the black boys and the white boys mingled.
There were three swimming holes in the river, and in one, the blacks and whites swam together. Warren doesn’t know why there was an exception for that when everything else was either whites or black only, but I can tell you why it was only boys.
Because they swam naked. Warren doesn’t have a good explanation for that, either, except that, well, they didn’t have much in the way of clothes, and certainly didn’t have bathing suits, so it was better to swim in your skin than get your only summer clothes all wet.
So put your bathing suit on, get a tube from Undersea Outfitters, and ride the river. It’s a hell of a lot cleaner than it was in the days when Warren Dorsey slipped off his pants and mingled with the white boys, and most likely you won’t come across any naked swimmers of any color.
884 is dead, of course. 884 has been dead since at least 1961, when they stopped burying bodies on the hill known as Sunny Side on the grounds of Springfield.
Last week I wrote about the very interesting Old Trinity Cemetery and the people who saved it from oblivion, but this is a different sort of strange cemetery and strange area history. It’s Sunny Side. [read more...]
You know the place. Eldersburg, Maryland. The intersection of 32 and 26. One of the least scenic places on earth, although it does have a sign now that says “Welcome to Eldersburg” at an intersection that doesn’t seem welcoming at all.
And after your trip to Panera or Food Lion or Cobblestones, as you sit at the intersection, waiting forever to turn left on 32, instead of looking down out the driver’s side window at the pile of cigarette butts lined from tire to tire and beyond, you can stare toward that sign, and think, at least that someone had, or has, good intentions. [read more...]
If you know golf you know Swilcan Bridge on St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. And if you know Sykesville you probably know the town’s Main Street Manager, Ivy Wells. And if you know Ivy Wells, you may know her son, Josh.
Here’s Josh Wells on Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews. No, he’s not looking for his ball in the water. He’s doing the Tim Tebow thing.
Swilcan Bridge. It’s like Mecca to Muslims. It’s like Rome to Catholics. It’s like the end zone to Tim Tebow. To golfers it’s a holy place.
Josh, who’s 20 and on the Dean’s list, is a junior at Penn State in the PGA golf program.
A couple years ago we had snowmageddon and tons of cool snow shots. This year so far…well…here’s a shot of a buried Silly Willy. Well, actually it’s Silly Willy’s car. I assume Silly himself is in the house entertaining some kids.
Undeterred by a ferocious storm, Sykesville's Silly Willy makes a house call on Harlan Lane.
Well, in case you didn’t know, it’s marriage week here in Carroll County. Our commissioners have declared their intention to protect marriage.
Here’s what they said in their press release proclaiming the proclamation.
The proclamation highlights the benefits of a loving marriage on society and on children.
In discussing the proclamation the Commissioners also discussed Senate Bill 241 which was recently proposed in the Maryland General Assembly. Senate Bill 241- Civil Marriage Protection Act, if passed, would allow the marriage of any two individuals. This bill would eliminate the current definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The Commissioners always welcome the input and feedback of all citizens. At the same time, wish to assure the citizens that this proclamation is not an attack on anyone, but rather defense of an institution that has come under attack.
The Commissioners do not seek to disparage others, but strongly disagree with attempts by the Governor to redefine marriage for his own beliefs and purposes. [read more...]
John Wolf, a local college student and avid biker, recently got in touch about a biking blog he’s started to promote the sport in the area. He sent us a nice letter promoting the blog, and the blog itself is very nice and a very good idea.
It’s nice to see that with Ross Dangel’s Freedom Trail apparently squashed by the bureacracy, someone else might be taking up the cause of making it reasonable, smart, and safe to bike, or even walk, from Sykesville to Eldersburg. Or at least from Eldersburg to Eldersburg. [read more...]
As I reported in a previous post, Mayor Mike Miller of Sykesville is looking to put together a committee to talk about the homemade skateboard park some kids have fashioned at the edge of town. Here are his answers to my questions on the subject. [read more...]
I’m not sure what an adult toy is, although I have a feeling they don’t mean an Xbox or an iPad, but I do know that stealing toys, adult or not, like stealing anything else, is illegal. And unwise.
And the choice of weapons?
No, not a baseball bat. This time, it’s a concrete block and a garden hose.
Yep. They’re charging William Charles Pfister, 21, of Sykesville with breaking into an adult store in West Ocean City back on September 17, 2011, and somehow using the block and the hose to get through a glass door.
The toy itself was only worth $99, before tax, I assume, but police actually went to the trouble of using video surveillance and DNA evidence to hunt Pfister down. Pfister confessed to the crime. He was easy to find because he was living in the Carroll County Detention Center due to other unrelated charges.