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Events planned to celebrate 275 years of Hager House

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. - This year marks 275 years since Jonathan Hager purchased land just three years after arriving in the new colonies in an area that would eventually become Hagerstown, and the Jonathan Hager House and Museum at City Park is scheduled to host at least one event each month this summer to celebrate.

Restoring the garden around the Hager House, commemorating the effects of the Civil War on the house and having living historians re-enact what it might have been like in the house in the 18th century are just some of the activities planned.

The house, which Hager presented to his wife, Elizabeth Kershner, after it was constructed on the 200 acres of land he purchased for 44 pounds on June 5, 1739, already played host to German Easter tours in April and hosted a Museum Ramble May 2-4.

"The Hager House is the jewel of the park, and I think we're excited to be able to have a lot of members of the community coming together to help us celebrate," City of Hagerstown Recreation Coordinator Amy Riley said. "We've been reaching out to a lot of different groups and individuals who are excited to be a part of the celebration."

The official celebration of the anniversary will be Sept. 20 from noon to 4 p.m., Riley said. It will include living- history volunteers, and tours and activities happening on the ground.

She added that the event also coincides with the unveiling of the new bear sculpture going on City Park Lake.

"We're going to be celebrating as a whole different activities in the park surrounding the bear sculpture, and we thought it was appropriate to incorporate the celebration of the 275th of the Hager House because we're already going to be marketing the significance of the events on Sept. 20, and we anticipate a lot of folks coming to the park," she said. "We wanted give a lot of recognition to the celebration for the 275th, and we wanted to have some special tours going on that day."

The Washington County Historical Society said volunteers will be provided in the different rooms of the Hager House that day to show activities that might have happened during that period. Someone also will portray Hager.

"We're going to be bringing history to life with our volunteers," Riley said.

Music on the porch is scheduled at the house next Saturday, May 17, and tea time on the porch is scheduled for June 20 and 21. On July 25 and 26 and Aug. 8, there will be ghost tours of the house. A commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Ransom at Hagerstown and the effects the Civil War had on the house will be held there July 25 and 26 as well, and a garden preview and open house is scheduled for Aug. 22 and 23.

After Sept. 20, ghost tours are scheduled for Oct. 10 to 12 and 17 to 19, and German Christmas tours are scheduled for Dec. 5 to 7 and 12 to 14.

The garden preview and open house is being held because workers are trying to restore the garden around it, Hager House caretaker Emily Conrad said.

"The house was built over a freshwater spring, so the soil is naturally rich with minerals and likely would've had a flourishing garden in colonial times and pre-Revolutionary times as well," she said. "We hope to bring that to life as well."

Conrad said the gardens had a lot to do with medicine out "on the frontier."

"It was really up to each individual household to care for each other, so we're trying to restore the gardens," she said. "We'll also have an 18th-century physician interpreter on-site to help out with some of the tours and information for that."

Because July 6 marks 150 years since the city was held for ransom during the Civil War, Conrad said the events scheduled for July 25 and 26 will involve recognizing the war's effects on the city.

"We hope to honour that era and also what we know about the folks who lived at the house at that time, and the effect the war had on the City of Hagerstown," she said. "It was a pretty traumatic time."

While living at the Hager House, which was named "Hager's Fancy," Hager opened a trading post within his home and continued to acquire land, according to the City of Hagerstown's website at www.hagerstownmd.org. Conrad noted that the house could have been where Hager laid out his plans for the City of Hagerstown, which he founded in 1762 and originally named Elizabethtowne, in honour of his wife.

She also said that during that time, there were towpaths on places such as Virginia Avenue, which was a trading route for Native Americans.

"Few towns that are older than the country itself can boast the home of their founding father," Conrad said. "Hagerstown is proud to be one of those very few cities in America, and we're proud to share the heritage of the early founders of the area."

Hager sold the property to Jacob Rohrer in 1745, and it stayed within the family until 1944, when the Washington County Historical Society acquired it, restored it and presented it to the city in 1954. The home was opened to the public in 1962.

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Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com

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