Downtown Frederick, Maryland is known today for its vibrant collection of shops and restaurants, a myriad of special events and public art, and its centerpiece, Carroll Creek Linear Park.
But it wasn’t always like this. I (Storm Cunningham) know this quite well, having visited Frederick on a fairly regular basis over the past quarter of a century. I also keynoted an annual conference of Preservation Maryland in downtown Frederick, and discussed the poor water flow design of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “fix” to Carroll Creek with the mayor.
A new book recounts the revitalization of Downtown Frederick, from its nadir in the late 1960s when high vacancy rates and poor infrastructure threatened its survival as an economic and social hub, to its sparkling reputation today as an award-winning destination for locals and visitors alike.
It’s titled From the Brink to Brilliant: The Revitalization of Downtown Frederick, Maryland is the brainchild of long-time Frederick businessman and philanthropist Don Linton.
“I have always believed this is a story that we needed to tell before people forget how we got where we are today,” he said. “We have five parking garages in town today but in the early 70s, we had to fight like hell to just get the first one built.”
Linton and other “rebels,” as they liked to call themselves, fought City Hall to make incremental steps toward revitalizing Downtown.
They planted the first street trees, advocated for the new parking garage, and showed existing property owners what their historic buildings could look like with a little TLC.
They were making progress before the Flood of 1976 threatened all their hard work. But under the leadership of the City’s new visionary mayor, Ron Young, the flood would turn out to be just another catalyst in bringing the city back to its former glory.
The 130-page book was written by local writer and editor Kate McDermott, and is full of historic and current images from Downtown Frederick.
“We tend to take for granted what we have in our magnificent Downtown today,” McDermott said.
“But it is the result of decades of hard work by volunteers and City staff. My appreciation for what we have now only grew as I learned about the past. I hope others will feel that way, too,” she added.