The Hagerstown Commercial Core Historic District consists approximately of a one and a half by two block rectangle which includes the major retail center of town. The center of the district is the public square which is formed by the junction of Potomac and Washington Streets, the two major traffic arteries in the city. The district extends one half block east of the public square, north to Franklin Street, west to Summit-Jonathan Streets and east to Antietam Street. It is made up almost entirely of commercial buildings constructed or remodeled for retail purposes during the last 20 years of the 19th century and the first 20 years of the 20th century.
A 40-year period representing the peak of Hagerstown’s prosperity
Exceptions to the commercial character of the district but integral to it are two prominently located government structures, the Washington County Courthouse built in 1874 and listed individually in the National Register of Historic Places, and the City Hall, built in 1939. Most of the buildings within the district retain the architectural characteristics of the period of their significance and provide a showcase of late 19th and early 20th century commercial styles.
Hagerstown became a major manufacturing city in Maryland. This industrial prosperity led to a commercial boom period which is illustrated by this historic district, in the stylistic continuity of the buildings representative of popular commercial styles of the turn of the century. Three major building types are found in the district: late Italianate two and three-story buildings with prominent bracketed cornices; elaborate baroque and neo-classical forms associated with the Beaux Arts style; and a very simple early 20th century commercial style featuring strongly rectilinear forms.
The topography of the district slopes from north and west to the south and east. North Potomac Street between the square and Franklin Street has a substantial change in grade, leveling as it reaches the square. West Washington Street, West Antietam Street in the blocks west of the west boundary of the district rise sharply in grade, but level as they reach Summit Avenue. At the east edge of the district East Washington and East Antietam Streets drop in elevation between North Potomac and Jonathan Streets. Much of the district, except for its northeast corner, lies in a small plateau between grades.
A commercial center since the 18th century for Washington County and the tri-state area which includes southern Franklin County, Pennsylvania and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Hagerstown became a leading furniture manufacturer, flour and grist mills, organs and knit goods as well as a rail center with machine shops, steam railroad repair shops.
large hotels catering to rail and automobile travelers were built
Hotels like the Dagmar, built in 1910 and located at the southwest corner of the district, were built to serve rail travelers. Early advertisements emphasize its advantageous location opposite the B & 0 Railroad and near the Cumberland Valley and Norfolk and Western Railroad stations.