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Revolutionary history on sale in Frederick

FREDERICK — If you want to own a piece of Frederick’s history, your chance will come Thursday.

An auction of items ranging from cane-bottom chairs to a vintage crib to large cabinets and bookcases from the Maryland School for the Deaf is set for 5 p.m. Thursday at the old elementary school building, 101 Clarke Place.

Auctioneer Dana Dudley and her husband, auction manager Donald Strobel, will be in charge. Proceeds will benefit the Hessian Barracks on the school grounds. The proceeds will be coordinated through the MSD Foundation and Friends of the Hessian Barracks.

Other vintage items include spinning wheels, sewing machines, playground equipment, a printing press and air compressors.

Chad Baker, director of museums for the school, said funds are needed to ensure the restoration and repairs at the barracks.

There were originally two barracks buildings; one was torn down in 1875.

The stone-and-wood building, which features some newer brick sections, was built in 1777. Baker said the buildings were initially constructed for the Maryland Militia, which formed to help fight the British in the Revolutionary War. The buildings instead became detention centers for captured British soldiers, Baker said. Many Hessian soldiers, those from Germany who fought for the British, were kept at the barracks as prisoners of war.

“A letter from the commandant of the English prisoners and sent to the colonial government complained of how cold it was,” Baker said. “The officer asked if the prisoners were given materials to make plaster, they would put that up to help insulate the walls.”

Since the German prisoners were far from home, and far inland from the coast where they might escape, they were allowed to work in Frederick, returning to the barracks at night. Many stayed, Baker said, because Frederick already had a large German population. Some prisoners sent for their families to come here after the war ended.

Meriwether Lewis was in Frederick at least twice, Baker said. Many of the supplies for the mission were stored in the barracks and were sent on as Lewis traveled to Harpers Ferry (then in Virginia) and Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh).

More British prisoners were held in the barracks during the War of 1812.

During the Civil War, the barracks became U.S. Army Hospital No. 1, Baker said, though no injured soldiers were kept inside.

“It was declared that the buildings were not suited for a hospital,” Baker said. “But many tents were set up here and the injured treated in those.”

The buildings were used as offices for the medical staff and as storage for medical equipment. Baker noted the many Union and Confederate graves at nearby Mount Olivet. “Those are the ones who didn’t make it out alive.”

In 1868, the Maryland School for the Deaf was established on the site, and students and teachers used the two buildings as classrooms.

The architectural plan of the building was used to create replica barracks at Fort Frederick in Western Maryland.

Over the years, the building was used for storage, Baker said, though efforts to show it off were accelerated during the Bicentennial in 1976. The grounds now used by the Maryland School for the Deaf were also the site of some of the early Frederick County fairs, Baker said.

The barracks will be closed as historical architects determine what should be done.

“The first thing is to make it watertight,” Baker said, noting some damage during a tour of the building.

“Architects said it was going to collapse, but after the bad snowstorms we had and a tree fall on it, it is still standing,” he said.

Auction proceeds will be used to restore stonework and fireplaces, and to set up displays of the site’s artifacts.

“It won’t be open to the public until 2013,” Baker said.

Normally, the barracks are open for tours from April through December.

Nearby, the former library building at the school is now the Bjorlee Museum, named for former Principal Ignatius Bjorlee. It houses an extensive historical collection of items from the school, as well as photos showing both of the Hessian Barracks and other places and people at the school.

The auction will be in the former elementary school building, erected in 1961. It will be torn down in about two weeks, Baker said. It was replaced by a new building that opened in 2009.