What is now known as Westminster City Hall was a large brick mansion, with wide porches on three sides, built by Colonel John K. Longwell in 1842.
It was not realized at the time that one hundred years after its construction, this building was to become "City Hall" and remain a showplace of the City of Westminster, as it was when first completed.
The land on which the home was built, and referred to as "Emerald Hill" was Colonel Longwell's home. It was purchased from trustees of the Estate of David Fisher, and was a part of all the tract which now comprises West Street, Willis Street, Center Street, North Street, Longwell Avenue and extended to the Railroad Tracks.
When the home was completed, Colonel Longwell called it his "Mansion House," and it was considered one of the finest in the county. A plat of this area surveyed in 1907, referred to it as "Longwell's Addition to Westminster." Subsequently, with changes in ownership, the property became known as "Longwell Place."
Colonel John K. Longwell was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, October 18, 1810, and was educated in an academy of that town, which is believed to have been the beginnings of what we now know as Gettysburg College.
As a young man, he learned the printing trade and in 1832 he published the "Maryland Recorder" in Taneytown.
He published this paper for about one year and then moved his plant to Westminster, where he established "The Carrolltonian." Colonel Longwell played the leading role in the formation of Carroll County out of parts of Frederick and Baltimore Counties, and took an active part in all of its affairs. He became widely known as a civic and financial leader in the county.
Following the death of Colonel Longwell in 1896, the family continued to occupy the mansion until the death of his daughter, Sallie (Mrs. Sarah Longwell having preceded her daughter in death), at which time the property was transferred to the Albaugh and Babylon Grocery Company of Westminster, by a deed dated January 22, 1909, from Joshua W. Hering, Trustee for the Estate of Sallie Longwell.
It remained the property of Albaugh and Babylon Grocery Company for twenty years, during which time Mr. George W. Albaugh and his family were the occupants.
On June 4, 1929, Mr. Albaugh purchased Longwell Place from Albaugh and Babylon Grocery Company and continued to reside there until his death on May 30, 1933.
Following his death, two granddaughters, Ruth and Margaret Gillelan, and a distant relative, Miss Frances Thomson, were the remaining members of his family who continued to live there until June of 1934.
From that date, Longwell Place was vacant until The Mayor and Common Council of Westminster purchased it from the George W. Albaugh Estate in September of 1939 for $11,000.
After extensive renovations and improvements, without impairing the original features of the structure, the City offices were moved from the old Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co., No.1 building at 63 West Main Street, to the recently acquired building during the administration of Mayor Frank A. Myers, and it became known as "City Hall."
In August of 1993, The Mayor and Common Council of Westminster approved a major contract to provide for renovations and improvements to portions of City Hall.
This was the first major change to City Hall since the original work was completed in 1940 when it first became City Hall.
A Council Chamber was constructed on the first floor, with beautiful furnishings and modern features in a period style. Additionally, a new entrance and modern restrooms were constructed on the first floor.
Finally, an elevator was installed to provide complete access to the disabled to all levels of City Hall. An interesting feature of the construction was that the outside appearance of the elevator shaft was designed to look like a chimney so that this feature would not conflict with the appearance of City Hall.
City Hall, still affectionately referred to as "Emerald Hill", has been preserved for future generations to enjoy and yet still remains a viable and heavily used City facility.
In keeping with this historical flavor, the name of the street that runs past City Hall was changed to "Emerald Hill Lane" and the street address of the building was changed to "1838 Emerald Hill Lane", reflecting the year of Westminster's Incorporation.
[i] A Westminster Informational Brochure - assembled from multiple sources –
no claim to original authorship is either claimed or implied. It was entered into a Microsoft Word document on May 26th, 2003 by Westminster Mayor Kevin Dayhoff, from a document that it is believed to have been used for the June 11th, 1994 10 AM “Westminster City Hall Dedication Ceremony and Open House” brochure.
At that time some photos were added to the document. The base for the 1994 document appears to be a similar document from 1976 entitled “Emerald Hill, Longwell Place and City Hall”.
Most of the information for 1976 and 1997 documents appears to have come from an undated (c.1945?) newspaper article by Dorothy Elderdice entitled “History of Carroll. John Longwell: A Founding Father”.
Another source of information appears to have come from an article by J. Leland Jordan in The Times in Friday, August 7th, 1942 entitled “Westminster’s City Hall”.