ELKTON — Each week, we take a look back in time to examine what was on the minds of Cecil County readers. Rotating through the Whig’s 178-year history, we hope to not only provide direct text from our archives, but also context as to why the issue was important at the time.

Join us as we thumb through the pages of our history.

152 years ago (Sept. 21, 1867)

152 years ago this week, the Whig ran a peculiar little local story on its second page of a rare bird and two men who would become well-known to their community.

Spotted in Elkton was a leucistic blackbird, or one with a genetic mutation that prevents pigments from being deposited normally in its feathers causing it to appear white, not unlike an albino. Such birds are very rare because they are easy prey without their natural coloring.

As unique as that story is, however, the man who captured the bird was James Black Groome, who seven years later would be elected the 36th governor of Maryland.

Furthermore, the storekeeper who Groome gifted the bird to was Arthur W. Mitchell, who was son of the famed War of 1812 hero Col. George E. Mitchell and the father of future Elkton Mayor H. Arthur Mitchell.

A White Blackbird

That rara avis, a white blackbird, was shot and captured by James B. Groome, Esq., one day this week, while out gunning for rail. The bird is a male, of the red wing starling species, perfectly white, except the red spots on the buts of its wings.

Mr. Groome fired at it three times before securing it. The first two shots were fired at too great a distance to any more than slightly stun the bird, which was with a dock of starlings, but the third shot brought it down, by slightly wounding one of its wings, from the effects of which, fortunately, it soon recovered.

It is now in the possession of Mr. Arthur IV Mitchell, and can be seen by calling at Mitchell’s Drug Store, in this town. Its bill and legs are white, as well as its plumage, thus reversing nature in every particular; the bill and legs of the starling being dark when the bird conforms to nature.

It is questionable whether there is another male of the species can be exhibited in the United Stales. Wilson, in his Ornithology, gives no account of such a phenomenon.

27 years ago (Sept. 16, 1992)

While the Perryville Outlets were once a booming success, two years ago this week we published a story about its downfall and potential redevelopment into a distribution warehouse.

The outlet center opened in 1990 and, in the beginning, was at full capacity with 45 stores including popular brands such as Bass Shoes, Nike, Osh Kosh B’Gosh, Mikasa, Dress Barn, Rue 21 and Famous Footwear.

Facing the rise of e-commerce and increased local competition, the vacancies slowly increased at the outlets over the past decade, culminating with the closing of the Sears Hometown Store in August 2015.

About a year later, the outlets closed completely, and plans to adapt the site to a new use have since progressed.

Perryville’s outlet center booming

A few years ago it would have been difficult to believe that unused land near Perryville’s town limits would turn into a business complex generating millions of dollars for the town, Cecil County and Maryland.

Enter Perryville Outlet Center and Travel Plaza.

“You take a wooded area and five years later it employs more than 500 with a payroll of more than $5 million,” said Perryville Mayor Oakley Sumpter. “Truly, I was surprised. I didn’t think it employed that many.”

Sumpter said the center and travel plaza were good for the town and the western part of the county, and the project $6.2 million economic impact in Fiscal Year 1992 also benefits the county and state.

The outlet center and travel plaza generates taxes on real property, personal property, business licenses, sales, income, admission and amusement as well as highway user revenues, operating costs and expenses. It has added millions to town, county and state coffers.

Estimated figures in a report released by the businesses to Perryville officials show that 524 Marylanders are employed with nearly a $5.5 million annual payroll. Some 69 percent of the employees in the outlet center’s 44 stores are Cecil County residents. Out-of-state employees are not included in these figures.

Property taxes paid by the outlet center total $159,300 — $118,300 to Cecil County and $41,000 to Perryville. The travel plaza pays $67,700 in property taxes, with $50,000 going to the county and the balance to the town.

Two years ago (Sep 20, 2017)

Former Perryville Outlets to become warehouses

By Jane Bellmyer

A proposed warehouse project at the former Perryville Outlets is moving forward after receiving approval from the mayor and commissioners Tuesday night.

SK Realty Management expects to close a deal on the former outlet mall property on Monday, said George Bellish, commercial real estate manager for Crossgates, a property management firm. SK already has a local presence in Cecil County, Bellish added.

“SK has several warehouses. The closest is in North East,” he said, referring to the warehouse next to the Flying J, off of Interstate 95, which is occupied by Herr Foods and the General Services Administration.

Perryville Outlets closed almost a year ago. In the ensuing months, the town obtained an enterprise zone designation for the property, which provides real property and state income tax credits to businesses that create jobs and make capital investments in the property. In fiscal year 2018, the state’s 31 enterprise zones received roughly $45 million in property tax credits based on more than $3 billion in capital investments made in fiscal year 2017.

Bellish told the board that the warehouse is the right way to go for the Heather Lane property.

“We believe with the decline in retail and how people are shopping these days that this site has limited use for retail,” he said. “This will strengthen your tax base and replace some of those lost jobs.”

Mayor Jim Eberhardt asked Bellish for support of that claim.

“What would drive a tenant to this site?” Eberhardt said.

The simple answer was “I-95.”

The property can be seen from the interstate and easily accessed from Exit 93.

The plan is to demolish the mall and build a new 350,000 to 400,000-square-foot warehouse that will attract better jobs.

“Typically 100 to 200 jobs is what we’re seeing at other properties,” said Diane E. Voda, vice president of Crossgates, adding that the company is already in talks with one potential tenant.

Commissioner Ray Ryan said the proposal also has support from the town’s planning and zoning commission, which heard the same presentation the previous evening.

“We would like to see this pursued,” Ryan said. “We said (Monday) night we like the idea. Please pursue this.”

Torrance M. Pierce, president of Frederick Ward Associates, showed the town a proposed layout for the warehouse detailing the size and scope of the building. Changing the zoning is among the items to be tackled.

“It’s currently zoned C2. The proposed use, to be a wholesale distribution, is not permitted in C2,” Pierce said. “We need to rezone it to L1 or L2 or use the planned refill development overlay.”

He added that the plans include generous buffers to protect residential neighborhoods nearby.

Commissioner Robert Ashby said he was “100 percent for the warehouse,” but still had questions.

“I believe this property owner has plans for a back gate. I don’t want to see that happen,” Ashby said. “I don’t want to disturb any more townspeople.”

Commissioner Pete Reich was concerned about the existing route into the property being able to handle the increase in truck traffic that would come with a distribution center.

“Is that lane wide enough for two trucks?” Reich asked.

Pierce assured him that the road was designed for truck traffic.

With this being the start of the process, Pierce told the board he expects permitting and approvals to take a year, with groundbreaking to follow close behind.

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