By John McGrain
August 2019


Baltimore County’s trend toward suburbanism started with the ring of gentlemen’s estates circling the small port town of Baltimore in the second half of the 18th century. A suburb is usually defined as a residential area beyond a city where houses are clustered for daily living rather than agriculture. The gentlemen’s estates were not designed for food production either, although they may have kept a cow for milk and horses for their carriages. The history of suburbanism girdling Baltimore City is complicated by the fact that twice, the city has taken swaths of county rural, semi-rural, and suburban spaces within its borders. Any history of suburbanism has to mention the early villages that once seemed remote and bucolic. On the other hand, it is not logical to count company towns because they were usually held in one ownership, and the inhabitants were renters who had no choice over the design of their homes. Some of the village greens of company towns were noted for their beauty in early times, but only individual homes can be true suburban properties.

Baltimore City pushed its boundaries out fairly far in 1818, reaching the present North Avenue. The city published its street plan in 1822, designed by Thomas H. Poppleton, who of course, named a long street for himself. This plan stretched to the south side of Boundary Avenue, the present North Avenue. The grid of streets was designed to eventually overrun the estates of the merchants living within the city limits. Poppleton’s copper-plate plan was reengraved and republished in 1852, but even at age 30, very few of the proposed streets on the scheme had been laid out, graded, or paved. Many farms still fell within the city, and spacious areas were used by industry, such as block-long rope-walks where rigging for ships was braided. The area of Canton was still inside the county and most of its ground was in the hands of the Canton Company, the space saved for industries.

Pikesville was probably a true suburb when founded in 1815 by Dr. James Smith on his own property. The village did not grow much at first. The housing was too far out for commuting by horse and wagon, and no horse car lines existed. The railroad built in 1829 bypassed Pikesville entirely. Hookstown was more of a functional town than a suburb. Located as it was on the Reisterstown Turnpike Road, there were taverns and blacksmith shops to serve the traveler. The Maryland Journal of October 12, 1872, had a long description of Hookstown and its twin city Pricetown; there was a proposal at that time to rename the area Harlem. Late in the 19th century, Hookstown’s hinterland was developed into Arlington. Arlington was selected instead of Harlem at a town meeting and the name was suggested by an immigrant. After that name won, its proponent said that it was nice to name the village after George Washington’s home place in Virginia.

Franklintown on Dead Run near the present western city line certainly qualifies as a suburb. It was built around William H. Freeman’s Franklintown Mill, but its lots were for sale to all comers, and the streets were laid out in a unique fashion, with an elliptical street on high ground surrounding an oak grove. Freeman added a store and a hotel to the mix. Some lots were laid out on crescents, reminiscent of Bath or Edinburgh New Town. Franklintown was recorded twenty years before West Orange, New Jersey, which several books credited as the first American suburb, when it was known as Llewellyn Park.

When the B. & O. railroad struck out for the Ohio River in 1827, it went by way of Ellicott City, and half way there it had a depot for changing horses called Relay. When steam powered travel began on May 24, 1830, it was soon obvious that Relay was a sufficiently rural place for living and but 20 minutes from the heart of downtown. Land owners gradually cut up suburban sized lots in Relay to attract commuters. The Sun of November 8, 1853, reported that J.H. Luckett was planning a development at Relay with a plan by Faxon and Andrews under the name Monument Place. The monument in question was probably the obelisk commemorating construction of the Thomas Viaduct in 1835.

The Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad started building toward York and Harrisburg in 1829. The first suburb directly on the route did not start developing until 1853. The village was on the high ground towering over the Washington Factory that had been manufacturing cotton products at Jones Falls level since 1809. Mount Washington was also often fall into the picturesque styles built in wood that were popularized at that time by the books of A. J. Downing and Calvert Vaux. Local interpreter of those cottage styles was the firm of Dixon & Dixon. The Dixon brothers were both architects and investors in parts of the planned suburb. Thomas Dixon built his own house on one of the steep hills. In the Jones Falls Valley, the cotton mills grew to such an extent starting about 1845 that the company housing could not contain all the employees. Large areas of Hampden housing were constructed on Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue by developer Martin Kelly. At first the in-fill area was called Slabtown, then Kellyville, and finally Hampden. Many city type row houses went up in Hampden, even when that area was still part of Baltimore County. Hampden remained in the county until the annexation of 1888. Most of the Martin Kelly housing and the company provided housing is still inhabited; in 2006, some of the run-down houses of both types are being gentrified. Houses on Stone Hill were spun off by the Mount Vernon Company at bargain prices in an almost charitable gesture in the 1960s. Most were built like fortresses and now command over $100,000 in the real estate market.

The Sun of May 10, 1879, carried an advertisement to sell undeveloped land at the NW corner of Green Spring and Woodberry Avenues opposite Druid Hill Park, a Baltimore County location at that time, and concluded with the statement, “the fact that buildings have reached the eastern limits of the park, make it a rare chance for speculators and investor in city real estate.”

The 1852 Poppleton Plan showed a 250-foot road circling the entire city slightly below North Avenue. Citizens of that time had no name for a city-circling road; the first handy name for what we now call a beltway was Ringstrasse used in Vienna where old fortifications surrounding the city had been taken down. The suburbs beyond the city line could not expect much in the way of municipal services from a county commissioner government and its minuscule staff. A suburban house needed a well and a privy, a fire bucket of its own, and a backyard place to dump trash. About all local government could provide was the recordation of deeds, the rarely needed services of a circuit court, and a sheriff if anything went wrong, minor road improvements, and education in one and two-room schools. Tax rates reflected the modest level of benefits. Educational costs were sometimes offset by local collections gathered by the school trustees; at least one case is recorded of a private citizen building a school house at his own expense — Dr. Allender at White Marsh.

An interesting map published in 1851 was “A Map of the Medical Topography of Baltimore,” that accompanied the report on the outbreak of an epidemic at the Alms House. The map showed a shaded area, all along the lower Patpasco and in South Baltimore marked as “Region of Intermittent & Remittent Fever.” The shaded area ran all the way out Philadelphia Road, and the shading also covered the downtown area. Almost anywhere outside the shading was probably good for suburban living. Wealthy people for decades had known that something was killing off the poor, and they moved to the country in summer to get away from the noxious air which was believed to be cause of plagues. Possibly the first mention of the “theory of germs” occurred in the pollution case of Baltimore City-vs-Warren Manufacturing Company, in 1882, tried in the only courtroom in Towson.

An interesting interaction between the city and county took place in 1852 with the passage of a bill “to provide for laying out avenues, streets, lanes and alleys and public reservations, the Western Liberties.” Several commissioners, including two cotton lords, John Wethered and Colonel Hugh Ely, were authorized to hire an engineer to extend the street plan of the city as it then existed, into the area designated as the “Western Liberties of Baltimore County.” The planned district was to abut the western city line, then at Fulton Avenue and North Avenue, and run westward from one to one and a half miles into the county. The area is shown within specified lines on a map of the city and its environs made by William Sides in 1853. The district ended on the west at approximately the present Allendale Street and Edmondson Avenue, taking in half of what is now Loudon Park Cemetery. The Western Liberties apparently provided a basis for the city’s first expansion of 1888, which took the city lines even farther westward to Yale Avenue. The 1888 expansion jumped west of Gwynns Falls valley, which was a deep ravine unsuitable for extending streets from the flat areas of the city. In some cases, new west-bound streets were laid out west of the valley, and the old city street names started up again. The city’s western expansion in 1888 took in a number of cemeteries, which were also not suitable for extending residential streets.

Rural life was praised by newspaper writers as in the case of a description of developments stretching beyond Druid Hill Park:

It is a recognized fact that the diffusion or dispersion of the city population over the suburban localities has been greater within ten years than it was for forty preceding, and it is doubtless owing to two causes—by the crowded city population, and the desire for and facilities of suburban homes and suburban localities. And it is a recognition of this appetite for the country of the city dweller, that has originated and inaugurated land companies, who purchase, lay off and build convenient and attractive homes, ready for the city emigrant, and they connect him by short horse railway with his country home and every section of the city, thereby providing for the rural emigrant every convenience of a city residence. And what greater blessing can be conferred upon children than these shaded, healthful and guileless rural homes, ignorant of the city’s vices and follies, shielded and safe from temptation and sin? On this account alone, it should be the desire of all who can, to seek suburban residences, where their offspring can be reared amid nature’s fruits and flowers, and their cheeks flushed in healthful glow. (Gazette, November 13, 1873).

The city’s annexation to the north took in much of the county’s industrial tax base in the Jones Falls Valley, but also removed most of the fire services and police services that the county had been paying for in the crowded and sometimes unruly Belt. The county was back to a thin police presence and almost non-existent fire department except in Canton and Highlandtown. Those built-up areas voted not to join the city in 1888 and pursued their independence until the election of 1918.


The period between 1850 and 1888 can be studied on the various maps starting with the 1850 county map by J.C. Sidney and P.J. Browne, ending with the 1877 G. M. Hopkins atlas that showed a number of residential clusters, most of them built up with freestanding dwellings. The 1850 map shows a fog of names of property owners strung out along all the radial roads from the center of Baltimore City. These residents lived fairly close to each other and were not persons engaged in farming. The farming continued one lot back from the main roads. By 1850, some of the farms were devoted to market gardening for the substantial population of the city. Each radial road usually led to an urban market where the farmers maintained stands or tables to sell vegetables, butter, and eggs, chickens, and ducks, pork products, etc. City connoisseurs had their favorite markets and favorite farmers. The residential areas shown by Sidney and Browne were Kellyville, Homestead, and Harkersville [the forerunner of Lauraville]. Not even the familiar name of Waverly appeared.

The 1877 atlas showed the proliferation of suburbs. Just across the city line was Peabody Heights, perhaps the only area being filled in with row houses. There were no suburbs shown east of Canton or down Patapsco Neck. No residential areas around Essex, in fact no Essex. Detail maps in the Hopkins atlas shows that most people had free standing houses in Waverly, Oxford, and Friendship, Lauraville, Druid Park Heights, Highland Park, Gardenville, Calverton Heights, Clifton, Garrison, Carrollton, Irvington, and Mount Winans. That was the entire list of suburbs in the swath that was annexed some 11 years later in 1888.

Clifton is a name scarcely known today. It was a county area between North Avenue and the south edge of Druid Hill Park, today mostly row houses or large apartments. It was shown on the accompanying map as part of the West Baltimore that Roderick Ryon intended to cover in his 1983 book but he forgot to discuss it. The home of George W. Gail, a tobacco merchant, occupied an entire block on present Linden Avenue. Druid Park Heights would today be called Park Circle and was the extension of Pennsylvania Avenue into the county. Calverton Heights was near the Calverton mills and present Bloomingdale Avenue and Poplar Grove Street, a city neighborhood with a few odd free-standing houses surviving amid urban decay. Garrison was a mixture of dwellings and polluting industries on Gwynns Run near Frederick Avenue, and Carrollton was nearby in another cluster. Carrollton is the point where the Amtrak goes under Frederick Avenue near the junction of Hilton Street and Caton Avenue; today, this is an urban bottleneck with odd surviving manufacturing buildings and some row  houses.

The best documented suburb of the era was Waverly where a notable poet, Lizette Woodward Reese, wrote two books, one A Victorian Village, the other The Old York Road. Today Ms. Reese’s York Road is called Greenmount Avenue, named for the large cemetery. Lizette Reese was around in the 1920s and  occasionally attended the Algonquin Round Table in New York and was remembered for calling another famous American female poet a “b_____.” Waverly was in decline in recent years but its has undergone some revival. Most freestanding frame houses were in the “cottage Style” of the 1840s and 1850, the “Downing-Vaux” style made famous by the pattern books of A.J. Downing and Calvert Vaux, both of New York. Houses in those styles had large areas of scroll-sawn wooden decorations, the “gingerbread” applied decoration as it is sometimes called. Roof decorations had points going up (“finials”) and decorations descending (“pendants”). Large scroll-sawn decorations on the eaves were called “barge boards.’ The oldest houses started their lives in a multi-toned paint scheme, contrasting shades of green, light to dark, for example. By the 1880s, the style was to paint the entire structure in drab tones, losing the pleasing contrasts. In the 1890s, the drab styles were recognized as depressing and gloomy, and a wave of painting the houses all white came in, creating more cheer but no contrast at all. In the late 20th century, preservationists began to bring back authentic contrasting paint schemes, and any surviving houses finally looked right again.

Waverly was mentioned by the Sun of March 1, 1871, in an article entitled, “Suburban Improvements.” The town hall and the St. John’s P. E. Church parsonage had been finished in the last year, and the hall included a library of 500 books. Fifty houses had been built in 1878 plus the enormous double mansion of Horace Abbott [where City College now stands], and other houses were erected by a Mr. Walzl on Jefferson Avenue in Homestead and in the Oxford and Friendship communities.

Ridgewood’s name is forgotten entirely today but it was a county suburb, its uncomplicated plat drawn into the deed books in February 1877. Located on the west side of Roland Avenue north of 41st Street, the big frame houses in Stick and Shingle Style can be mistaken for part of Roland Park, but they are two  decades earlier, a development of the Jencks family of No. 1 Mount Vernon Place in the city. The largest of the houses has a great projecting wooden bay popping out of the front gable peak. Ridgewood was in decline until the 1990s when historic restorationists discovered the area. No architects have been identified for the large houses, which could easily have been built from pattern books or mail order plans. The subdivision was annexed by the city in 1888. Presumably the houses had been built before annexation.

Highland Park was a county location when started in 1873. That year, the editors of all the local and city papers were invited to the 144-acre building site where the former Pearson estate was being converted into what is now called Walbrook. The village was to have gas mains fed by the neighborhood’s own gas generation plant. There was also a promise to have piped water that the company could also sell in adjoining neighborhoods of the old Western Liberties. None of those promised marvels had been built at the time of the editors’ tour. Commuters were expected to reach the city by horse cars on West North Avenue. Highland Park was by no means as far out as Towson or Parkville.


Lutherville was a well planned town, almost too far out to be a suburb, had it not been directly on the Northern Central Railroad. It was designed in 1852 by the firm of Dixon, Balbirnie, and Dixon to cluster around a Lutheran college for women. As a college town, the houses were expected to be spacious and tasteful,  and that aim was fulfilled. Some of the house designs apparently came from the A.J. Downing plan book Cottage Residences, while the Octagon house was from an Orson Fowler article in Godey’s Magazine and Ladies’ Book. The Octagon House was built of grout poured into wooden moulds, and the first attempt to cast its walls resulted in the grout gushing all over the ground instead of solidifying. The village was never intended to contain any industries, and its few necessary businesses were confined to Front Avenue near the train stop. Lutherville’s first commuters probably worked at the college, but in the 20th century some rare people commuted to Washington via train — until the end of passenger service in 1959. Today, Lutherville is a stop on the modern Light Rail system, rail commuting made possible again.

Lutherville was fully described in a prospectus in 1852 and provides a very early description of the suburban process, which demonstrates an awareness of environmental issues

…the village groups around the Church [St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church] as its focal point, with one axial avenue [Melanchthon] extending from it east and west to the village boundaries… Francke Avenue, extending from the north to the south boundaries frames the church lot on the east as does also that of the Seminary, connecting it thus with this institution for which the whole plan was conceived and made.

So also do other avenues reach from the church and encircle it, the whole village acreage sloping gently west, north and south toward flowing streams, its simple street pattern suited to natural drainage and cooling summer breezes. Here is an entity, not carved from, but made an integral part of the situation’s natural elements.

Eureka was planned but never built and was supposed to be at Owings Mills, in fact it was the first “Owings Mills Plan,” and was to occupy a meadow near Owings Upper Mill (now known as Groff’s Mill, MHT Site BA 59). Announced in the newspapers of 1857, Eureka would have been a commuter town within sight of the terminus of the Green Spring Valley Branch of the Northern Central Railroad. The plat for this suburb has never turned up. A person who signed his name “Fourth District” sent the usual kind of “booster” letter to the county weekly paper:

As you invite, Mr. Editor, communications from correspondents respecting incidents occurring in our county, let us inform you
that we, too, are moving in the way of making new towns, and if you think that Towsontown is the only town, allow us to disabuse your mind of that idea, for we, in these parts, have laid out the town of “Eureka,” on a beautiful location at the terminus of the west branch of the Northern Central Railroad, on the east side of the Reisterstown Turnpike, 12 miles from Baltimore city, and with which it has connection by Railroad and three lines of stages every day. The lots fronting immediately on the turnpike are small and intended for artisans, having a depth of 200 yards or thereabouts, those lying in the rear are larger and intended for country seats, each having a picturesque situation for dwellings overlooking the valley of Gwinns’s falls and the surrounding country for miles. The neighborhood is exceedingly pleasant and very healthy. We hope soon to see some new comer and your interesting “Advocate” stirring among them.

Mr. “Fourth District” must have had a stake in the Eureka project; possibly the author was the flour miller Mr. B.F. Groff, the developer himself.

Towsontown was selected for the county seat by an election in 1851. At that time there were some houses clustered around the old log Towson’s Tavern at the split between York Turnpike Road and Dulaney Valley Road. Dr. Grafton M. Bosley was one of three land owners who offered lots for the proposed Courthouse and his offer was accepted. The square laid out from his larger farm helped define the grid plan of Towson, establishing the direction of Pennsylvania Avenue and Chesapeake Avenue, which were extended to reach York Road. None of those roads are strictly east-west or north-south. The space between the courthouse front lawn and York Road passed into the hands of Enos Smedley, who came here from Pennsylvania and saw the residential possibilities of the county seat. Smedley had a hotel on the corner diagonally opposite the courthouse where the 1930s Towson armory still stands. The lots he laid out met the criteria of a suburban development although there was no master plan, no common builder or single architect. One time, a county newspaper editor praised houses that were built without the help of an architect. When Smedley died in 1892, the Towson paper credited him more or less with the development of the village:

The citizens of Towson were much pained on Saturday last, 9th inst., to learn of the death of Mr. Enos Smedley, which took place on Friday 8th at his residence, 186 Maplewood Avenue, Germantown, Pa., aged 87 years. He was the early and best friend Towson ever had. In 1854, when Towson was made county seat of Baltimore county, Mr. Smedley, accompanied by number of friends from Pennsylvania, visited Towson and inspected the situation of affairs. The visit finally resulted in the purchase from Dr. G.M. Bosley of 50 acres of land around and adjacent to the Court House. This he at once laid out into a town, and dedicated five avenues — Allegany, Pennsylvania, Chesapeake, Susquehanna, Washington and Baltimore, to the use of the public, and at once planted the thrifty and beautiful maple trees which are now the glory of the town. Pennsylvania avenue is 80 feet wide. He also spent about $22,000 in grading a railroad to connect Towson with the Northern Central, but not being well supported he finally abandoned the project. To this day, the embankments can plainly be seen from rear of Jail to where Towson branch empties into Lake Roland. A second attempt was made to revive the railroad project, but it fell through. He also built the well-known Smedley House, which was opened by Col. C.H. Mann and successfully conducted for several years, and subsequently by Isaac West, and by his widow after his death, and by others. Mr. Smedley also built the walls upon which now stand the large double residence erected by the late Dr. Edwin R. Tidings and now occupied by Dr. Jas. H. Jarrett and family.

The Sun of June 23, 1890, noted that Towson had grown slowly because of poor transportation links and the excessive prices the Smedley Company asked for vacant lots:

Towson seems to be unappreciated by those who should appreciate it most, for as yet there are but few Baltimoreans who make it their home there during the warm weather…. Then until a few years ago, there was no way of getting to and from Baltimore except by the primitive York Road Railway or by private conveyance. The advent of the Maryland Central Railroad made travel better, but even now traveling facilities are woefully inadequate.

Deeds to the properties adjoining Trinity P. E. Church show that the upper part of Towson was once described as North Baltimore, but there is no recorded plat of that name, no memory of it among living people. Without Smedley’s railroad connection to the Northern Central, Towson was not a convenient commuter suburb; the opening of a horse-car line to Baltimore in 1863 helped somewhat, but fewer cars traveled to Towson than to Waverly and Govanstown. Many of the cars turned back to Baltimore City after reaching the Govanstown loop. Finally in 1893, the streetcars were electrified and the trip was considerably shortened. Smedley’s maple trees lived well into the 20th century although by the 1940s, they had become rather scraggly, dismissed by Towson residents as “swamp maples” with soft soggy wood inside.

The growth of suburbs was noted in the press. The Sun presented several long articles about the great estates to be seen along the horse car routes, for example the verbal tour published on July 19, 1871, titled, “Suburban Railroads: The Baltimore and Towsontown.” There were also tours out to Powhatan and to Catonsville.

Catonsville started as Catonville [no “s”], began in 1810 when Richard Caton was disposing of his father-in-law’s share of the vast timber reserve of the extinct Baltimore Iron Works Company. The company was apparently a victim of English imports, although it had survived a century of operation. Catonville was not planned with any style, merely square or rectangular lots. It was part commercial village, part residential neighborhood. Some of the earliest houses sat on spacious lots. Some of the earlier houses were enormous showplaces, like Summit. The property retained by the Carrolls, Catons, and McTavishes, was Castle Thunder, certainly a roadside inn rather than a prosperous person’s residence; it stood where the Catonsville Public Library is now. Catonsville was closer to the city than was Towsontown. By 1850, it had a fairly large population, including many prosperous German immigrants who had succeeded in business. The Germans acquired elegant houses in English or American styles and made no effort to build a replica of their native country beyond having a German-speaking church. Catonsville lost some of its original suburban houses to cut up the old lots into more manageable parcels in the 20th century. There are numerous illustrations of the first generation of Catonsville houses, including a woodcut view of Paradise Hotel and the Belle Grove villa, which still stands near the National Cemetery. Eden Terrace was an upscale suburb of Catonsville first called Eden Park by the Eden Construction
Company under its president Victor G. Bloede. At least five architects designed the Stick Style, High Victorian, and Queen Anne style houses. Eden Terrace residents could get to the city by the trolley car or by the Catonsville Short Line Railroad.

The first name for Parkville was Lavender Hill, a name transplanted from London, used for a local inn. The present Parkville is a suburb planned in 1872 by surveyor and map publisher Simon J. Martinet. This is a fairly regular type of planning, its only interesting feature being the traffic island in the middle of Taylor Avenue that was first called Towson Avenue. The corners of the park reservation have been rounded off in the age of the automobile. The issue frequently arises as to the ownership of the park. Baltimore County cuts the grass, but there is no recorded dedication of this large parcel to the county or a deed transmitting the property, no record of a condemnation. The original Martinet company still exists but is never asked to pay taxes on the lot. The development included business lots along Harford Road. The house lots were too small for truck farming but anyone thinking of being a commuter had to make it to the end of the horse-car line two miles away at Hall’s Spring Hotel. Once the electric trolley cars reached the area, Parkville became very convenient for commuting.

Govanstown dates back to the properties of James Govane of the 18th century. A village called Gotham appeared here on Dennis Griffith’s 1794-1795 map of Maryland and Delaware. The Baltimore American of July 14, 1801, mentioned “Goven’s Town Road,” and the Baltimore Evening Post of August 12, 1807, mentioned “Govane’s Town.” Then in 1808, Susan Miller advertised her Govane’s Town Tavern, in the Federal Gazette of May 12. Sidney and Browne’s 1850 county map showed Govens Town with all the usual roadside services. The Maryland Journal of November 30, 1867, reported that Woodbourne Avenue had been graded and graveled to Hillen Road; the same road had been shown on J.C. Sidney and P.J. Browne’s 1850 county map and also on Chiffelle’s 1852 water supply map. The 1877 Hopkins atlas showed that the area was mostly composed of middle-sized suburban estates with a string of individual houses along York Road. The Maryland Journal of June 15, 1878, contained an advertisement for a 55-foot front new cottage on the SW corner of York Road and Winston Avenue. That house is long extinct but immediately west of it is a nameless suburb of the 1870s with several villas and Gothic cottages. A square frame clapboard house immediately west of the corner lot belonged to David and Charles Hutzler, owners of the city department store; it has recently been restored. Many of the streets in Govans are named for literary subjects, including Ivanhoe Avenue, Lothian Avenue, Alhambra, and Kenilworth. Govanstown had an improvement association as long ago as 1890, Neighborhood Improvement Association of Baltimore County No. 1. The complaints of this group were directed at the horse-car line and at the Sheriff and County Commissioners and included a concern about the lack of fire protection, the infrequency of the street cars, and no-bid contracts awarded to repair the Warren Road bridge (Baltimore County Union, November 8, 1890).

Glyndon was a planned suburb and it was always located on a railroad, its station being called Reisterstown, because there were no tracks directly into that roadside town. Surveyor Augustus Bouldin laid out Glyndon on the lands of Dr. Charles A. Leas in 1871. The lots and streets were fairly regular, but the main avenue was a generous width, and many of the lots were quite large because people kept horses and chickens and grew large gardens. Old deeds show that in many cases Dr. Leas would sell one small lot to an individual, although prosperous people would tend to buy three or four lots. A single lot would force the house owner to orient the gable end of his residence, temple style, to the street. This question came up in the 1980s in a legal proceeding wherein the community association argued that the founder of the town always insisted on selling multiple lots, but recorded deeds disproved that position.

Some of Glyndon’s side streets became the home of small dwellings, many of them well crafted with the scroll-sawn decoration popular at the time. Almost all the houses in old Glyndon were frame, some of them large and complex in the stick and shingle styles, some in Queen Anne style. Glyndon had picturesque churches. The first home of the Methodist church was a frame structure covered with brown shingles with a tall, square tower. The Catholic Church was a gem-like stone Gothic edifice. The first railroad station was a tileroofed, very late Victorian, horror designed by Jackson C. Gott of Baltimore, more famous for his Maryland Penitentiary deep downtown.

The Baltimore County Union of April 30, 1905, reported that the village of Carney was awaiting the opening of its electric railway. Wolter’s Carney Hotel advertised with a drawing of a trolley car in the same newspaper, April 7, 1906. That rail service lasted just 30 years, and the Jeffersonian reported on October 9, 1936, “Jerkwater Gives Way to Motor Bus.”

Chesaco Park was the reorganized version of New Warsaw and was filed for record in 1908 by the Owners Realty Company, designed the year before by A. Bouldin & Company, surveyors. Rosedale Terraces was also filed for record in 1908 by Owners Realty Company.


Tuxedo Park and Embla Park were both served by Notre Dame station on the Baltimore and Lehigh Railroad [the later Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad], filed for record in 1892 and 1893 respectively. Tuxedo Park was a development of the Syndicate Land Company. Both areas were taken into Baltimore City in 1918-1919. The name Embla is from Norse sagas and commemorates the first woman created, the equivalent of Eve.

The 1877 atlas showed the suburb of Irvington four miles from the center of the city, north side of Frederick Road. That area was served by the Catonsville horse-car line. The atlas also showed Sulphur Spring Station on the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad which is now the present Amtrak line, but little suburban growth was evident. That area became Arbutus much later.

Hulltown was also in the 1877 atlas with a street plan and was a close-in suburb next to Mount Winans. The Baltimore American of February 26, 1889, published an obituary of Charles J. Hull of Chicago titled, “He Built Up Hulltown.” The 1898 Bromley atlas called that area “Hull’s S. W. Addition.” This Hull, originally from Baltimore County, bequeathed his house in Chicago for the benefit of the poor and it became the famous Jane Addams “Hull House.” By 1889, Hulltown had four churches. Location of the suburb was Hollins Ferry Road and Annapolis Road. This area became part of the city in 1918-1919.

A development of the South Baltimore Land Company was Muncehugan on Annapolis road was mentioned by the Mount Winans correspondent of the Baltimore County Democrat, December 28, 1889. This area had city water from the first and no doubt was later taken within the city limits in 1918-1919.

Westport was in Baltimore County in the 1915 Bromley atlas. Its street grid was shown faintly in the 1877 atlas but had apparently not been fleshed out by 1915; the ground belonged to the South Baltimore Land Company. Other southwest subdivisions were Lakeland next to Silver Lake, platted out on the area shown as Welsh and Priestly’s property in the 1877 atlas. The area is now inside the city. Dorchester Heights was formed from the C. H. Rittenhouse estate. It is mostly in the city now, a small area west of Hollins Ferry Raod, north of Gehb Avenue.

English Consul was a large estate that actually belonged to a Consul from England, William Dawson, even though its residents keep calling the neighborhood “English Council.” A number of subdivisions had been platted out from the Dawson family holdings as we can see in the 1915 Bromley atlas. English Consul Estate Annex No. 1 and English Consul Estate Section A are now in the city. Annex No. 1 is now north of Patapsco Avenue reached by Magnolia Avenue. Section A is east of Annapolis Road (Md. 648) and is reached by Viona Avenue, called Violet Avenue in the 1915 atlas. This small neighborhood features an English Consul Avenue. The real English Consul mansion built in 1818 is on Oak Grove Avenue and is inside Baltimore County. Commuters from these enclaves could reach Baltimore by two electric inter-urban lines that were running parallel to each other for a short stretch. One could commute from English Consul Station on the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad or from Clifton Station on the Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railway. Both railroads used extra-heavy trolley cars running inn trains. Today, the Hunt Valley to Glen Burnie/Airport Light Rail system utilizes various sections of those rights-of-way.

Baltimore County was the scene of the great Roland Park suburb planned by the second generation of Olmsteds. Before the Olmsted firm was retained, George F. Kessler planned the first section in 1892. The Baltimore American of May 5, 1892, published a plat along with the article, “A New Suburban Town.” The Olmsted plan included and actually wanted hilly lots and curvy streets, designed to hold frame houses in the stick and shingle styles. The lots were not always oversized. Some houses were truly masonry mansions. Any large houses were architect designed. Roland Park was rapidly built out because it was much closer to the city and there was a Roland Avenue trolley car line almost from the beginning. The town also had a multi-story, many-dormered shopping center that still contains viable businesses. Roland Park’s center was but no means an American first because the Casino in Newport, Rhode Island, dates from 1889-1890. The Roland Park Company put restrictions on the quality of houses to be constructed; the standardized deeds prohibited livestock, poultry raising, saloons, home industries, and prohibited selling lots to African Americans, Jews, or Asians. Roland Park also featured a country club and golf course. Some of its smaller houses were fairly affordable to professionals and owners of small businesses. The earliest church buildings were designed to look rural and resemble the parish chapels of the English countryside. Roland Park was taken within the city limits in 1918. Presumably, the citizens of that almost perfect world voted to leave the county in hopes of having more municipal services.

Lauraville was on Harford Road near the Hall’s Spring Hotel. It was probably named for Laura Green, daughter of Amon Green, who owned the Lauraville or Columbian Factory, a cotton works, on Herring Run. The name can be found in Baltimore County Wills Liber 3:332 (1869). Lauraville P. O. was shown in the 1877 Hopkins atlas. Residents could have commuted by horse-car from the end of the line at the nearby hotel. In 1888, some of Lauraville was annexed by the city and the neighborhood became the utter NE corner of the city. Remnants of the hotel can be found in Herring Run Park today but floods have washed away the foundations of the cotton works.

North Lauraville later became Hamiltion. The name only dates from 1900 and it supposedly derives from the name of Hamilton Caugey, owner of Fair Oaks Farm—and Fair Oaks sounds like a name transplanted from a Civil War battlefield in Virginia. Fair Oaks belonged to J.W. Garrett in the 1877 Hopkins atlas; at that time there were many small suburban houses on lots of various sizes but no gridded street plans. Hamilton was taken into the city by the annexation of 1918-1919.

Gardenville was also called Anthonyville for Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church. Gardenville as a name appears in the 1877 Hopkins atlas in
a detail map along with its twin Lauraville. In 1877, the main crossroads was Franklin Avenue, named for a local landowner named Benjamin Franklin rather than the famous Philadelphian. Later the name Frankfort Avenue came into use, although two German cities spelled the name “Frankfurt,” meaning “the fording place of the Franks” rather than a fort. The Baltimore County Union of May 31, 1884, reported that St. Anthony’s church was to be in Raspeburg. That neighborhood derived its name from the general store of J.H. Raspe, according to the Sun, March 4, 1877. The county paper reported that the selection of a name was held at the Raspe Store, attended by the Gardenville Band (Baltimore County Union, March 2, 1877).

Violetville was shown with a street plan in the 1898 Bromley atlas. It was taken into the city limits in 1918-1919. The name supposedly stems from a profusion of flowers planted by a cemetery caretaker that spread over the fields. The community is built on the tact “Georgia” which was part of the Mount Clare estate, the Joh farm, and the Caton estate. Some old Victorian cottages survive from the 1880s. Two ponds created by ore mining survived as picnic sites until the 1960s.

Morrell Park was developed on property of a person of that name whose undeveloped estate appeared in the 1877 atlas on the NW side of the Washington Turnpike Road (the present U. S. 1) — spelled with only one “L.” There seemed to be a street plan faintly sketched into the 1877 atlas, but the actual Morrell Park plan was recorded May 13, 1897, in Plat Book JWS 1:235. Bromley’s 1898 county atlas showed a Ninth Avenue, which in the 1915 atlas was called Union Avenue, probably a reference to the union Stockyards; the road is now called De Soto Road. This area was taken into the city in 1918-1919. Morrell Park was served by a trackless trolley line at one time — the electric bus with two overhead wires and two trolleys that ran on tires rather than rails.

Ralston and Ralston Annex was laid out by surveyor Thomas H. Disney in 1897 and 1897; the uncomplicated plan stretched from Reisterstown Road west to Sudbrook Station. The street names were an odd mixture with Purvis Place and Ivanhoe Place, Brightside, Hawthorne, and Sherwood. Waldron Avenue was probably named for the pastor of nearby St. Charles Boromeo Church in Pikesville. The street names are still in use.

Forest Park on the road leading to the Dickeyville mill town was a development of Frank H. Calloway, its plat filed on July 12, 1909. The corporate name was Forest Park Highlands Company, and the plats were filed in the county although much of the area was in the city. Numerous houses had been built by July 2, 1916, when the Sun reported on “Forest Park, The Suburb Started by One Country-Loving Man.” The suburb was partially in the city because a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library stood on Garrison Avenue. The meandering Garrison Avenue that cut across the more recent logical street grid was the surviving 17th century road to the Garrison Fort in Green Spring Valley. The concrete arch bridge over Gwynns Falls was provided by Baltimore County and was an early example of that type of construction. By the 1918-1919 annexation, all of Forest Park and most of Dickeyville and the Forest Park Avenue bridge fell within the new city limits.


Baltimore Highlands is a large suburb platted out on the lower part of the English Consul farm that was acquired by the C. H. Unger family. The subdivision features roads named for the various States of the Union.

James Howard McHenry owned an estate southwest of Pikesville called Sudbrook. In the 1870s, he was corresponding with Frederick Law Olmsted of New York about developing an upscale suburb served by the Western Maryland Railroad. By 1883, McHenry had a plan for “Sudbrook Park” featuring “a network of  winding avenues, after the English and French park system” (Maryland Journal, June 30, 1883. The story noted, “Mr. McHenry’s object is to induce persons in the city to build and reside in the Park, for the summer, at least, and thus gather together a community of sociable and agreeable people making country life the more desirable.” Nothing concrete happened in McHenry’s lifetime, but his heirs in 1891 engaged the first F.L. Olmsted to go ahead with an imaginative suburb with curvilinear streets and very generous lots. Sudbrook Park was first envisioned as a summer colony but it was only seven miles from the city, and train service was supplemented by the Reisterstown Road trolley cars that were in operation by the 1890s. Subbrook Park was obviously the perfect place, with a club house and small golf course, but its lots did not sell out for decades. In fact, many of the generous lots envisioned by FLO were cut in half and filled in with small post-World War II brick houses and small cottages. Sudbrook Park was the third Baltimore County area to volunteer itself for the National Register of Historic Places, which helped save it from the destructive early plans for the Northwest Transportation Corridor. Today, no public agency would dare suggest paving over a village planned by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Relay continued to grow after the Viaduct Hotel was built at the B. & O. Station in 1870. Some of the big parcels were split up into building lots and Richard Walzl, a city portrait photographer, laid out a large area for fairly large houses called Cedar Heights. Walzl’s own house was a squarish frame villa with a square tower; other houses had round corner towers in the Queen Anne style; late in the century, some Relay churches were built in board-and-batten. The train stop of St. Dennis also became a suburb, and Glen Artney was developed along Avalon Forge Road, which is now called Gun Road. The Maryland Journal of June 6, 1891, reported that the investors had renamed the former estate of Mrs. John Chandler Smith. They had hired the New York landscape architect N.F. Barrett and civil engineer R.T. Mavin to do the layout; Mr. Barrett had also worked in Stockbridge, Massachusetts This southwest corner trio of suburbs was served by the speedy trains of the B. & O. but not reached by any trolleys. The Maryland Journal of July 29, 1871, had a very long description of St. Dennis and mentioned a new bridge.

Arbutus was the name of a post office listed in the 1887 State business directory. A subdivision of that same name was reported in the Catonsville Argus on August 7, 1897, and the plan was shown in the 1898 Bromley atlas. Arbutus grew up around the Sulphur Spring train stop, which drew its name from the old Sulphur Spring Hotel. The foundation of the hotel can still be found on the UMBC campus.

The 1898 Bromley atlas showed a very small suburb on Back River called “New Warsaw.” The streets had tree names for the northsouth avenues but Polish names, including, Kosciusko, Pulaski, Sobieski, Warsaw, and Krakau for the east-west streets. Today, the area is known as Chesaco Park and while the tree names survive for the streets, the Polish names have been replaced.

Overlea was a development of the Overlea Land Company in 1901. Some of the first houses were shown in the Sun on February 3, 1907, including the home of John W. Meller. The Jeffersonian’s “suburban” special issue of March 11, 1916, described it as “a prosperous village developed by Thomas R. Bond.” An explanation given on a television report in 1991 claimed that “Overlea” was a poetic name for “Over the meadow.” Some of Ovelea was annexed by the city in 1919.

Loreley was laid out on part of the Carrington family’s White Marsh Farm and was designed as a commuter suburb on the B. & O.’s Philadelphia Extension, just east of Maryland Route 7 and south of the Great Gunpowder Falls. Loreley featured one traffic circle. It was accessed by highway via the present Allender Road. The prospectus appeared in the Baltimore American of October 12, 1890. The town grew very slowly, never developing to the quality of housing envisioned by its promoters.

Rosedale got its name from the residence of William T. Smith, deceased, shown in the 1877 atlas on present Hamilton Avenue. The neighborhood was served by Rosedale Post Office as shown in the 1898 Bromley atlas, and the B. & O. Philadelphia branch had a Rosedale Station. Yet there was no planned grid of avenues or residential streets shown in the 1898 atlas: mostly middle-sized country places and a few houses fronting Philadelphia Road. One estate on the main road at Red House Run was called Rosedale Park. Red House Run was named for a colonial tavern. Opposite the Red House had been the equally ancient Yellow House. Commuters could take the B. & O. Railroad at Rosedale Station to Mount Royal and Camden Stations. The Pennsylvania Railroad did not have a station judging by the 1915 atlas. Apparently there was never trolley service, judging by the 1923 and 1945 maps of the transit system. In 2006, an architectural survey of Rosedale was performed by consultants working for the Maryland Department of Transportation; the opinion expressed the report was that Rosedale had lost too much of its integrity to be National Register Eligible.

Lansdowne was supposedly named for William Petty, Marquis of Lansdowne and Earl of Shelbourne, the prime minister who made peace with the United States in 1783. Hamill Kenny in his place name book also noted that there was a village in Somersetshire called Lansdown, spelled without an “e.” The train stop had been called Carrsville at least as early as 1879 when the county paper reported a cockfight there. It was still Carrsville in the late 1880s. The residential area was first recorded as “Joshua” and then renamed “Lansdowne” by local developer Charles W. Hull, the first plat filed on June 5, 1889. Lansdowne never got a trolley car but a jitney bus service was mentioned by the papers in 1915 when the bus was struck by a speeding automobile on Hammond Ferry Road.

Halethorpe translates to “Healthy Village,” “thorpe” being archaic English for a hamlet or settlement. The subdivision was started in 1890 by Oregon R. Benson and John Rittenhouse. The Baltimore County Democrat of January 10, 1891, reported that the town was going to have gutters and paved streets “just as in the city” and twelve beautiful cottages had already been built by the lot owners. Residents could probably commute by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad and get off at Sulphur Spring Station or Winans Station. The United Railways extended trolley service there on its “Blue Line” in 1908 (the No. 9 line). Halethorpe was thought to be a distant outpost of the electric car lines, and the transit system converted to busses long before other rail routes were abandoned. Some of the Halethorpe lots were quite spacious and a few impressive houses were built there, one with three square towers, however Halethorpe was mostly middle class and affordable for the most part.

Northwest Halethorpe was mentioned in the Sun of May 22, 1925, when Carville D. Benson was building new houses between Francis Avenue and Sulphur Spring Road; this development consisted of bungalows on Carville Avenue designed by William Gordon Beecher, a noted Catonsville architect.

Leeds in the southwest corner of the county was laid out by the Leeds Land Company to market the sprawling land owned by the Duchess of Leeds — the Duchess being the granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, who had married into British nobility, the land being Carroll’s share of the defunct Baltimore Iron Works Company.

Ruxton was once an area of farms, and the 1877 atlas shows that about a dozen country places occupied all the land there. The L’Hirondelle Boat Club preceded the residential development, mentioned in the Baltimore Gazette, September 15, 1873, when the members acquired a new boat. It was the L’Hirondelle Rowing Club when the Gazette again mentioned it on March 7, 1878. Needless to say, L’Hirondelle is the French word for “swallow,” the gliding bird. Baltimore County Roads Books contain a petition dated January 11, 1887, requesting a new road to be called “Malvern Avenue,” a name possibly connected with the Civil War.  There was a long article about building in Ruxton in the Sun of July 28, 1890. The growth that occurred in the 1890s produced an area of middle-sized estates with splendid houses, mostly built in frame, many of them by noted city architects, even architects engaged in New York. The local papers continued reported on the progress of Ruxton. Part of Ruxton was called Ellenham Park for a lady named Ella, possibly Mrs. T. Sturgis Davis. Surveyor W.H. Shipley designed the Ellenham Park street plan in 1892, incorporating some curved roadways. Parts of Ruxton enjoyed views of the artificial reservoir Lake Roland. Its residents could easily commute via the Northern Central Railroad, which kept up passenger service until 1959. The earliest residents were railroad management men, doctors, lawyers, and bankers. Almost indistinguishable from Ruxton was Rider’s Switch, also called Sherwood, and Riderwood. The disastrous wreck of two excursion took place at Rider’s Switch near the picnic ground Rider’s Woods on July 4, 1855. In 1899, the Sherwood Improvement Company erected six cottages at Sherwood on he east side of the railroad, south of the station on the former property of Lewis J. Roberts (Sun, September 19). The University School for Boys once operated in an enormous Georgian Revival house in Ruxton. There was almost no business activity there, although the Gneiss Rock Water Company bottled spring water at one time and its fatal fire was reported in the Jeffersonian of June 7, 1919. Gill’s Garage has long operated on the fringe of the village, and a scene was filmed there in 1999 for the Julia Roberts movie Runaway Bride.

Bromley’s 1898 atlas showed a large subdivision in Catonsville called Oak Forest Park; almost none of the lots were filled but eventually they would support very large cottages, often in the Shingle Style, some designed by city architects, like Jackson C. Gott, most of the houses still standing today. The project was started in 1894 by the Catonsville Improvement Company on the tract called Thistle Woods. Later, the J.W. Holloway Company was the developer under its president John Hubner.

Villa Nova of course means new town or new mansion and was a subdivision designed by Edwin C. Wolfe, Civil Engineer, and filed for record in 1909. The area was shown in the 1915 Bromley atlas. The area was close to the Milford Mill and was formerly the Ferguson estate that bordered on Howardville.

Howardville was a train stop on the Western Maryland Railroad where a depot was established in 1874, named for General John Eager Howard, ancestor of James Howard McHenry of Sudbrook estate. A recorded subdivision was started by the Howard Land Company in 1882. A grid of streets was shown before that in the 1877 Hopkins atlas. In today’s terms, the subdivision was at the curve in the present subway line at Bedford Road, east of Villa Nova. Residents could also have commuted via the Pikesville horse car line starating in 1874, and then in 1894 by the Reisterstown Road trolley car line.

Essex was started in 1909 near a place originally called Walters and also known as Josenhan’s Corners. The Eastern Avenue trolley car line ended at Walter’s tavern and restaurant at Eastern Avenue and Back River Neck Road. The Essex and neck area was a mixture of farms and ducking shores where large waterfront tracts were owned by ducking clubs. The shores were also used for sport fishing. Baltimoreans had regularly traveled across Back River bridge to reach the Hollywood Park beer garden in the present east end of Essex. As a suburb, Essex was an affordable place with geometrically laid out lots. The Sun of June 26, 1909, contained an article entitled, “Essex Is New Suburb,” crediting the design to Reading and Howard, civil engineers. Most houses were frame and affordable. Many of the ethnic people from East Baltimore moved there after gaining some prosperity. Developed by the Taylor Land Company, Essex became quite populous. There are some well designed churches, but its business section was always ordinary and recent efforts at improving the corridor have achieved little. The coming of the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1929 and the war time boom in aircraft manufacture made Essex a convenient place for war workers to live.

Rossville was much older than Essex, a train stop on the Baltimore and Havre de Grace Railroad starting about 1838. Its scattered housing never amounted to a suburb, and the suburban process had to wait for the arrival of Glenn L. Martin and his tremendous workforce.

Cherry Hill east of Belair Road north of Overlea was the only suburb we can name that was intended for African American buyers, platted in 1909 by A. Boulding & Company, developed by the Cherry Heights Realty Company. The plat filed in March 1910 noted that the carfare was only five cents from the city. This are had been David Steele’s farm in the 1877 atlas.

Middleborough in Back River Neck on the Middle River side of the peninsula was advertised as a suburb in the Sun, June 25, 1916, the subdivision of “the famous old Hopewell tract.”

Dundalk was a mixture of company town and planned suburb. A number of notable architects were involved in laying out a unified street plan and the builders relied on the Roland Park Company for guidance. Dundalk’s systematic plan included interesting street name like Shipway, Dunmanway, Sunship, Flagship, Yorkship, Dunhill, and Dunbar. The name of Dundalk preceded the big development and had been the name selected by boiler manufacturer and bell-founder John McShane for the rail stop on the Baltimore and Sparrows Point Railroad in 1888: Dundalk being his birthplace in County Louth, Ireland. The town had its stores clustered on a green public park. The U. S. Emergency Fleet Corporation was the parent company of the project, and the original intent was to house the Sparrows Point shipyard workers. World War I ended before Dundalk was completed, but all through the 1920s, the project continued as a subsidiary of the Bethlehem Steel Company, sales handled by the Dundalk Mortgage Company. Dundalk’s private homes were often stucco on hollow tile duplexes while the public buildings were brick in a stripped down Georgian Revival. The dwellings looked like the multi-family suburban houses built early in the century in Germany. Large combined store and office buildings completed the town square about 1930. Once the houses passed to individuals, it was possible to classify Dundalk as a suburb, or possibly as an example of the “City Beautiful” movement.

In 1910, the former Lenhoff property was being developed into Fullerton Heights in what the paper called “cottages” (Baltimore County Union, May 14).

The Sun had an article in its Sunday Real Estate section on March 31, 1912, entitled “When the Suburbs Call,” reporting the vastly improved neighborhoods where residents enjoyed houses on paved streets, telephone lines, and central heating. The author still noted the desirability of having a poultry yard and garden on every property and added:

A concern among the dweller in the suburbs will show that many of them are from other cities, where previous to their coming to Baltimore they had homes with side light, and they often expressed surprise that people can be contented living in houses so closely built as many of our Baltimore homes. Some of the greatest growth In the last few years has been in the northwestern and Northeastern sections. Lot values have increased where many improvements and good roads have been made, but the economical place to buy, according to those who know, is where the section is just beginning to grow, where there is good car service, water, gas, sewerage and other advantages. The section between Park heights and Green Spring avenues, with the new Cross-country boulevard in the centre has had a great growth.

The Sun’s real estate writer was probably thinking of the sort of row house that had one windowless, airless, dim, bedroom in the center of the house. Baltimore’s mass production builders spoke of “running up rows of houses” and the Sun often described a score of entire rows being constructed during the building season in just one neighborhood. Marketing individual houses burdened with ground rents was a lucrative investment; the papers noted that the usual sort of 14-foot wide house was practically sold at cost to gain a perpetual payer, practically prisoner, of its ground rent.

The Sun explained the economics of it in an article entitled, “The Building Season,” March 24, 1883:

Capitalists and owners of vacant grounds have come to the conclusion that the next Legislature will do away with irredeemable
ground rents, and that now is the time to get their ground under perpetual lease. They are ready and willing to make advances to builders who will put up houses and enable them to create ground rents. Then, on the other hand, ground is cheaper in Baltimore than in any other city of the country, either large or small, and speculators see profit in buying it and erecting houses on it. They often can sell the ground rents of a row of these houses, which occupy only a small portion of the lot, for enough to clear the whole cost of their purchase, and they have the balance left for their profit. These men can well afford to sell the houses at less than their cost of construction, cheap as that may be, and still make money out of the venture, because the ground rents are their main dependence. This state of things does not give Baltimore a good class of houses, to be sure, but it gives employment, puts money in circulation, and is a benefit in other ways.


The county boundaries have remained the same since the annexation that took effect on January 1, 1919, following a referendum in 1918. The 1920s saw some suburban expansion, but that boom was partially thwarted by the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Housing for war workers created a boom in the early 1940s, and housing for everyone exploded after the war ended and building materials became available again. Not only were more families formed but old families fled the inner city as African Americans were suddenly able to afford row houses. The last quarter of the 20th century saw prosperous African Americans buying suburban houses in Baltimore County. Racial groups are not fleeing from each other as in the past.
Randallstown people are now fascinated by the mixture of ethnicities.

The 1920s

Prosperity in the 1920s made it possible for large numbers of people to enjoy frame cottages and bungalows. The 1924 legislation that created the Metropolitan District made it possible to share water and sewer lines with Baltimore City and spare new residents the need for privies, privy pumping, and well-digging. By 1929, some 11,000 houses were linked to the extensions. More compact suburbs could be laid out once city hook-ups available. More suburbs could be platted out between the radial roads fanning out from the city. Places like Fullerton and Carney could be built up with block after block of private housing.

Oliver H. Laine in his 1953 dissertation on the growth of Towson stated:

Although the creation of the Baltimore County Metropolitan District enhanced the integration of the City-County sewerage and water supply systems, population expansion was completely uncontrolled.

Laine quoted an article from the Evening Sun of April 22, 1940, by Clark S. Hobbs:

Much of the long, gangling city [the Metropolitan District] has sanitary, public safety, and traffic conditions which are little different from those of Baltimore itself. Yet it is almost completely without the benefit of plan, without effective control of land use—a casual, impromptu, unorganized and undirected sort of thing. In this unnamed city you can build a cow stable or a mansion pretty much where you choose, dump your garbage and trash in the nearest gully, establish an automobile graveyard where it suits your convenience, lay out streets in a subdivision without any relation to a master plan…

In 1939, the General Assembly passed a bill to establish zoning regulations within the Metropolitan District, and in 1941, Senator James J. Lindsay supported a bill to extend zoning to the entire county. Some people were vehemently against zoning, even in the city. There were those who argued that zoning was unconstitutional, and the Sun of September 29, 1928, had carried the story, “Zoning Laws Communistic,” quoting Baltimore city attorney Isaac Loeb Straus.

A usually ultra conservative Towson weekly newspaper supported zoning:

For several years the Jeffersonian has been consistently in favor of a zoning law for Baltimore County — now one is before the Legislature for consideration, and what becomes of it is of vast importance to local home owners. As it now stands the home owner in this county has no protection whatsoever from unscrupulous or inconsiderate builders and promoters of commercial enterprises. He bought a lot, built a home, and took his chances as to what would develop around him…. the wonder is that we have as much building order in our towns and villages as we do, for the gate of restriction has been wide open (March 3, 1939).

Two upscale suburbs were Stoneleigh and Anneslie, where large estates survived close to York Road, not far north of the city line, although in the second carfare zone of the transit system. The two estates had centered around great villas of the 1850s or so and those mansions survived for a long time. Anneslie mansion still exists while Stoneleigh lasted until 1955. Stoneleigh houses were depicted in drawings and photographs in the Sunday Sun real estate sections and many of them can be attributed to notable city architects. The Sun of March 4, 1927, reported that in the previous year, 50 stucco houses had been built, seven of individual design by the city architect Harold Appleton Stilwell; the contractor was Peyton B. Strobel Company. Stoneligh retained many old trees; along the York Road frontage, there was a buffer strip and a street parallel to the main road. Stoneleigh has been accepted for the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district.

Anneslie was a development of the Charles H. Steffy, Inc., started in June 1922, built out to 160 houses by 1929. Anneslie allowed frame and shingle bungalows, which cost only $650; the better stuccocoated Italian villas cost $5775. Buyers had to pay ground rents, which was a great source of steady revenue for investors. The Stoneleigh Corporation under its principal Irvin E. Butler laid out the suburb of that name and they used the title “Stoneleigh District” on a brochure, “district” being the code word for Guilford and Roland Park and their restrictions and architectural qualities. Stoneleigh began in 1923 aand was more expensive than Anneslie with numerous architect-designed houses, some in French provincial, some in Georgian Revival.

Wiltondale south of the old Towson was laid out on the horse farm and private racetrack of Wilton Greenway after Mrs. Jessie Hillis Greenway sold out for about $33,000 (Sun, May 30, 1926). Pinehurst was being developed on the old Schwarz estate and its street plan was shown in the Sun, May 17, 1925. Another section of Pinehurst developed by Blenheim Realty Corporation replaced the University School for Boys (in 1927).

West of the Towson courthouse was a suburb on a hilltop called Southland Hills developed by J. Elmer Weisheit using plans made by the Roland Park Company’s engineer (Sun, April 24, 1924). The Jeffersonian of May 2, 1925, carried a full-page advertisement for Southland Hills and showed Tudor and Spanish style houses in line drawings. All the streets had Southern-type names: Dixie Drive, Alabama Avenue, Florida Avenue, Carolina Avenue, etc. Houses here included 1920s stucco types and Georgian Revival houses, many of brick, many gambrel-roofed, very well built, with slate roofing. In places the houses faced the large premises of the Grafton M. Bosley Mansion (1869), which became the Presbyterian Home in 1928. Many identical bungalows were built in West Towson on East Susquehanna Avenue, and two streets worth of them sprang up near Hillen Road in East Towson.

Murray Hill was developed by the Murray Hill Corporation on the former Bowman estate at Charles and Bellona southwest of Towson. A number of elegant houses were designed by Edward H. Glidden of Baltimore (Sun, August 28, 1928).

Fieldstone was plotted out on the lands of Seymour Ruff of Randallstown, and the houses were indeed of fieldstone, or at least Butler quartzite. The original plat is by William Whitney, 1927. The houses were constructed by J.K. Ruff and Son, who also built notable churches and college buildings around the Mid-Atlantic. Fieldstone is the only 20th century suburb to be accepted as a Baltimore County Historic District (B. C. Plat Books WPC 7:66).

Catonsville was always growing, and Prospect Avenue and Edmondson Ridge Road became fully built out with almost identical frame and shingle bungalows in the 1920s. Other parts of Catonsville expanded into more expensive detached houses, especially around Edmondson Avenue and on South Rolling Road, and all around the Gary family’s Summit mansion, creating the area called Summit Park. There was also growth in Pikesville and around Gwynn Oak, Parkville, and Arbutus.

Lodge Forest was the name assigned by Bay Front Development Company to 300 acres of uncut forest near Sparrows Point as reported in the Sun of April 20, 1924. This had been a gunning and ducking club when advertised in the Sun, March 31, 1854, and the Post Office Outing Club was still providing recreation on the adjoining property when the development began. President of the development company was James Cary Thompson. The residential area was served by the North Point trolley line that went to Bay Shore Park.

Gray Manor near North Point Road was a 1926 subdivision laid out on the land of James A. Gray, a 158-acre tract shown in the 1915 atlas.

Maryland Manor was developed on the eastern edge of the city west of Rosedale by Cityco Realty Company, the design by J. Spence Howard, surveyor, plat filed in September 1922. The names Biddle Street and East Oliver Street are still shown on maps near the Rosedale Industrial Park. Neither Biddle nor East Olive Streets connect with the city streets of those names. The strangely numbered 62nd to 64th Streets also survive on the ADC atlas map.

Kensington north of Wilkens Avenue and east of Saint Charles College was developed by the A.J. Watkins Realty Company in 1926 from a plan by J. Spence Howard. The company’s prospectus was titled Gateway to Gladness. The ground had belonged to Robert W. Rasin in the 1877 atlas and his large Italianate villa called Kensington was sacrificed to the plan.

Sluggish Business in the 1930s

Growth was slow in the 1930s but Baltimore County was able to get Federal aid from the Work Projects Administration, which provided $560,0000 for water and sewer lines, the projects finished in February, 1929, when the economic recovery was getting back to normal.

Towson Estates on the north side of Joppa Road east of Goucher Boulevard was fairly isolated when constructed in 1933 by Walter C. Mylander. Most of the houses were in fieldstone and secluded in trees. The centerpiece of the small subdivisison was a carved, 600year-old stone fountain imported from Setro Fiorentina in Italy, the villa of Count Cenami. Towson Estates had no public transportation other than the erratic Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.

Probably the largest suburban development before World War II was Rodgers Forge, built by the James Keelty Company, introducing row houses to the county. Most of Rodgers forge was near the city line and more strategically, it was at the place where trolley car passengers had to start paying an extra fare to reach Towson. The earliest Keelty rows on Hopkins Road were discovered by the assessors in 1934. Houses on Dunkirk Road were listed in 1936 — that street named well before Dunkirk became famous in World War II. The whole area was named for a blacksmith shop that stood on the SW corner of York Road and Stevenson Lane until it was torched by golf course caddies in 1946. The houses were in a sort of massproduced Georgian Revival, cheery red brick, with white wood trim. Some rows incorporated a bit of brick and stucco. End houses were more desirable and had three walls with windows rather than only two. Keelty’s architect was Frederick E. Beall.

Eastern Terrace was platted in 1941 by Maryland Housing, Inc., on the former property of Henry Ruhl.

North of Towson, developers bought up the once enormous Ridgely estate of Hampton and laid out extra-large lots on Hampton Lane and St. Francis Road. Those houses were being built in the early 1940s and were still Georgian Revival. The bungalow and the American Four Square house had gone out of style by the early 1930s.

Row houses sprawled all over the War of 1812 country around North Point Road. Those houses were more stripped down than the ones at Rodgers Forge but at least had the cheery red brick walls. North Point grew in response to the need for war time housing when city and county were big producers in the “Arsenal of Democracy.” The 1940 period saw great growth of cottage housing near the Glenn L. Martin plant, but those neighborhoods would not meet the definition of suburbs until the houses were spun off to individual buyers after the war. The same can be said of Turner Station, much of which was war time housing, although the area started as a few streets of individual houses even before World War I. Near Essex there were several areas of row housing close to Josenhan’s Corners, including Tall Oaks and Kingsley Park. Those areas were not quite suburbs because they continued in the hands of investors until acquired in a single purchase by Baltimore County with the intention of demolishing them. Kingsley park was two very long blocks of connected red brick apartment houses facing two streets, with a little variety thrown in when the houses turned a corner near Middle River. The pre-demolition photos showed remarkable rythmic patterns of red brick walls and white framed windows stretching into the distance, almost like the row houses of Georgian Dublin.

The suburbs were still clustering close to the city when the Baltimore Beltway was opened in 1962. The only place where a large number of residential houses had to be sacrificed to the project was in the High Victorian and Queen Anne style area of Eden Terrace east of the Catonsville downtown.

In 1943, the space between the Aigburth estate in Towson and Loch Raven Boulevard was almost entirely taken up by large estates or institutions like the TB sanitarium called Eudawood. One passed meadows and fields and livestock on the way to the ice cream bars at Loch Raven and Taylor Avenue. Shortly after the war, those areas grew up into row houses, apartments, and freestanding houses, supporting an enormous population. The area was able to support a library branch of its own and a number of churches and innumerable stores and a cinema.

Four Winds west of Towson was developed in 1946 by Four Winds Corporation under its president Robert Van Horn, the plan laid out by Dollenberg Brothers of Towson. Four Winds was a re-platting of the unsuccessful Kalmia Park planned early in the century by the Boyce family. Klamia, is of course the Greek word for “beautiful.”

A booklet titled Looking Ahead in School Planning was issued by the Board of Education in 1947 and presented a map with large blooms of sudden growth including a long blob stretching from north Towson to Cockeysville and another NW of Parkville, around Pikesville, along Liberty Road just past the city line, and around Rosedale and Colegate, Cottage Grove, Patapsco Neck, Sollers Point and a big blob east of Dundalk. Two early airports were devoured for housing: Logan Field in Dundalk and the Curtiss- Wright Airport on Smith Avenue.

Tollgate near Owings Mills was planned by James S. Spamer and developed by The Ulm Corporation in 1953. Cambria overlooking Loch Raven was developed on the Blythenia Cambria tract in 1955, planned by Whitman, Requardt and developed by the Cambria Corporation. The name Cambia, meaning Wales, dates from a manor surveyed in 1705.

Around Catonsville there were extensive row house neighborhoods such as Academy Heights, and similar houses faced the Baltimore National Pike. There were countless small cottages in the Levittown design, many around Timonium in the early 1950s. There is a scenic stretch of wooden cottages that can be glimpsed from the Beltway somewhere in Arbutus where the identical houses can be seen ascending a hill. Whole new areas were added to Baltimore Highlands, cumulating in more row houses in the early 1960s. In the 1950s, a place with row houses came along under the name Towson Park, occupying former Ridgely Plantation lands, obliterating the old African American neighborhood called Sandy Bottom. The split-level house made its appearance about 1955 and soon there was a profusion of them around Lutherville and around Riderwood; the earliest models were priced at about $16,000. Near Pikesville there was Williamsburg, developed on the former F.I. Ferguson farm starting in 1957 by Hayward Realty, Inc., with other sections planned by Commonwealth Construction Company; the name probably reflects the restored colonial capital of Virginia.

The Planning Office was created in 1947 and yet it took until 1972 to get a master plan adopted. Growth had been just as chaotic during the elephantine incubation of the master plan as it had been before zoning was adopted in 1939.

In 1956, the citizens voted to abolish the County Commissioner type of government and to install a County Executive and a Council. Only 17 years before, the county commissioners were without even zoning power, and now the executive and council were clothed with broad powers that could be expanded step by step. The remarkable thing is that they failed to take control of development for two decades.

In 1974, Earl Arnett of the Sun wrote an article entitled, “Towson, Like Topsy ‘Growed’ On and On and Is Now a Mess.” Arnett skewered the hideous tall buildings all jammed together on East Joppa Road and the traffic nightmare their occupants added to already inadequate roads.

To an incredible extent, most of this astounding growth has been unplanned. Towson accepted the multitudes, embraced the prosperity and trusted to providence politicians and developers to guide its future. With typical xenophobia the refugees and old timers determined to guard their property from all outside threats. Better individual chaos than social control.

The expanded master plan adopted July 26, 1976, set the goals to channeling growth into White Marsh and Owings Mills, both of which have been done. But tremendous growth has also taken place around the once bucolic Granite area and in Perry Hall, once the vegetable growing belt of Baltimore County. The category of zoning called RC-5 made it possible to build expensive single family houses all the way to the York County line on what had always been farm land. “RC” was supposed to mean “Resource Conservation” when devised but has proved to be an environmental destruction zone.

One might ask if any of the scores of developments were designed with any imagination and or constructed with quality materials? Certainly Fox Chapel near Loch Raven and Summer Hill and Dumbarton next to Pikesville could be mentioned. Only in Dumbarton do we find good modern architecture in the  International Style, although that section is mostly occupied by Tudor revival houses, French Provincial designs, and Cotswold style houses in stone; the lots were laid out in 1924 by the Dumbarton Development Corporation; two houses designed by E.L. Palmer, Jr., were reported in the Sun, May 24, 1945, but the area was not fully fleshed out with houses until about 1948. Some curvilinear streets can be found in Anton Woods, Garrison Farms, Halcyon Gates, Belle Farm Estates to name a few. “Halcyon” is certainly a neglected word today; the Halcyon Gates plan was filed in July 1961, drawn by Wilson P. Owen and developed by Robert & Harry Myerhoff Building Company. Four Winds, mentioned before, should also be included under quality developments.

It is possible to find the original plats to see who was responsible for the best planned developments. For example, Garrison Farms, Inc., under its president Leroy Peters filed the Garrison Farms plan in 1951 (Plat Books GLB 17:38). Fox Chapel, Section 1, was recorded in 1958, the plan made by James Spammer & Associates of Towson, surveyors and engineers working for Bay Country Developers, Inc. More corporate presidents could be given credit, but their signatures on plats are usually illegible. The late Gordon E. Sugar can be credited with some imaginative development, especially around the Pomona mansion in Pikesville (1971) where he constructed apartments designed to equal Cross Keys in the city and also laid out large single home lots at “Long Meadows at Garrison,” 1957. Summer Hill was planned by Matz, Childs & Associates of Towson for developer G. Preston Scheffenacker, Inc., in 1971. The cluster of two-story garden apartments constructed in Butler quartzite opposite the entrance to Goucher College — not strictly suburbs — was built by the Locksley Hall Company, Inc., starting in 1950. Kings Point west of Randallstown was designed by Matz, Childs and Associates in 1968 for developer Morris Sosnow.

Two company towns were broken up into individual lots in the age of historic preservation: Oella and Ashland, thus becoming true suburbs. Oella was developed by the last treasurer of the W.J. Dickey Company textile manufacturing concern, Charles L. Wagandt, 2d., starting about 1976. Ashland was rehabbed and expanded by developer Kim Strutt in the 1980s; that ironworks had been out of business for almost a century but the workers’ houses had stayed in one ownership and for a long time belonged to Mano Swartz, the Baltimore furrier; rents were very modest in old Ashland but there was no sewer service until the redevelopment was completed. The mill town of Dickeyville, lost to Baltimore City in 1918, was also suburbanized about 1935.

Most suburbs built since 1945 are ordinary, and their houses display a minimum of architectural design. Most row houses after Rodgers Forge were ordinary, and the later Keelty, Knott, Myerhoff, and Posner rows scrimped on detailing and tried to have window sashes of just one pane of glass instead of inserting homelike small panes with wooden muntins and mullions. The least designed houses were probably the flat-roofed boxes along the Washington Parkway approach to the city; those houses were nominally brick, but hundreds of bricks were saved by having whole front walls of plate glass. At least people of modest means had a roof over their heads.

The quickly flung up shopping centers started to fall apart at about age 25. Most of the houses that are now being rehabbed by the Community Conservation program are post-war construction. However, the neo-townhouses such as those at Mays Chapel are a cut above old city row houses with a variety of facades and irregular planes in front. Possibly the first Baltimore County project to imitate such retro-design villages as Kentlands will be Kingsley Park in the eastern part of Essex, the replacement of the old, worn-out Kingsley Park. The proposals and idealized elevations have been the most admired designs in many years, but only actual construction will prove whether comfortable, friendly, and walkable neighborhoods can be created by governmental influence.

It certainly became fashionable to hate suburbs in the mid-1960s, when there was a song about the pointlessness of living in identical tickey-tackey houses. Yet in 2006, there are still people moving to city locations like Hampden and Canton and still other people moving to places like Mays Chapel, places on golf courses, or places newly established on last year’s working farm.


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