Historic Sites In Baltimore County Parks
Baltimore County boasts many parks that remind us of its rich history and the role it and its citizens have played in the formation of our nation.
Several of these include:
Banneker Historical Park and Museum, Fort Howard Park, Battle Acre Park, Fort Garrison Park, Ballestone/Stansbury House, Perry Hall Mansion, Oregon Ridge Park, Cromwell Valley Park, and the Holt Park and Holt Center for the Arts.
300 Oella Avenue (21228)
The 155-acre Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Oella dates back to the 17th century. This national landmark site was the farmstead of the original Banneker family, and the 155-acre park and museum are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Benjamin Banneker, who achieved national notoriety as the first African American Man of Science. He was a self-taught mathematician and astronomer. It was from this site that Banneker crafted one of the first all-American-made wooden clocks and wrote his almanacs and famous correspondence with Thomas Jefferson. In 1791, Banneker was assigned to the Pierre L'Enfant team to survey for the new federal city, Washington D.C.
The Banneker Historical Park and Museum preserves the cultural and natural history of the colonial era by offering special programs in colonial history and extensive environmental conservation, particularly for American native plants.
Within the site many trails can be found, including conservation paths and the historic Number 9 Trolley Line Trail. The museum presents changing exhibitions in history, art, culture and science, and a constant exhibit on the life of Benjamin Banneker. In addition to the museum, the park also features a newly restored 19th century farmhouse.
1935 Back River Neck Road (21221)
The house currently known as "Ballestone Manor" was erroneously named in the 1970's due to an incorrect title search. Ballestone Manor is actually a half-mile away at Balliston Point, and the ground is in fact "Stansburys Claim" or "Dickinson". The structure is actually the Stansbury House or the Cedar Point Mansion. Built between 1798 and 1813, it is currently a museum and is an excellent example of the Federal architectural style.
The Heritage Society of Essex and the Essex/Middle River Bicentennial Committee desired to preserve the house and in 1969 Baltimore County purchased the property for park development. Restoration started in 1974, and by the summer of 1976, it was ready to welcome visitors.
Some events coordinated for the manor by the Back River Neck Recreation and Parks Council's board of volunteers include Spring/Summer exhibits, Civil War reenactments, Sunday tours, tea plate luncheons, Halloween activities and a Holly Tour for the holidays. The house also has several displays of Early American Art covering a period of 1780-1880. Small weddings and parties are hosted from time-to-time, and special tours can be arranged by appointment.
3930 Perry Hall Road (21128)
This historical treasure is located high on a hill overlooking the Gunpowder River Valley. The Perry Hall Mansion is one of the most important landmarks in Baltimore County, as it is the oldest standing home in the community and one of the last remaining colonial homes in the County.
In the 1770's, iron-master Corbin Lee was to construct a new home on his 1,000-acre estate. Before its completion, Lee passed away in December of 1773. A gentleman named Harry Dorsey Gough purchased the estate from his widow and renamed his new purchase Perry Hall. The Perry Hall Mansion was originally a five part Georgian structure, but 60 percent was lost in an 1839 fire. It was rebuilt in Greek Revival style and now has 16 rooms including a library, ballroom with crystal chandeliers and several spacious bedrooms.
In April 1999, the Baltimore County Council endorsed landmark status for the mansion. Owner Thomas Mele II sold the estate to Baltimore County in 2001. In 2004, Baltimore County completed exterior renovations to the mansion, including painting, landscaping, repairs, and replacement of the roof.
6 Garrison Farms Court (21208)
The Royal Governor, Sir Francis Nicholson, commissioned construction of this frontier "garrison" in 1693. It was built to guard the western expansion and trading routes in Maryland, with two-foot thick walls, internal fireplace, and fireproof roof to protect from flaming arrows.
The fort was utilized by mounted rangers at the end of the seventeenth century and in 1755 during the French and Indian War. Soldiers were placed to patrol, interact with settlers, and promulgate religious knowledge and values in the area.
By 1798, it was in private ownership, and recent archaeological analysis has proven that it was used as quarters for slaves. A second story and new roof were added during the 19th century.
Following a successful "Save the Fort" campaign undertaken by community members and civic and historical groups, Fort Garrison and its .341-acre site became property of Baltimore County in 1965. Renovations secured through private donation funds and a grant from the Maryland Historic Trust took place in the 1970s, and more recent, large-scale renovations have ensured its structural stability.
9500 North Point Road (21052)
This park's historical significance is its connection with the largest invasion of the United States in history on the morning of September 12, 1814. The British had landed about seven thousand men near the site that later became Fort Howard, as a part of a campaign to capture and burn Baltimore. In coordination with their navy's bombardment of Fort McHenry, the British troops were to march up Patapsco Neck and capture Baltimore from the east. But the British advance was first demoralized when American sharpshooters Daniel Wells and Henry McComas killed their popular commanding general. The advance had been temporarily stalled by the Americans in the Battle of North Point, and finally stopped dead when the British perceived the strength of the American defenses at Patterson Park. Disheartened, they re-boarded their ships near North Point and sailed away to another defeat, in the Battle of New Orleans.
Fort Howard was originally known as North Point, but was renamed in 1902 after Colonel John Eager Howard, a Baltimore philanthropist and distinguished soldier of the Maryland Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. In the 1700s, the site served as an important part of the transportation route between the Eastern Shore and the Port of Baltimore. Known as the "Bulldog at Baltimore's Gate," Fort Howard was also created to protect the valued Baltimore Port. Many of the fort batteries, previously manned by Coast Artillery Corps, can still be seen, although they are now covered by dark ivy and bushes.
3115 Old North Point Road(21222)
Battle Acre Park is a 1-acre site dedicated in 1839 to commemorate those who fought in the Battle of North Point on September 12, 1814. Regiments of the Maryland militia engaged in battles with the British Army at the same time Fort McHenry was defending the Baltimore Harbor from the the British Navy. The success of the Maryland militia forced the British to withdraw from the Chesapeake Region for the remainder of the War of 1812.
On September 14,1914, one hundred years after the battle, the National Star Spangled Banner Commission erected a monument topped with a memorial cannon, honoring those who fought in the Battle of North Point.
34 Elmont Avenue (21206)
Holt Park is located in Overlea-Fullerton of eastern Baltimore County. Lillian McCormick Holt, a religious educator and amateur painter, donated the property upon her death in 1975 to the citizens of Baltimore County. She dedicated its use as a place of nature appreciation, quiet contemplation and art. The park boasts 13 acres of woodland, wetlands and meadows, in which exists nature trails, gardens, a lily pond, an outdoor amphitheater with a gazebo, an arboretum, several log houses, and a labyrinth with a meditation garden path.
The original Victorian farmhouse accommodates the Holt Center for the Arts, and is the only community visual arts center in Baltimore County. As such, the mission of the Holt Center for the Arts is to fulfill Lillian Holt's vision for the park by providing a wide variety of activities and special events in the areas of visual, performing, and literary arts. It offers art classes, music, poetry, holiday festivals and exhibits of contemporary visual arts in the art gallery.
In February 2004, exterior and interior renovations of the Holt Center were completed, the parking lot was enlarged, and an electric kiln was placed in the center's garage for ceramics programs. Renovations also resulted in the exterior stabilization of three log cabins.
2002 Cromwell Bridge Road (21234)
Situated in an area once known as "Lime Kiln Bottom", the 435-acre Cromwell Valley Park was acquired by Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks starting in 1993. This stream valley park is comprised of the Minebank Run flood plain, open meadows, organic farm fields, orchards and wooded piedmont hills. The park has a marked trail system which guides visitors through varied habitats and past historic structures, which include lime kilns, a log cabin, and slave cemeteries.
The diverse habitat of the park makes it an excellent area for wildlife, and opportunities for bird watching and nature study abound. In the park is also a certified organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation that serves as a demonstration of a sustainable farm and provides wholesome, local, organic produce to over one hundred families in Baltimore.
Cromwell Valley Park has three educational programs that focus on farming, history and natural history. School field trips can be arranged by contacting the main park office. They also schedule and accept reservations for weekend public programming and special events, and offer seven one-week summer nature and farming camp sessions.
13401 Beaver Dam Road (21030)
On the property comprising the present day Oregon Ridge Park and Nature Center, iron ore and marble stone were discovered in the 1830s. The following decade, Oregon Ridge became the site of a successful iron ore and marble mining operation. In order to process the iron ore efficiently and profitably, local entrepreneurs constructed an iron smelting furnace along what today is called Oregon Branch Stream. Extracted marble stone was used on site in the iron smelting process and to supply high quality building material for the construction of many private and institutional structures in Maryland and adjacent states.
To support the mining and iron smelting activities, an industrial village housing 250 people developed just to the north of the present location of Oregon Ridge Nature Center. Irish immigrants and emancipated slaves comprised the labor force that lived and worked in the town. Several of the original town buildings remain visible in the landscape today.
In conjunction with the Baltimore County Public School's archaeology program, students conduct systematic excavations and historical research to recover evidence that shows what life was like for the mid-19th century residents of Oregon Ridge. Many sites are available for public viewing in the nature center, including observable excavations, artifact displays, a self-guided walking history tour, and a reconstructed 1850s tenant house that serves as the museum.
Revised February 13, 2015