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historic map of Gunpowder RiverTeri L. Rising
Historic Preservation Planner, Baltimore County Department of Planning

Over a hundred years ago, Baltimore City proposed building a dam that would bring water from the Gunpowder River to Baltimore City. While the reservoir would accomplish this goal, it would also destroy homes, communities, and create controversy between Baltimore City and County. As a historic planner and historian, I am often asked for the story behind Loch Raven reservoir. “History Underwater” is a brief summary of the project that would change the landscape of Baltimore County forever.

Baltimore City had long struggled to supply its citizens with clean water, but the increasing population caused natural sources to disappear and water contamination to increase.  A drought in 1869 convinced city officials to look beyond the Jones Falls for sources of water and the Gunpowder River had been identified in 1853 as a possible choice.

“This matter of water supply cannot be overestimated in its importance, and when the water of the Gunpowder shall have been conducted into the city, as it must of necessity be in the lapse of a few years, no city on this continent or in Europe will be able to boast of so great a bounty.”Mayor of Baltimore - 1872

Construction began December 3, 1875 and the Loch Raven lower dam was completed by 1881.  The works consisted of a dam, which formed the reservoir, a tunnel connecting the reservoir with Lake Montebello, and a conduit connecting Lake Montebello to Lake Clifton. That water tunnel is still used today.  Officially named in 1877, “Loch Raven” was inspired by area landowner, Luke Raven, along with the addition of  “Loch”, as Scottish for Lake.  William Gilmor, owner of the "Glen Ellen" estate, has been credited as the source of the name.  

A polluted Jones Falls convinced officials to expand Loch Raven by adding an upper dam.  Knowing that Baltimore City was scouting for land, the Warren Company secretly sold the town to the city in 1908 for a confidential price. The City Council conducted an investigation and concluded the acquisition was inappropriate and price too high.  Negative press coverage resulted in serious criticism for officials and the deal was nullified by the Court of Appeals in 1913.

After the upper dam was completed, the city implemented the next phase and raised the spillway to the 240 feet maximum.  In response, nearly 50 square miles were annexed in 1918.  The annexation consumed many farms and mills and forced residents to relocate. City inspectors assigned values to the properties and negotiated their acquisition.  Many sites were demolished and flooded; others were partially demolished and left to deteriorate within the watershed’s boundaries. Those affected had names like Morgan’s Mill, "Furnace Farm", "Vauxhall", and "Glen Ellen".

Amidst lawsuits and accusations of impropriety, the last lands purchased for the final phase of the Loch Raven Reservoir included the towns of Warren and Phoenix.  When they were finally condemned in 1922, it cost the City one million dollars. Spectators made the trek and documented the dismantling and demolition of the village making Warren’s demise the best known and documented.

If you are interested in learning more, or would like information about the sources I used for this blog, feel free to contact me at

Further Reading

Baltimore County Department of Planning, Preservation Services

Baltimore City Department of Public Works

Baltimore City Department of Public Works History of the Water Supply

Historical Society of Baltimore County

Baltimore County Public Library Historic Photographs Collection

Maryland Historical Trust - Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties

John McGrain, The Molinography of Maryland: a tabulation of mills, furnaces, and primitive industries, Maryland State Archives, 2007

single stream recycling container

Charlie Reighart
Baltimore County Recycling & Waste Prevention Manager

As I joined County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Council Chair Tom Quirk today in Catonsville to announce that County residents have recycled a record-breaking 52,500 tons of curbside recyclables, I couldn’t help but think back a couple of decades when recycling first got its start here – and realize how much easier it is now!

Oh, how far we have come! On June 23, 1990, at the Giant Food parking lot at the corner of Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, a surprisingly large contingent of Baltimore County residents arrived in 600 vehicles during a three-hour period. These residents brought with them recyclable paper and bottles and cans to the County’s first volunteer-operated, County-assisted, recycling drop-off center (“Towson-Parkville”). Residents waited patiently in long lines, sometimes for a half hour or more, to hand-deliver their recyclables. Over several years, nine different volunteer organizations ran recycling drop-off centers all around the County. Back in the day, at each center there were seven different drop-off receptacles (one each for mixed paper, tin cans, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and jugs, and three colors of glass), each watched over like a hawk by a volunteer to ensure against cross-contamination. Recycling progress was measured pound by pound. 

Fast-forward to today. No more long lines, just the distance from your home to the closest curb or alley. No more having to separate recyclables into seven different receptacles (one will do just fine with the County’s “single stream” collection program). And progress is no longer measured in pounds, but in tens of thousands of tons. On March 7, 2013, the County Executive announced an all-time, annual County record for recycling – more than 52,300 tons in 2012! Are you and your community recycling all you can? Find out at

Before the end of 2013, the County expects to open its own single stream recycling sorting facility, which will usher in yet another exciting chapter in the County’s environmental leadership.
Here’s to Baltimore County’s rich recycling history, proud present, and especially its promising future.  
Clean Green County logo

Baltimore County Storm DataEd Adams, Department of Public Works Director
Jim Lathe, Highways Bureau Chief

It’s November and the skies seem to have turned on us. Hurricane, wind and snow storms are suddenly on our minds. Baltimore County’s Department of Public Works took a look at storms over the past dozen years, and found some interesting facts.

  • July 2010 to June 2011 saw the most storms (12), but nowhere near the most snow accumulation. That record goes to 2009, when 10 storms, including dual blizzards, dropped an estimated 84 inches of snow on the County. 
  • The cost of a ton of road salt almost doubled from about $30 in 2000 to nearly $60 in early 2012. Current prices have fluctuated down a bit to $53 per ton.
  • The County used 102,042 tons of salt during 11 storms in 2002-2003.
  • Superstorm Sandy alone cost the County’s Public Works department $230,486.

This storm related cost data and more is now available on the Baltimore County’s Highway Bureau web page at Data will be updated after each significant storm event. As County Executive Kamenetz said, "This is just one more way we are making government transparent."   

If you live or work in Baltimore County, you’ll want to bookmark the Snowfighters web page at for updated information on road conditions including salting and plowing operations throughout the County.


Revised April 6, 2016