Baltimore County Now
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Department of Planning
Since 1976, Baltimore County’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has been dedicated to recognizing and preserving important structures that represent the diverse history of Baltimore County. With the assistance of citizens, numerous sites representing the important contributions of African Americans have been designated Baltimore County Landmarks. These unique places serve as physical reminders of the accomplishments of African American communities, which is especially important as many buildings associated with African American history have been lost before they could be discovered. In celebration of Black History Month, let’s highlight some of Baltimore County’s most interesting landmarks that represent its diverse history.
The “Landmark Lodge No. 40 Free and Accepted Masons” is located in the historic African American community of Winters Lane in Catonsville. Established in 1904, the lodge is affiliated with the historically significant “Prince Hall” Masonic organization and serves as a constituent Lodge of the Most Worshipful (M.W.) Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Maryland.
The building was constructed ca. 1896 for Morning Star Baptist Church and acquired by the Lodge in 1931. There are many fraternal organizational buildings in Baltimore County still intact, but few survive in African American communities. As the only active chapter of Prince Hall Freemasons meeting in the County, the Lodge serves as a historic link to African American fraternal organizations in the United States and represents an important cultural aspect of African American life, both past and present.
The small historic African American community of Chattolanee is located along Greenspring Valley Road and immediately north of the railroad grade of what was the Greenspring Branch of the Western Maryland Railroad. Developed around the establishment of the Green Spring Church, the community dwellings, including the Hazel Thomas House, built ca. 1890, are simple examples of the Gothic Revival-style that survive to tell the story of this African American settlement.
The historic community of Lutherville, best known for its collection of beautiful 19th century buildings, is also the home of The Lutherville Colored School House. Constructed ca. 1908, School No. 24, District 8, is one of the few surviving examples of school buildings constructed exclusively for African American children in Baltimore County. Although the State required Counties to provide teachers for African American children after the Civil War, most early schools shared space with other community activities. Built exclusively as a school, this sturdy building was lovingly restored and now serves as a museum dedicated to the history of African American education.
Located in Granite, the log and stone remains of the Worthington Slave Barracks survive as a physical reminder of slavery in Baltimore County. Associated with the Worthington family of Granite, Thomas Worthington and his heirs were once one of the largest land owners and slaveholders in Baltimore County, rivaled only by Charles Ridgely of Hampton. The Barracks are situated in the center of Rezin (Thomas’s son) Worthington’s 19th century landholdings along with a slave and separate family cemetery.
In the Perry Hall area of Baltimore County, the Dowden Chapel and Cemetery is a unique 19th century African American church that also once served as a school. Deeded to five African-American Trustees by Nicholas Gatch in 1853, the intent was to expand the Methodist Episcopal Church’s strong presence in Baltimore County. The current Chapel presents a unique and distinctive representation of ecclesiastical architecture from the mid-19th century that has been largely unaltered since its original construction. The cemetery has many excellent and well-preserved examples of home crafted grave markers that demonstrate the considerable effort, artistic endeavor and skills of the African Americans who created them. Although the Chapel is no longer officially affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Trustees responsible for the care of the Chapel and cemetery still maintain the building and grounds for the use of its congregation. Once a year the Chapel is opened for a homecoming for its many generations of members.
The Ernest Lyon Nursery School building was constructed ca. 1945 on a dedicated lot within the Ernest Lyon Defense Housing Project in Turner Station. The project was developed under the Federal Works Administration to address the housing needs of defense workers who were employed at the Sparrows Point plant of Bethlehem Steel. Intended specifically for African American families, the complex and community buildings were designed by noted African American architect Hilyard R. Robinson, who was a pioneer in incorporating modern architectural styles into public housing projects and believed these well designed buildings would improve the quality of life for African Americans. As war housing was being sold or demolished, the Federal government sold the building to the Turner Station Progressive Association in 1953. The building continued to serve the residents as a branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, a YMCA, and as a post for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The structure is an important surviving example of the childcare works completed under the Lanham Act; the first time government supported pre-school was subsidized for all children, regardless of race or financial need. It is also the only surviving example in Baltimore County.
To learn more about Baltimore County Landmarks and Historic Districts, you can find us on the web at baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/planning/historic_preservation.
Plus, you can visit the Enjoy Baltimore County Tourism website for a schedule of inspiring programs celebrating Black History Month.
Baltimore County Tourism and Promotion
Since 1976 our country has recognized February as Black History Month. You can learn about and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans throughout our nation’s history by attending any of the great events and activities celebrating Black History Month in Baltimore County.
The Hampton National Historic Site has posted a full schedule of inspiring and significant programs to be presented during Black History Month.
A commemorative exhibit, From Banneker to Douglass: the Quests for Freedom and Equality, will be on display through February 28 at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Come see original works of art that commemorate the early efforts of Maryland’s African Americans and their allies in their pursuit of freedom and equality for all.
At UMBC, a film screening of “Slavery by Another Name” will be shown on February 2 and 4, and pianist JoyAnne Amani will celebrate the contributions of African Americans with her concert on February 15. A Stirring Song Sung Heroic, an exhibition of 80 black and white photographs by Williams Earle Williams, will be on display in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery until March 25.
On February 11, acclaimed public intellectual, best-selling author, and radio host, Michael Eric Dyson will lecture at Towson University as part of their Diversity Speaker Series. Dyson was named by Ebony as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans.
Freeman Hrabowski III, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since 1992, will speak at Goucher College as part of the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Visiting Professorship Series on February 26. Hrabowski is a prominent educator, advocate, and mathematician who recently was named by President Obama to chair the new Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Earlier that day CCBC will welcome social justice advocate and attorney Bryan Stevenson as a guest lecturer for the 2015 President’s Distinguished African-American Lecture Series.
On February 28, the Randallstown Community Center is hosting a free event, “In Celebration of Black History Month,” which offers an evening of music and poetry.
Baltimore County Tourism & Promotion
Visit the Hampton National Historic Site during February for a full slate of inspiring and significant programs presented during Black History Month. Some of the programs include: Storytelling in the African Origin Tradition, Kinderman Comes to Hampton, Evolution of Jazz in Baltimore, and A Tour of the Hampton Plantation. The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville also has several programs planned commemorating the month.
Local historian and lecturer Louis Diggs has written several books about African American history in Baltimore County. Check out his many works documenting African American culture and communities in the County.