Baltimore County News
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Baltimore County Department of Planning
If you have ever visited the Baltimore County Council Chambers in the Historic Courthouse, you may have been intrigued by the handsome sculptures of historic figures that line the mahogany walls.
The sculpture subjects span the millennia - representing a sampling of people who have influenced human law throughout history. Some highlights include the Babylonian ruler, Hammurabi, who created one of the first known codes of law; Chinese philosopher Confucius; Moses who presented the Ten Commandments; King John, signer of the Magna Carta; 18th century English lawmaker, William Blackstone and many more. You can read brief write-ups about these influential leaders on the County Planning Office website at http://resources.baltimorecountymd.gov/Documents/Planning/historic/thelawgivers.pdf (Just scroll down to the “Lawgivers” section.)
A “Temple of Justice for all Admirers to See”
Here’s some interesting background on how these esteemed gentlemen came to reside in the County’s Historic Courthouse…
On October 19, 1854, Coleman Yellott told the crowd gathered to witness the laying of the cornerstone for the new courthouse at Towsontown that he hoped it would always stand as a temple of justice for all admirers to see. When the courthouse was expanded in 1958, the judges of the Baltimore County Circuit Court may have had this idea in mind when they commissioned a series of sculptures called “The Lawgivers” to occupy the mahogany walls of their new main courtroom.
Shortly after Towsontown was officially chosen to serve as the County Seat, work began on the necessary courthouse. Designed by Dixon and Baldwin, Baltimore County held its first session of court on January 5, 1857. Along with the courtrooms, the three County Commissioners occupied an office space measuring 17 feet by 25 feet. As the County grew, the need for government staff and services increased. To meet the demand, additions were made to the courthouse in 1910, 1925 and 1958.
The 1958 addition included 3 large courtrooms which were considered to be the most modern and spacious in Maryland. The main courtroom was designed to have a capacity of 120 seats, a far different setting than the original Courtroom Number 5, which had long served the needs of the County’s judicial system. Designed by the architectural firm Gaudreau and Gaudreau, the main courtroom featured a series of twelve carved figures called “The Lawgivers.” The figures were those who influenced our present day concepts about law and justice and included well known men like Confucius and Caesar. Carved over a four month period by Baltimore County resident Matthew Peloso, each wood figure is 32 inches high, 2 inches thick and 10 inches wide. Peloso, who studied for 6 years at the Maryland Institute College of Art, previously worked as a model maker for Black and Decker. He also designed life-sized figures for the Smithsonian Institution and eventually joined the Engraving Department of the United States Mint where he designed many medals and coins.
When Charter Government was adopted in 1957, it meant that legislative space for the newly elected 7 member Baltimore County Council needed to be found. Originally housed in the County Office Building on Chesapeake Avenue, space eventually became available for the Council in the old Courthouse when the Court Building on Bosley Avenue was constructed. In 1975, as part of an extensive renovation of the 2nd floor of the old Courthouse, the main courtroom was reconfigured to serve the needs of the Baltimore County Council. While some changes were made to the space, “The Lawgivers” continue to silently watch over the affairs of the Baltimore County government at work as they have for more than fifty years.
Click here to learn more about the men chosen for the carvings.
Land Preservation Commitment is State and National Model
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced today that the County’s land preservation program has been recognized for its achievements and recertified for three years, allowing the County to retain the lion’s share of local agricultural land transfer fees to invest in land preservation.
The State Rural Legacy Program has also awarded funding to two Baltimore County land trusts and Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation made easement offers to seven Baltimore County farms.
"Preserving rural land in Baltimore County continues to provide many benefits to the citizens of the County. From maintaining a source of local food, to preserving forests that enhance the water quality of our drinking water reservoirs, to reducing the cost of sprawl, Baltimore County remains a national leader in land preservation,” said Kamenetz.
Under Kamenetz, County Has Invested $9.7 Million, Preserved Nearly 5,000 Acres
The State recognized the success of the County’s land preservation strategy that combines restrictive zoning with a growth boundary and acquisition of easements. Since entering office, County Executive Kamenetz has maintained his commitment to land preservation with a total of 4,867 acres preserved in the past five years moving the County closer to its goal of 80,000 acres. For the past five years the County has preserved almost six acres for each acre converted to development.
In approving the County’s request for recertification, the Maryland Department of Planning recognized that even though it is the third most populous jurisdiction in Maryland, Baltimore County has set aside more than 135,000 acres – one third of the County – for agriculture, forestry and open space. Baltimore County has placed 62,828 acres under easement and is ranked first among counties for Maryland Environmental Trust donated easements, third for Rural Legacy and fourth for agricultural easements.
Only 2 Percent of Permit Requests in Protected Agricultural Areas Approved
Over the reporting period, Fiscal Year 2012 to 2014, the County approved only 2 percent of all new permits within the 135,000 acres designated as Agricultural Preservation Area. It retained its protective agricultural zoning and committed $9.7 million of county funds for land preservation during this period.
Carol West, Executive Director of Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation praised the County’s work saying, “The MALPF Board of Trustees and the Maryland Department of Planning were pleased to recertify Baltimore County for another three years. Recertification allows the County to retain more of their agricultural transfer taxes to be used for preservation in any of the many active programs within the County. They continue to demonstrate their commitment to the preservation of farmland and support of farmers in the County. They have committed more funds for the current acquisition than any other county.”
“I am very pleased that the County is partnering with the State to preserve farmland and open space — one of the best ways to protect our water quality,” said County Council Chair Cathy Bevins.
$3.8 Million in State Funding For Preservation of 1,000 Acres
Subject to Board of Public Works approval, the State Rural Legacy Program has awarded $1.1 million to two Baltimore County Land Trusts. These awards were out of a total of $10 million statewide, for which there were 26 applications. These land trusts will seek to preserve land as soon as the funding receives final approval. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation Board of Trustees approved an allocation of $2.63 million in state funds, and, with $1.3 million in County matching funds, they made offers to seven farms, subject to Board of Public Works and County Council approvals. Preservation from these two programs is expected to protect 1,000 acres of rural land in the County.
"We greatly appreciate the continued support by the State, County Executive and County Council for farmers seeking to permanently preserve their farmland," said Gail Ensor, Chairperson of the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board. "Farming, and the many agriculture related industries, are an important part of the County's economy as well as a key component of the rural landscape.”
Land Preservation Has Moved to Promote Better Coordination
The County’s Land Preservation function has recently been relocated to the Department of Planning. This has created the opportunity to better integrate land preservation with land use planning. It has also provided the opportunity to make its programs more consistent with the County’s Historic Preservation program, which is also housed in Planning. “We are pleased to have the land preservation program in Planning where we can integrate many of its functions into rural planning. We are especially pleased to work with the dedicated Agricultural Land Preservation Advisory Board,” said Planning Director Andrea Van Arsdale.
Find Out How to Preserve Your Rural Land
Information is available on applying to donate or sell an easement.
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Department of Planning
May is Preservation Month! Since 1973, this annual event organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides an opportunity for communities and organizations to showcase how they celebrate and save historic places all year long. Exploring Baltimore County’s historic spaces is a great way to highlight the efforts of those who have worked hard to preserve the places that matter for Baltimore County.
In 1981, the community of Glyndon became the first Baltimore County Historic District designated through the joint effort of residents, interested citizens and the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission. Now there are eleven residential districts, each one set aside for the purpose of preserving, promoting and protecting the unique aspects of their neighborhood so they can tell a story about why they were created. With their carefully preserved architectural styles and distinctive features, Baltimore County’s Historic Districts offer residents a variety of beautiful and interesting places to live. From Emory Grove in Glyndon to the Town Hall in Relay, the preservation of the homes and buildings that characterize these districts, provide a sense of place and source of civic pride to those who work tirelessly to preserve their community.
Whether you are doing homework or paperwork, historic buildings offer unique spaces that provide creative inspiration to those who work there. All over Baltimore County historic buildings have been adaptively reused and rehabilitated to serve the needs of a new generation. Examples include the former Fullerton Police & Fire Station, adaptively reused for the 6th District office of the Baltimore County Council, and the original Baltimore County Jail in Towson, whose former cells now provide office space to businesses instead of law breakers. Baltimore County’s collection of historic schools, like the former Franklin Academy building in Reisterstown, now the Reisterstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, and the Carver School in East Towson, now the East Towson Carver Community Center, have been adaptively reused for the purpose of offering community services. Finding creative ways to use our historic buildings has helped enhance the artistic, cultural, and historical characteristics of our Baltimore County neighborhoods.
Baltimore County’s many historic parks provide interesting places for recreation and learning opportunities. They also serve as important places for communities to come together. Through the joint efforts of neighbors, community activists, and the Baltimore County Government, these parks have been thoughtfully set aside so citizens have a place to explore and discover Baltimore County history.
Visitors to the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum will learn about the life of Benjamin Banneker. Considered to be the first African American man of science, exhibits and artifacts provide additional information on his important historic contributions. At Cromwell Valley Park, visitors can follow trails that lead them to preserved farm buildings and remnants from our agricultural and industrial past. Maintaining these historic parks provide places that matter for generations to enjoy.
Revised April 6, 2016