Baltimore County Now
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.
Adam J. Youssi, Historical Society of Baltimore County
Unknowingly, most of us go about our daily lives oblivious to the fact we are living, working and traveling beside sites in Baltimore County representing the full gamut of African American history. A simple drive around the Baltimore Beltway takes you within a stone’s throw of historic plantation-style slave sites; past neighborhoods where more than 400 enslaved African Americans joined the Union Army in the Civil War; adjacent to safe houses that once provided refuge to runaway slaves heading north along the Underground Railroad; next to buildings used for segregation during the Jim Crow era, and by a Baltimore County public school, still in use, where the strategy to overturn public school segregation nationwide originated. Yet, this short list barely scratches the surface of the quantity of Baltimore County sites directly connecting us to the tumultuous history of African Americans. While some of the sites may be graced with an interpretive historic marker, others may have no markings whatsoever to indicate their significance. Allow us to take a brief tour to a few sites in recognition and celebration of African American history month.
PLANTATION STYLE SLAVERY
Perhaps the best-known site of African American historical significance in the county is operated by the National Park Service in Towson. It is a stately home and property named Hampton. Hampton was home not only to seven generations of the economically and politically influential Ridgely family, from 1745 to 1948, but also to more than 500 slaves over a 100 year period. Visit Hampton National Historic Site to find out about their interpreted historic tours.
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD SAFE HOUSES
Lesser known are Baltimore County’s safe houses that were utilized by runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad prior to emancipation. Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a congregation in existence since c. 1822, hid runaway slaves who were making their way north, across the border, into Pennsylvania. Another is named the Emmart-Pierpoint Safe House, located at 3523 North Rolling Road near Liberty Road, in Rockdale. This more than 200 year old home is a direct reminder of the atrocities of a slave system that shackled millions, while also standing as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit and the empathy and kindness of perfect strangers in perilous times. The house was donated to Emmarts United Methodist Church, at 7100 Dogwood Road in Windsor Mill in the nineteenth century to act as a safe haven for runaways. This safe house originally stood near the church prior to being relocated to its current location. (Reference: Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun, April 2, 2011; Louis S. Diggs.)
East Towson, Turner Station in Dundalk and Winters Lane in Catonsville are among Baltimore County’s historically significant African American communities. East Towson developed as an African American community from the mid-1800s into the early 1900s. Many former slaves of the Ridgely family at Hampton, less than two miles north of East Towson, settled in the area, forming the core of the early community.
Winters Lane, now on the National Register of Historic Places, grew between the 1860s and the 1940s in Catonsville, and represented a cohesive African American community that developed in the wake of the Civil War.
Turner Station, located in the far southeast of Baltimore County, at the edge of Dundalk, grew into Baltimore County’s largest African American community after emancipation as a byproduct of the growing steel industry in that area in the 1880s. With industry booming at the Pennsylvania Steel Company (later Bethlehem Steel) in Sparrows Point, and housing in short supply, African Americans from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina settled nearby in Turner Station, where they brought their religion and culture with them. (Reference: National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination form – East Towsonat the Maryland State Archives; Maryland Historical Trust; Louis S. Diggs, It All Started On Winters Lane.)
STRUCTURES USED FOR SEGREGATION
Next to the historic Baltimore County Almshouse in Cockeysville, constructed as refuge for the county’s poor, indigent and mentally ill, is a lesser known building referred to as the Pest House. The term Pest House is short for pestilence house. The Pest House was intended to be used to house the sick or those with communicable diseases in an era before germ theory was widely understood or adopted. However, documentation suggests the Pest House was more commonly used for the purpose of segregating African American men from the rest of the Almshouse “inmates,” as they were called. Meanwhile, African American women were permitted to reside within the main building, perhaps because the women were far less racialized than the men. With the support of the Historical Society of Baltimore County, who have called the Baltimore County Almshouse their headquarters for more than fifty-years, African American historian Louis S. Diggs is working to secure funding to rehabilitate the Pest House and ultimately make it habitable while preserving its historic integrity. (Reference: Patrick Cutter, “Upland Home,” Historical Society of Baltimore County’s History Trails; Raven Hill, Baltimore Sun, July 31, 2011.)
SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL – CATONSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
At Catonsville High School, in 1936, a young black girl named Margaret Zimmer was denied admission by the school’s principal based on the color of her skin. Her denial was routine due to the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case of 1896 which legalized segregation. Black children could only attend one of three dedicated black schools in Baltimore City because no black schools existed in the county. The venerable Thurgood Marshall used the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to argue that Margaret Zimmer should be admitted. Although Marshall ultimately failed at the time, his argument was the foundation of the legal strategy that ultimately led to his success in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, ending legal segregation in public schools nationwide. (The Maryland State Archives hosts most documents related to Margaret Zimmer and the Catonsville High School case online.)
NOTABLE AFRICAN AMERICANS & BALTIMORE COUNTY
The sheer volume of notable African Americans who called Baltimore County home is, much like the historic sites, too vast to encompass in a brief article. But among them is a former slave named Augustus Walley, from Bond Avenue in Reisterstown, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1879 for bravery on the Western Frontier. Benjamin Banneker, who has been called “The First African-American Man of Science,” was a largely self-taught scientist, astronomer, farmer, surveyor and almanac author who corresponded with Thomas Jefferson. Banneker’s legacy is shared by the volunteers and staff at the Benjamin Banneker Museum (300 Oella Ave, Oella) in western Baltimore County. There, at least one direct descendant of Banneker still works with the museum and its staff. (Reference: Louis S. Diggs; Carol Sorgen, Baltimore Beacon, February 2013.)
Finally, there is no greater steward of Baltimore County’s African American history and heritage than someone I have had the honor and privilege to call a friend and colleague - Louis S. Diggs. I have no doubt that Mr. Diggs’ list of notable African Americans and sites in Baltimore County would be far more comprehensive than this if he did not already have his hands full managing an African American history non-profit organization, implementing grants to renovate and restore historic African American structures around Baltimore County, finishing his book about slaves in the County who joined the Union Army in the Civil War, or most recently sitting atop the grandstand in Washington D.C. representing African Americans who served in the Korean-American War.
In sum, this is but a taste of the wide array of sites and people the county has to offer in the way of African American history and heritage. We could go many more pages more exploring additional sites: the one-room, African-American schoolhouse in Piney Gove, Boring, dating to the mid-1800s, Mt. Gilboa A.M.E. Church in Oella, which may be the oldest active African American church in the County, dating to the late 1700s, the former Croxall estate named Garrison Ridge (now generally referred to as Garrison Forest ), which was home to dozens of slaves - the property now entirely subdivided into a quaint suburban community. Or, we could explore more notable figures, such as Henrietta Lacks, whose cells from a cancerous tumor still live on and have been used around the world to benefit countless medical and scientific studies. The list goes on, but only if you decide to take a closer look and put in a little effort.
For more information on Baltimore County African American history, visit the Historical Society of Baltimore County. You may visit online or in person at the historic almshouse at 9811 Van Buren Lane in Cockeysville. Or, you may follow the society on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.