Baltimore County News
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. This is especially important as many buildings associated with African American history have been lost before they could be discovered.
Landmark Lodge No. 40 Free and Accepted Masons
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.
Lutherville Colored School House
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.
Worthington Slave Barracks
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 Thomas’s son Rezin Worthington’s 19th century landholdings, along with separate slave and family cemeteries.
Dowden Chapel and Cemetery
In the Perry Hall area of Baltimore County, the Dowden Chapel and Cemetery is a unique 19th century African American church that also 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.
Ernest Lyon Nursery School
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 Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point plant. 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. Robinson 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 the only surviving example in Baltimore County.
By Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner, Department of Planning
To learn more about Baltimore County Landmarks and Historic Districts, you can find us on the web at baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/planning/historic_preservation.
To learn more about visiting these sites, go to Baltimore County Tourism and Promotion www.enjoybaltimorecounty.com
Teri Rising, Preservation Planner
Baltimore County Office of Planning
If your travels don’t normally take you across the newly restored Jericho Covered Bridge on Jericho Road in Kingsville, it’s worth a special trip to see this beautiful landmark and to visit the historic Jerusalem Mill Village. The Jericho Road Covered Bridge, jointly owned by Baltimore and Harford Counties, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 13, 1978 and the Baltimore County Landmarks List on October 31, 1978. It was among the first group of landmarks to be designated by the newly created Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission. While Maryland has a significant collection of historic bridges representing multiple eras of construction, the Jericho Road Covered Bridge is the only covered bridge surviving in Baltimore and Harford Counties and one of a handful remaining in the state.
Constructed in 1865, the bridge is significant as the last such span in either Baltimore or Harford Counties and its basic structure is an authentic survivor of the 19th century horse-drawn era. Historic documentation suggests that it may have been built to provide a free crossing by avoiding area toll roads like the Joppa Rolling Road (since renamed Bradshaw Road) and the Jerusalem Pike or Philadelphia Turnpike.
The earliest bridges in the County were often constructed and maintained by local landowners at their own expense or by turnpike companies. As the road system grew, Baltimore County systematically funded the construction of many bridges, often replacing crude wood bridges or bridges damaged by flood or fire. Citizens of both Baltimore and Harford Counties had been asking the Baltimore County Commissioners to fund a bridge crossing over the Little Gunpowder Falls for some time. Following the presentation of petitions filed on behalf of residents from both counties, a bill was passed on March 4, 1864. The winning bridge proposal was for a Burr arch through truss bridge, named for design inventor, Theodore Burr of Pennsylvania, who patented the support design in 1804. The bridge was completed by December of 1865 under the supervision of Thomas F. Forsyth.
The recently unveiled $1.7 million restoration represents a multiyear effort undertaken with the cooperation of Federal, State and local government agencies, engineers and preservationists who had the challenging task of balancing transportation requirements, funding availability and historic preservation goals in the early project planning stages. The bridge had previously undergone two substantial rehabilitations in the mid 1930’s and 1982, but some of the later work was not sensitive to some historic elements.
The County Department of Public Works carefully planned and performed this most recent restoration so that the historic features and character of the bridge were revealed, retained and preserved. The result of this combined effort is a careful and historically sensitive restoration that returned the bridge to its 1930’s era appearance.
John McGrain, “Jericho Covered Bridge: BA-361”, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, (July, 1977)
John McGrain, The Molinography of Maryland: a tabulation of mills, furnaces, and primitive industries [Maryland State Archives, 2007]
William Hollifield, Difficulties Made Easy: History of the Turnpikes of Baltimore City and County. [Cockeysville, MD: Baltimore County Historical Society, 1978]
Louis Berger & Associates and P.A.C. Spero & Company, “Historic Highway Bridges In Maryland: 1631-1960, Historic Context Report”, (Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration, October, 1995)
“Covered Bridge, Jericho Road spanning Little Gunpowder Falls, Jerusalem, Baltimore County, MD.”, Survey (photographs, measured drawings, written historical and descriptive data), Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1977. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS MD, 13-JERU.V, 1- http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/md0655/ accessed April 5, 2016).
Jack L. Shagena, Jr., Jerusalem, A Preserved Mill Village, [Baltimore, MD: Jack L. Shagena Jr., 2007]
Sia, Richard H. P. "’Bridge to Past' Near Kingsville Reopens." The Sun (1837-1990), Jul 02, 1983. 1, http://search.proquest.com/docview/537769633?accountid=34685.
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.