Baltimore County Now
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Department of Planning
Fall is a great time to get out and explore Baltimore County’s history. Why not take some time to visit some of the well known and lesser known places that are a just a small part of the diverse network of sites administered and supported by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, which was established in 1916. These sites, trails and programs represent various historic themes from the Chesapeake Bay to General George Washington. Together, they share national significance and provide opportunities for visitors to learn about Baltimore County’s role in our nation’s history.
Baltimore County is home to one of the most interesting National Park sites in the region. Hampton National Historic Site on Hampton Lane just north of Towson is also a partner site on the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail. The park comprises a well preserved collection of structures, including the grand Georgian mansion facing Hampton Lane, that tells the story of the Ridgely family and the people, both free and enslaved, that helped contribute to Baltimore County’s domestic, agricultural and industrial history. Tours are available of the buildings and gardens.
A number of National Historic Trails are located in Baltimore County for visitors to explore. The Underground Railroad refers to the effort of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. The Network to Freedom National Historic Trail was established as part of the National Park Service to expand and support local efforts to coordinate education and preservation of sites that demonstrate the significance of the Underground Railroad not only in the eradication of slavery, but as a cornerstone of our national civil rights movement. The privately owned “Gorsuch Tavern” on York Road in Sparks joins Hampton National Historic Site as part of The Network to Freedom National Historic Trail. The tavern is connected to the trail by the theme of slaves, escape from slavery, and the effort of the owner to recapture his slaves by force, resulting in a celebrated trial that inflamed the tensions already existing between north and south after the compromise of 1850.
Known as “The Route to Victory”, the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail runs from Rhode Island to Virginia. It traces the route of American and French troops, led by General Washington and General Rochambeau who united against the British Army during the Yorktown Campaign. The route follows the historic Philadelphia Road in Baltimore County, which was one of the original post roads in the area and an important route for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network is a collection of National Historic Trails and partner sites that help visitors learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and how they influenced where and how people lived in its watershed. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the first National Historic Water Trail, lets visitors experience and learn about the Chesapeake Bay through the routes and places associated with Smith’s explorations. In Baltimore County, the trail includes the Gunpowder Falls State Park.
Also part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is a 560-mile land and water route that tells the story of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay region. It connects historic sites in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and commemorates the events leading up to the Battle for Baltimore, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. The trail includes several sites in Baltimore County including Todd’s Inheritance, Fort Howard Park, and Battle Acre Park. The Chesapeake Explorer App is a great tool which can help assist visitors with their exploration of these important places.
The Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail is also part of the Baltimore National Heritage Area, a collection of places in the Baltimore region that form a cohesive, nationally important landscape. Led by the Baltimore Heritage Area Association, this national heritage area is dedicated to educating visitors about the people and places that helped make Baltimore such an important American city.
Another important component of the Baltimore National Heritage Area is the Charles Street National Scenic Byway, which is one of only four National Scenic Byways located in an urban area. The byway follows Charles Street north from Baltimore City into Baltimore County where it features wooded natural beauty and several important historic sites like the Sheppard Pratt Gatehouse, one of only two National Historic Landmarks in Baltimore County. Following the byway to its northern end will lead visitors to the Lutherville National Historic District, a village founded in 1852 by Lutheran ministers that is known for its excellent collection of Victorian homes.
Fronda Cohen, Baltimore County Office of Communications
When we moved to Sudbrook Park in 1988, we had never heard the word “curvilinear.” After many walks through this historic community in Pikesville, we soon learned about the pleasures of curving, winding roads and the history of a neighborhood that in 1889 became an experiment in suburban community design.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., the father of landscape architecture in America, is perhaps best known as co-designer of New York City’s Central Park. His “experiment” in Baltimore County was based on the idea that a suburban village would be an attractive alternative to the densely populated city.
Olmsted designed Sudbrook with a distinct entranceway, a narrow bridge that led to open green spaces for community gatherings, spacious lots for Victorian cottages, and smaller lots for more affordable homes. The setting was green, with mature trees lining winding roads that encouraged walking, enjoying nature, and meeting neighbors along the way.
Olmsted’s gateway bridge at the entrance to Sudbrook Park still spans the rail line, although 125 years later it is the Metro that shares the tracks with the railroad that once took residents downtown to work. On any given day, you’ll find walkers, runners, and bicyclists exploring the curvilinear roads. Victorian homes still grace streets lined with centuries-old oaks. Neat brick colonials built during World War II anchor the smaller lots. Neighbors, kids and dogs in tow, enjoy the annual July 4 and Halloween parades that end with celebrations at the Sudbrook community park.
Sudbrook Park remains a community where design, nature and good neighbors still enjoy what Frederick Law Olmsted called a “respite for the spirit.”
Happy 125th birthday, Sudbrook.
Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner
Department of Planning
Did you know that several of the restaurants participating in Baltimore County’s Summer Restaurant Week are also serving up a helping of Baltimore area history? From Reisterstown’s historic Main Street to the country splendor of My Lady’s Manor, these historic restaurants provide a unique dining experience to go along with their special summer menus:
Located within the National Register Historic District of Reisterstown, The Grill at the Harryman House has been a longtime favorite. Situated among the many historic structures that line Main Street, The Grill at the Harryman House is one of the oldest structures in Reisterstown. Built by Samuel Harryman ca. 1800 on land originally owned by John Reister, the Harryman family lived and worked on the property while operating a saddlery, harness shop, and grocery. The building’s many historic details provide a cozy and inviting setting to all that visit.
The scenic countryside of My Lady’s Manor provides a beautiful setting for visitors traveling to the historic Manor Tavern. Now a designated National Register Historic District, My Lady’s Manor was established in 1713 by the third Lord Baltimore as a gift for his bride. The district is home to many historic sites and farms that represent multiple centuries of Baltimore County history. The Manor Tavern, which is located at the prominent crossroads of Monkton Road and Old York Road, had humble beginnings as a stable and has survived to become a well known dining and special event destination.
The Milton Inn - 14833 York Rd, Sparks, MD
Inside this restored stone building, you will find one of Baltimore County’s most unique landmarks. Originally known as the Milton Academy, boys, and later girls, traveled from all over the United States to attend this prestigious school. First appearing on the Baltimore County Tax List in 1823, the building started as a tavern and became a well known boy’s boarding school operated by John Emerson Lamb. One of its most well known former students is John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. After serving as a school for many years, the building housed several businesses until it finally became a restaurant in 1946.
The Oregon Grille- 1201 Shawan Rd, Cockeysville, MD
Once home to the Oregon Furnace Store, this well known Baltimore County restaurant and landmark sits at the edge of the former Oregon Iron Furnace and company town that is now Oregon Ridge Park. After the furnace operation ended at the close of the 19th century, Thomas Kurtz, the last Oregon Ore foreman, purchased the building and continued to operate a store and post office out of the location. A careful restoration in the 1980s preserved the historic stone and frame building while retaining the wonderful historic architectural details which provide a lovely setting for a special meal.