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Keyword: historic sites

By Teri Rising, Historic Preservation Planner, Baltimore County Department of Planning

The modern public school system in Baltimore County evolved over the course of several centuries into the system we enjoy today. While many schools were established through private efforts, after the American Revolution a national belief in the importance of accessible education led to a legislatively mandated educational program.  

Changes in transportation, industrialization, community planning and the education profession collectively impacted how school buildings were designed and where they were located. The simple one and two room schoolhouses of the 19th century would eventually be closed and consolidated into large classically designed buildings that were often replaced by the large sprawling school complexes of the suburban landscape.

Featured here are some of the surviving examples of historic school buildings that are located within County Historic Districts or are Baltimore County Landmarks.

Overlea Home School 108 Delrey Avenue, Catonsville - Built ca. 1853, it was adapted by Rev. Ebeling to serve as a boarding school for young men.

Among the numerous private academies, one of the most architecturally distinctive examples is the former Overlea Home School in Catonsville. During the Civil War, the Rev. George W. Ebeling, pastor of the Old Salem Lutheran Church in Catonsville, conducted a boy's school in his fortress-like home under the name Overlea Home School.  It was open from 1861 to 1895. After its use as a school ended, it became a private residence.

In addition to private academies, there are several that represent the County’s 19th century public school system and next generation of consolidated schools. Located within the County Historic District of Glyndon, the former brick Glyndon School building with its prominent belfry was constructed ca. 1887 by local builder Mr. John T. Marshall, Jr. for the Baltimore County School Board. It closed in 1930 as part of efforts to consolidate small one and two room schools. 

Glyndon School 4627 Butler Road, Glyndon – Constructed ca. 1887, the former school building was remodeled in 1932 by architect G. Walter Tovel to serve as the new home for the Women’s Club of Glyndon.



Efforts to institute educational opportunities for African American children in Baltimore County began after the Civil War. Many schools were aided by religious groups.  In northwest Baltimore County, the Piney Grove School survives as an example of this effort. Located on the same property as the Piney Grove United Methodist Church, the former school building was built ca. 1870 and incorporated into the County’s school system to be used exclusively for the education of African American children.

Piney Grove School 4929 Piney Grove Road – Constructed ca. 1870, the building was incorporated into the County’s school system for the education of African American children. With the assistance of the Maryland State African American Heritage Preservation Program, an anticipated rehabilitation of the school will restore its 19th century architectural details.

Within the County Historic District of Relay, two former schools survive, each representing a different era of educational history. The first Relay School was built ca. 1863 in a style typical of the schools of that era. Now used as a private residence, it was sold by Baltimore County in 1923 as part of the County’s consolidation efforts.  

Relay School (1863) 1548 South Rolling Road – Constructed ca. 1863 to serve the community before it was replaced as part of consolidation efforts.

Unlike some communities who had to travel much further to their new school, Relay’s replacement remained within their neighborhood. Constructed ca. 1921, the larger brick school continued to educate Baltimore County’s children until 1977.  

Relay School (1921) 1620 South Rolling Road – Constructed ca. 1921 as a replacement for the 19th century school, it educated Baltimore County’s children until 1977.  It currently serves as the home of the Relay Children’s Center.

While these buildings no longer serve their original educational purpose, each one tells a story about its community and reflects a particular era of Baltimore County educational history.

May is Preservation Month. Visit the Historical Society of Baltimore County museum and library to learn more about Baltimore County's heritage and a special program on the history of Baltimore County Public Schools.  The Historical Society of Baltimore County has partnered with The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools for a program on May 7, 2017.  Mr. E. Farrell Maddox, author of the book Building the Future, will be joining several speakers, including County School Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance. 

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

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Revised September 11, 2017