There's much more to Charm City than what you've seen on The Wire. Even as racial tensions make headlines in this famously blue-collar town on the Chesapeake, slick waterfront projects and farm-to-table dining have arrived along with a new, younger generation of residents set on building the place they want to live in. One native Marylander travels to the city he first knew as a kid to meet the doers and dreamers driving Baltimore's next act.
Neighborhood Profiles Courtesy of the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation.
Learn more about the advantages to living on the North Point Peninsula at www.DundalkUSA.org
Beachwood / Lynnhurst
Beachwood and Lynnhurst were peripheral to much of local history, producing tobacco and other crops for generations, while watermen patrolled the Back and Middle Rivers for seafood bound for Baltimore.
But in 1916 things began to change with the creation of Bethlehem Steel and the development of North Point Blvd. in the decades that followed. The strip of land between the new thoroughfare and the river developed as a shore community, while that same shoreline and the rail lines serving Bethlehem Steel were attractive to companies like Vulcan Hart, Baltimore Yeast, trucking firms and others, which soon set up shop.
The non-residential portion was designated for less-than-desirable projects, such as Norris Landfill, long ago closed. Baltimore County built its waste treatment plant on the northern outskirts of the area near Eastpoint, but a wildlife preserve buffers the site, where animals and plants abound.
Beachwood was conceived in the 1980s, but had dubious origins that had several false starts.. But the development broke ground in the 1990s and hundreds of quality homes were constructed.
Since that time, Beachwood Estates has been one of the most desirable housing options anywhere on the Patapsco Neck.
Bear Creek has always been a major factor in the development of the North Point, transporting people, animals and supplies throughout the peninsula since before its settlement in the late 17th century. It was named for its bear population, which became non-existent shortly after the arrival of settlers and farmers of the following century. Other wildlife like fox, pheasant, quail, raccoon and mallards are not as abundant as they once were, but still inhabit land that was once part of the Todd’s Farm.
By the late 19th century, merchants used the area to pick up the vegetables that were grown on the surrounding farmlands. Boats would sail up Bear Creek and into the coves to receive the produce and deliver it to Baltimore. In fact, remnants of the piers still can be seen in the coves.
Homeowners have always prized the remarkable shoreline of its many coves and inlets.
The Patapsco-Back River Neck Railroad connected locals to other points of commerce, as well. In 1952, the PBRR established the east belt line that supplied Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point. The Wise Avenue Bridge spans Bear Creek to connect those areas with the
heart of Dundalk.
Sparrows Point Country Club, located on 280 acres off Schoolhouse Cove, was once a clay quarry once owned by Baltimore Brick Company, and has been a signature feature of the community since 1955.
Berkshire has been a close-knit community since its first houses were built in 1947. Members of this working class neighborhood found the area suitable in price and location for mostly blue-collar jobs at the steel mill or GM plant – and they stay for the long haul, as evidenced by the generational stability of home ownership.
Before Berkshire’s development by the Requard Real Estate Company it was simply a portion of the path to and from Baltimore City, but through it coursed Bread and Cheese Creek. Legend maintains the stream was a resting spot for soldiers, and where they ate their rations of hardtack
and cheese. Approximately 3200 men under Genl. John Stricker made camp on Bread and Cheese Creek before their defeat of British forces in 1814.
After its brief crossing of history’s path, Berkshire returned to its quiet nature for well over a century until a nationally publicized incident involving Joseph Palczynski, who in March 2000 terrorized residents by killing four people and taking a family of three as hostages in one of the longest one-man standoffs ever known. The incident was a blight on the reputation of Berkshire, but residents - in typical fashion - banded together to restore the neighborhood’s image and make the area one of
the most stable and attractive in the region.
Generations have spent their lives happily in the brick homes and single bungalows among the small winding streets that are distinctive for the neighborhood feel of corner stores like the long-standing North Point Grocery. Berkshire Elementary School has been a mainstay in the community since its construction in the mid-1960s, and Eastview Station of the Baltimore County Fire Department has provided a sense of security for decades.
Carnegie Plat retains much of the historical footprint of Dundalk. Colgate Creek, just on the other side of the adjacent Dundalk Marine Terminal, was the site of one of the first homes in Dundalk.
Henry McShane’s bell foundry in Baltimore, built in 1856, had become world famous. The foundry’s church bells rang out across nearly every state and across the world. When part of the foundry burned in 1893, McShane decided to relocate in a wilderness area off the Patapsco River. He built his foundry, along with a grand summer vacation home, near Carnegie Plat, on what is now the site of American Legion Post 38.
The railroad line followed the foundry to the area in 1895, and officials told the McShanes that they must choose a name for the railroad stop. William James McShane, Henry’s son and the vice-president of the foundry, wrote Dundalk, the name of his father’s hometown in Ireland, on a board and nailed it to a tree near the railroad. The town, with only a few farming families to claim as residents, was born.
What is now the Dundalk Marine Terminal has been known by numerous names. In 1929 Baltimore Municipal Airport was built on the manmade peninsula next to Carnegie Plat, and Pan American Airlines made the location a seaplane facility, used until 1941, when the U.S. Army took over operations and re-named it Baltimore Army Airfield for the duration of WWII. Winston Churchill flew out of the field following secret meetings with Franklin Roosevelt, while other famous aviators used the site regularly.
Following the war, the airfield was named Baltimore Municipal Airport, followed by a re-naming as Harbor Field from 1950-60, when air traffic slowed drastically because the site could not accommodate larger planes.
In 1960 the field closed for good and was re-tooled into a marine terminal, establishing not just Dundalk, but the entire region, as a deep-water port to be contended with on a national scale.
While the area lost its significance for air travel, it has greatly exceeded that value with port operations that will provide for the region long into the future.
Charlesmont provided some of the best farmland on the Patapsco Neck, and has been part of the areas historical journey in a literal sense.
As the area surrounding Long Log Lane, Native Americans, then settlers, passed through the area as they transported their crops, animals and supplies from more remote areas of the peninsula toward what would become Baltimore.
Most notable is Battle Acre and Monument – dedicated in 1839 - and conserved to this day along the old route. Although the Acre was not necessarily the scene of full-scale confrontation during the Battle of North Point, it was part of the route as British troops invaded in 1814, and to this day treasure hunters can find an errant coin or button from that era.
That military history remains today, with several Maryland Army National Guar
depots and the nearby Jerome Grollman Armory.
Historically, area public schools have been a source of pride, and there was special satisfaction with the dedication of Battle Monument School. Charlesmont Elementary School recently celebrated 50 years of educating area children. Sturdy and well-kept brick row homes originally built in the 1940s and 50s as more affordable housing, populate much of the landscape.
Colgate, admittedly, is not the prettiest of neighborhoods, but what it lacks in immediate appearance it makes up for in a great variety of benefits. Quietly positioned among numerous light industrial sites and major retail locations, Colgate has always been a good place for families just starting out.
Homes were built uniformly in the 1940s and 50s to answer the demand for workers in the surrounding industries such as Eastern Stainless Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Western Electric and other firms.
Nearby Eastpoint Mall was one of the first indoor malls built in America, inspired by the Rouse Company that went on to build shopping malls from coast to coast. And because of the prime location of Colgate to industry, retail and other major communities such as Dundalk and Essex, it drew needed public transportation and major transportation routes for commuters and shoppers.
Most recently, Colgate has enjoyed the prestige of being home to Colgate Elementary School, honored for its vast improvements in student test scores, bolstered by the hard work of its caring professionals and volunteers throughout the community. The Colgate Improvement Association provides support for not only the school, but numerous civic and recreational activities in the area.
You can’t mention Dun-Logan to a Dundalk native - at least the older ones - who won’t associate the community with vibrant pieces of history that made the area a powerful component in this region’s complex of the military and heavy industry.
Once just a rural peninsula near the Patapsco River, decades of development linked innovations on land, sea and air and made this area invaluable to the mid-Atlantic region. As Bethlehem Steel grew in Sparrows Point, the U.S. Army opened Camp Holabird a few miles north at the city line, where it employed both civilian and military workers. Logan Airfield and the new Dundalk Marine Terminal each added to the area’s romance as well as the
burgeoning job pool of the years just before and during WWII.
For over 20 years, Logan Field was Baltimore’s Aviation Center, attracting luminaries such as Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart and Wrong-Way Corrigan to its landing strip. By 1941 some air activities were moved to nearby Harbor Field, but the U.S. Army still leased the property, building hundreds of wooden barracks and conducting sometimes
secret military operations.
By the late 1940s plans were developed for Logan Field to transform into what Bethlehem Steel originally had intended – a residential community. With permanent housing came public transportation in the form of the famous Red Rocket streetcar line connecting residents to the post-war automotive plants built near the city line.
While the romance of Lindy, vintage street cars and military operations has faded over time, the skyline of the Dundalk Marine Terminal still speaks of the accomplishments of the area, Dun-Logan has kept tradition alive while growing with the times and providing great home (and family) values to residents.
Dundalk Farms, located on 60 acres of farm land known as Kimball Mountain, was planned in 1932 by the newly organized Maryland Properties, which promoted the subdivided plots in terms that resonated with depression-era terms and logic
“The soil is sandy loam and good for truck gardening. An acre of ground will raise food for a family. There is independence and thrift in its cultivation. All history proves that good land “bought right” in times of depression is the best investment for security and gain.
“Only large and powerful corporations like the Bethlehem Steel Company could and did pay comparatively low prices for Dundalk acreage and when we tell you that you can buy an acre or two for about one-half the price per acre paid by these corporations”
The strategy worked and Dundalk Farms developed quickly into a desirable community where even today potential homeowners look to settle. Much of what was true in 1932 remains accurate today. The neighborhood: lies midway between Sparrows Point and Baltimore, convenient to all industries in the southeastern industrial section. Dundalk Farms has the advantage of the many millions of dollars spent in nearby construction, including churches, homes, and modern schools.
The Dundalk Farms Improvement Association, started in 1954, was instrumental in making the neighborhood of about 140 homes even more attractive through its involvement in local projects.
Dundalk Community College, on property adjacent to Dundalk Farms, broke ground in the fall of 1971. During that first semester, 70 full-time and 332 part-time students – some recruited in a summertime door-to-door campaign - attended classes at Dundalk United Methodist Church, local high schools, middle schools and the YMCA. Now part of the Community College of Baltimore County with locations Essex and Catonsville, CCBC is a hub of educational, sports and social activities that adds to the value of the area.
The newly constructed Dundalk High School on Delvale Avenue replaces the school’s aging structure, and is a magnet school attracting quality students from throughout Baltimore County.
The 1932 campaign still rings true: “Dundalk Farms says - I am safe and sound and I will grow in value. I am Opportunity.”
There’s not much history on the North Point Peninsula prior to the 19th century – let’s face it, following the Battle of North Point in 1814, the farms of Patapsco Neck were pastoral, as you would expect. Locally historic names like Merritt, Todd, Gorsuch and Lynch owned most of the acreage, and while East Field got its names from its location compared to other tracts, the Stanbrook name came straight from the family working that particular piece of land.
There were mostly dirt paths but residents named them for function. Church Road was so named for obvious reasons, while Eddylynch Road was named for farmer Edwin Lynch because the path led to his house.
By 1874, members of those famous families and other farmers banded together to form Patapsco Grange No. 125, part of a national network of independent land owners who could bargain for more advantage with grain merchants and railroads. It was a natural for the rapidly growing area and by the mid-1880s the Grange (meaning farm, from the Latin “granum”) bought an acre of land from William Lynch and built a meeting house at Wise Avenue and Church Road, where there also was a general store and post office.
During the early years of the 20th century, the group acted as a watchdog of the area, keeping taverns and other disreputable businesses out of the area, and establishing a strong civic and recreational culture that still highlights the area.
Families began settling in large numbers, but there were large tracts set aside for recreation. Adjacent to the neighborhood is Stansbury Pond. Once known as Emala Lake, it’s off Bear Creek and accessed daily by residents who fish, run or play there. The surrounding Stansbury Park has numerous ball fields and other recreational opportunities, including acreage where urban farmers maintain the tradition of planting and harvesting crops.
Eastwood’s history started when it evolved from countryside to a residential area with its development during the 1940s and 50s. Like most of eastern Baltimore County, Eastwood was the answer needed to housing for the ever-growing population of industrial workers at Bethlehem, Eastern Stainless and Durrett-Sheppard steel companies, Western Electric, Martin Marietta, GM and other plants.
That industrial development provided homeowners with a less expensive path to home ownership of sturdy brick homes, a condition reflected by the sturdiness of the community comprised of those homes.
Today, Eastwood residents still take pride in their homes, their relationships and the effort put into their neighborhood. The Eastwood Center remains the social and civic center of the community.
Anyone familiar with Edgemere and its neighboring communities can tell you with Battle of North Point, how turned the tide of the War of 1812, inspired the American spirit and became the precursor of the Star Spangled Banner.
But from its very beginning, Edgemere has provided a strong sense of community through a shared history and lifestyle that defines the area even today. Most of the land now considered Edgemere was farmland well into the 1930s, even though the area’s first official residents –
the Todd family - arrived in the late 1650s to cultivate tobacco, corn and cotton.
That rural setting was the backdrop in September, 1814, when General John Ross landed British troops – fresh from the burning of the nation’s capital – on the peninsula in a march to shut down the port of Baltimore. American volunteers engaged the invaders as they advanced
throughout the farmland, killing Ross and demoralizing the British, who eventually withdrew.
The community remained obscure to the rest of the world until the late 19th century, when Bethlehem Steel of Pennsylvania expanded its ironworks in nearby Sparrows Point to manufacture steel, and a new legacy took hold.
Edgemere owed much of its development to the steel mill; not all steelworkers wanted to move their families to Sparrows Point, a company town where workers had no say in the policies that governed their lives. Workers migrated to the opportunity offered by the steel mill but chose to live on their own terms.
Meanwhile, some city folk had started building summer cottages on small waterfront lots and the appeal of the many waterways and wooded areas a growing number of homesteaders. A trolley once ran from what is now North Point State Park north through Edgemere and points beyond.
Today, Edgemere remains appealing with a small-town feeling, modern amenities and a fervent sense of community that rings with the historical pride.
The early history of North Point Peninsula always begins with farm land, and in the case of the area now known as Edgepoint and Oakleigh Beach, the farm land was owned by John Zyglarski, a Polish immigrant who eventually Americanized his name to Glass. The area was both an embarkation point for food and timber going to Baltimore, and a drop-off point.
In the era before sewage treatment plants, scowls from the city would transport sewage to the area and pump it into pits on shore, where farmers would make use the fertilizer. Some theorize that because of the established history, when it came time to build a plant a few miles away in Eastpoint, officials already were inclined to locate the facility in the area.
Everything changed in 1916 with the advent of Bethlehem Steel. For a while, about 1,000 acres near the Bear Creek shore was a pig farm that kept the company stocked with food, but the enterprise soon gave way to the need for housing, built quickly to help accommodate growing numbers of workers. Those houses evolved into the neat and modern dwellings now throughout the area.
A community with inauspicious origins has become one of the choicest areas for homeowners who enjoy a quality community.
Fort Howard remains the least populated portion of the North Point
Peninsula, but its residents share a large part in the legacy of the American Spirit.
On September 12, 1814, British Army and Marines, commanded by Major General Robert Ross, landed at the tip of the peninsula in their campaign to march on Baltimore.
The units recently were victorious in the Battle of Bladensburg, which culminated in the burning of the nation’s capital, and the same strategy was about to be applied to the important city port serving as an important haven for American privateers.
As the British advanced along North Point Road they spent the night at Todd’s Inheritance – which stands to this day – before heading further north.
Two young snipers, Daniel Wells and Henry McComas, mortally wounded General Ross, and along with him the morale of the invading army. About 3100 American militiamen led by General John Stricker were able to block the invasion and force the British to retreat.
Later, as part of the battle plan, the British bombarded Fort McHenry for 25 hours but failed to capture the outpost and inspired Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner.
Fort Howard remained bucolic for a century before it was again touched by the possibility of war. As part of a coastal defense plan, Fort Howard was commissioned at the end of North Point Peninsula as a deterrent against anticipated attacks by the German navy. The Bulldog at the Gate – artillery emplacements and an armory housed in underground magazines – guarded the waters where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Patapsco River for years, although
it never fired a shot.
Eventually, the defensive emplacements gave way to recreation and today, antique batteries still overlook the shore. The Edgemere-Sparrows Point Rec Council has put the abandoned underground magazines to good use as “the haunted dungeons used in the Council’s annual Halloween festivities, while the park also hosts an annual reenactment of the battle..
Fort Howard VA Hospital still provides limited treatment to veterans, and both facilities offer many possibilities for the future development of the peninsula.
Gray Manor / Gray Haven
Since Patapsco Neck was first settled, Gray Manor has been a favored route between the North Point Peninsula and Baltimore.
Built on what was thought to be an old Indian trial, Old North Point Road – known initially as Long Log Lane - served in transporting crops like tobacco, timber and seafood as far as old Philadelphia Road and then to the city. Later, tourists rode in wagons – and then motorcars – to visit the seashore, one-time amusement parks, piers and picnic areas.
The area remains part of the lyric of the 1814 Battle of North Point, and monuments are touchstones throughout the area. Most notable is Battle Acre and Monument – dedicated in 1839 - and conserved to this day along the old route. That military history was reinforced in the 1960s as the area became home to the Maryland Army National Guard’s Jerome Grollman Armory.
Gray Manor eventually was named after James Gray, who lived in a farm house at 212 Oakwood Road and cultivated 140 surrounding acres during the 1920s... Following his death, Gray’s heirs sold 70 acres to developers who built 10 homes on Gray Manor Terrace and sold to J.K. Requard Company for further construction. By 1943 Requard had acquired the entire
parcel and about 650 single family units were built for rental to wartime workers. The same pattern was apparent in adjacent Gray Haven, although those structures were brick row homes. Because of the war and rationing of services,
Gray Manor and Gray Haven for years to come – like many other communities built in wartime - were scattered with public telephone booths (due to a lack of materials for household lines), but little street lighting.
The timing of construction during war affected other areas, as well. Religious services were held in makeshift buildings until the Requard Company donated the old Oakwood Road farmhouse of James Gray, which eventually grew to become the stalwart First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Gray Manor.
Historically, area public schools have been a source of pride, and there was special satisfaction with the dedication of Battle Monument School, a public special education day school providing opportunities for students with special needs to reach their potential as independent and productive members of their families and communities.
Like most neighborhoods in Dundalk, Gray Manor was developed mostly as single homes to meet the demand of growing industry. Adjacent Gray Haven met that same demand, and sturdy and well-kept brick row homes originally built in the 1940s and 50s as more affordable housing, populate much of the landscape.
As in most of Dundalk’s neighborhoods, Harborview started as farmland that converted with the advent of industry and the need for suitable housing. The area’s colonial history is based more in What Ifs than in actual activity.
If the British had not been defeated farther down the North Point Peninsula, Redcoats would have used the heights of German Hill to their advantage in further attack on Baltimore City.
Like nearby Norwood, Harborview is home to numerous historic cemeteries chosen for the scenic views offered along German Hill Road and Eastern Avenue. Oak Lawn, Holy Cross Polish National, Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and St. Andrews cemeteries all dot the landscape and provide wide spaces.
The neighborhood’s real roots come in part from the natural thoroughfare on its edges – Eastern and Dundalk Avenues, connecting most of eastern Baltimore County to the city. Industry like Martin Marietta, Bethlehem Steel, Western Electric and other major employers added a need for more housing. The small neighborhood grew with the development of commerce surrounding it, and remains a stable and attractive area to this day.
The prosperity led to the need for more housing, and gave prospective homeowners the incomes to settle in the area. Norwood and Graceland Park grew accordingly with both brick row homes and single dwellings located on the tree-lined streets of the new neighborhoods.
Longtime homeowners participate in rec council, school and church activities. Large ball fields hosting a wide variety of sports programs are nearby and residents are just minutes away from shopping and entertainment.
Inverness / West Inverness
West Inverness has always provided a great location for cultivated land with immediate access to the waters of Lynch Cove and Bear Creek. Settled in the 18th century by families such as
the Stansburys and the Merritts, the small community was one of the locales where materials traveled up Long Log Lane – later known as North Point Road – bound for local destinations.
The community eventually became more residential with the continuing arrival of industry and inexpensive housing for workers from Baltimore City and County, as well as surrounding states.
The community of Inverness was developed in 1937 by I.J. Bolton and Company, with 200 homes directly across from Sparrows Point Country Club waterfront. The new community was promoted as “a new standard of living for the working man in the middle income brackets together with the maximum in hoe value.” Bolton made the most of that philosophy, with mortgage payments as low as $28.50 per month and names like New Deal Place.
There was Eastcrest Swimming Club and Beach Club on Inverness Avenue, and there was even a taxi service, Inverness Coach, that would transport residents for a ten-cent fare.
Just up the road, more moderately priced row homes were constructed. The hardworking
residents of West Inverness continued to take great pride in their community, with approximately 70 percent living in well-kept brick row homes.
Nearby Wise Avenue VFD has been a focus of community life and has provided longtime
service and sacrifice. For decades, VFD volunteers have staged one of the most recognized and appreciated train gardens in the Baltimore metro area, and thousands of area residents attend the Christmas-time event each year. Quality schools and large church congregations keep a tradition of neighborhood events.
Millers Island was settled as farmland but developed an inviting tradition of recreation because of its access to marshes and waterways offering the best in hunting, fishing and crabbing.
During the 1930s and 40s farmland gave way to the construction of vacation cottages and
shore homes that came with the growth of Bethlehem Steel and the development of Edgemere. Trolleys brought visitors from as far as Baltimore to North Point Peninsula where they crabbed and caught rockfish, catfish, snapper and perch at Ramona’s Pier.
A wooden bridge extended from Millers Island to Pleasure Island where there was a small
amusement park and picnic pavilion. A storm destroyed the bridge during the 1950s and the park was never reopened. A decade earlier, Bayshore Park, on the site of the present North Point State Park, was demolished. Both parks offered entertainment and memories to generations of residents.
Tropical Storm Isabel struck the entire region in 2003 but hit Millers Island hardest, flooding the entire peninsula and destroying hundreds of properties. Residents were resilient and rebuilt, and today many of the homes on Millers Island have been improved to provide better protection.
In recent years, Hart-Miller Island has become a recreational haven for boaters in the northern Chesapeake Bay. Originally part of a peninsula that extended from Millers Island, it was designated as a park following construction of a dike in 1981. The 1100-acre island is accessible only by personal boat and offers safe mooring, wading and access to a 3,000-foot sandy beach. An observation platform that provides great views of the marsh is open to the public from May through September. Although the population is relatively small, there is a strong community association and an effective business association.
North Point Village
The area now known as North Point Village was just a point along the way in 1814 when British General Robert Ross and his troops marched up North Point Road (known then as Long Log Lane) and was foiled by 3,000 American volunteers. Historic names like Battle Grove find their origins in the September battle, but history associated very little with the quiet patch of ground and its cove for more than a century, while industry grew around it.
The parcel that would become North Point Village was owned by devout Catholic Polish immigrant Cecelia Barcikowski-Widransky, who sold the land in 1948 to developer Theodore Julio and Sons. They planned to build row homes for steelworkers who wanted to live closer to Sparrows Point, then in its heyday.
Mrs. Barcikowski-Widransky had one stipulation for the developer - that the streets would honor the saints. Julio kept his word - and also devout – chose a string of mostly minor saints to make the area unique.
The developer knew when to reference the modern, as well as the classic, and urged prospective buyers to his site by using the newly constructed North Point Drive-In (and nearby rollarena) as a draw and a landmark. The venerable drive-in closed in 1982, but the newer landmark is the state-of-the-art Southeast Regional Rec Center, dedicated in 2002.
Battle Grove Democratic Club was started in the area in 1933 – 15 years before the development - and remains one of the most active political groups in Maryland, with more than 750 members. It hosted an appearance by former president Bill Clinton in 2008 as he campaigned for his wife, Hillary
North Point Villagers maintain an everyday pride in their community and embrace the sporadic historic moments that add to its flavor.
Like many of its resources, Northshire shares a similar history with neighboring Gray Manor. Like most of Dundalk the community was farmland that eventually became part of the favored route between the North Point Peninsula and Baltimore, as the area saw travelers and commerce came and went between the two points. British troops made their way up the route during the 1814 Battle of North Point in their failed attempt to invade Baltimore, and both Redcoats and American defenders paused at Bread and Cheese Creek to rest.
The construction of the houses at Northshire was a natural progression. The development arose as part of it strategic location near Merritt Blvd and Eastern Blvd., and later the extended Baltimore Beltway, and the need for residential housing for workers at Bethlehem Steel, General Motors and Western Electric.
Although the major industries disappeared, homeowners have remained and made their
community better as the years passed. Area public schools provide quality education and residents maintain the integrity of their neighborhood like few in Baltimore County.
The future of Northshire is as optimistic as its many residents.
Norwood and Holabird Avenue, like most of Dundalk’s neighborhoods, started as farmland that converted with the advent of industry and the need for suitable housing. In this case, the community was one of the solutions to the growth of not just Bethlehem Steel, but the nearby General Motors and Fischer Body plants, Western Electric, and Camp Holabird.
Holabird Avenue provides much of the industrial history of Dundalk. Until the early decades of the 20th century it was known as Shell Road because it was paved in oyster shells crushed under the wheels of thousands of wagons and lorries that connected Dundalk to east Baltimore. Just near the entrance of Camp Holabird there was a toll gate, used for years to finance the road that finally was paved in the 1930s, along with Broening Highway, making the area much more useful for growing industries.
On July 1, 1919, a dirigible approaching Dundalk exploded and landed in a fiery ball at nearby St. Helena. The explosion shattered windows and shakes houses throughout the Holabird vicinity.
The GM plant started production of automobiles in March 1935 but showed its versatility by changing with the priorities of WWII. The plant became a part of GM’s Eastern Aircraft Division, where a largely female workforce – the model of Rosie the Riveter – excelled at rear bomber assembly. Following the war, assembly remained a priority and much of the facility became Fischer Body. At the peak of production in 1978 over 7,000 United Auto Workers were employed, and over nine million vehicles came off the line before the plant closed in 2005.
Western Electric on Broening Highway contributed to the area by employing thousands of communications workers, while Camp Holabird provided jobs and spawned supporting businesses serving the military population.
The prosperity led to the need for more housing, and gave prospective homeowners the incomes to settle in the area. Norwood and Graceland Park grew accordingly with both brick row homes and single dwellings located on the tree-lined streets of the new neighborhoods.
The homes remain as reliable as the culture of this residential area, where longtime homeowners participate with Patapsco Neck Norwood Recreation Council, schools and churches. Large ball fields hosting a wide variety of sports programs are throughout the area, and residents are just minutes away from shopping and entertainment.
Norwood and nearby Graceland Park also are locations of numerous historic cemeteries. All along German Hill Road and near Delvale Avenue you’ll find the Hebrew cemetery, Workman’s Circle cemetery, Holy Cross Polish National cemetery, St. Michaels’ Ukrainian Catholic Church
cemetery, Holy Rosary cemetery, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Andrews, and Pussville cemetery.
Old Dundalk's neighborhood history is intertwined with the founding of the town. Beginning in the late 19th century, Dundalk was transformed from farm fields into an innovative planned company town by the suburbanization of industry and housing, the advent of World War I, and later, the widespread adoption of the automobile. Irish immigrant Henry McShane started an iron foundry among the fields and houses just east of Baltimore City in 1854. A wharf along the Patapsco River and a railroad converged near the location of the foundry, and Henry’s son William named the new freight station Dundalk in honor of his father’s hometown in Ireland.
In 1917, the Bethlehem Steel Co. took over the nearby Sparrows Point steel plant. To provide needed housing for new workers in this rural area, the Steel Company created the Dundalk Company. Appointed president of the Dundalk Company was E.H. Bouton, a local architect who was also president of the Roland Park company in Baltimore City. The company began by purchasing around 1,000 acres of land on either side of the railroad tracks near Dundalk Avenue and the freight station.
Before the Dundalk Company could really get started constructing houses, the country entered World War I. Ship-building was in high demand. Through the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation, the federal government took over the role of the Dundalk Company on June 12, 1918, creating the Liberty Housing Company.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the famous landscape architect known for designing New York’s Central Park, was placed in charge of the newly-formed Town Planning Division of the U.S. Housing Corporation in 1918. This federal agency supervised the planning and design of several towns, including Dundalk, needed to house workers producing ships and other supplies for the World War I effort.
Old Dundalk’s design followed then-popular Garden City planning principles, using curvilinear streets, mixed housing densities, and a planned commercial and civic center. Between 1918-19, 815 stucco houses with slate roofs were built. A self-contained town center followed, featuring shops, churches, a school and other amenities. This center evolved to include a movie theater, library, post office, police station and fire station. The government purchased street cars, later known as the “Red Rockets,” to get residents to work. Also typical of the Garden City ideal, open space was incorporated into the plan with park areas reserved adjacent to the shopping district and school.
The mixed-use town center exists today and has functioned for decades as it was originally designed, though recent economic and retail trends pose a significant challenge. It is the second oldest shopping center in the State of Maryland and among the first in America.
Old Dundalk is the only residential project following Olmsted’s wartime model in Maryland and one of only 36 in the United States. Housing lots were moderately sized, homes were diverse in style and price range, and laid out to embrace and support the pedestrian-friendly commercial and civic center from all sides. At its heart was Dundalk Avenue, a central transportation corridor. Dundalk became a National Register Historic District in 1983. It resulted from a historic town planning movement, and it embodies today’s Smart Growth principles.
St. Helena is an island in the South Atlantic Ocean where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled after his defeat at Waterloo. Our St. Helena, part of Dundalk and Baltimore City, was so named by Col. Arthur Bryan, a Britisher, who had served as an army officer in wars with the French. It is
thought that he secured the land as a grant from Lord Baltimore. Ryan farmed in what was later to become the Dundalk area and called his spread ‘Bonaparte’ after England’s foe, whom he held in high regard. But his daughters objected to the name and begged their father to change it, so Col. Bryan changed the name to St. Helena.
The first railroad was built through St. Helena in 1882, after Sparrows Point had been purchased by the Maryland Steel Company. This provided the means to ship coal and iron to the works there, and to bring away the rails that were manufactured.
St. Helena was established several years before Dundalk, and on Sept. 8, 1898, MissAnnie Grace, as the first Principal, opened the doors of the St. Helena School. The school was temporarily housed in the basement of the St. Helena Presbyterian Church, and by 1900, a 1-room school opened to serve the 30 students in the area. Within 2 years, two additional rooms were added, and by 1919, three portables were erected on the small playground. The building still exists today and is currently owned by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a
There was no fire department in the area in 1895, and the closest one was in Canton. Because it took over ½ hour for a messenger to get there to summon help, the St. Helena residents requested a fire alarm box. That request was denied, and after many debates, the St. Helena residents took action. They procured their own ‘engine’ – an enormous water tank on wheels with attached hoses – that men pulled to fires. Eventually they were able to secure horses for this task.
In 1916, the Bethlehem Steel Co. acquired the Sparrows Point plant, owned at that point by the Pennsylvania Steel Co., and needed homes for its workers. Through its subsidiary, The Dundalk Co., it bought up all available land between Holabird Ave. and Bear Creek, a tract of
1,000 acres. But before any construction was started, the Government restricted private building. However, to accommodate shipyard workers at the Point, the U.S. Shipping Board built 531 stucco houses on the ‘ship’ streets in north Dundalk and 284 units in St. Helena. Those homes were barely finished when the war ended, and Uncle Sam pulled out and sold the homes to private individuals. The units in St. Helena had been constructed strictly for bachelor boarders, however, who ate in commissaries, and a kitchen had to be built at the rear of each before it could be sold. Since World War I brought growth, Dundalk had mushroomed. A 1919 ad noted that 135 homes were sold in St. Helena in six days. St. Helena learned about the woes of industrial society when Harbor Field was built on nearby fill land, and the drone of planes filled the air. Serious pollution problems were apparent in 1941, and residents took a paint manufacturer to court, claiming that the firm was fouling the air. The company was ordered to change its ways. Fourteen years and one war later, the same residents were back in court, and the company spent almost $1 million to end fumes and noise. Such is the determination of the St. Helena residents to protect their community!
There are two histories of Sparrows Point, one as important as the other.
Sparrows Point as a manufacturer tells the story of a large industrial complex for steelmaking and ship building, while Sparrows Point as a town speaks of individuals and their beloved, tight-knit community. The area continues to provide a legacy that has shaped generations, and an identity for those who still call it home.
Geographically, the ‘Point extends off North Point Peninsula into the Chesapeake and lower Patapsco River, but also includes the land, marshes and waterways around Jones Creek, Lodge Forest, etc.
Originally home to Native American tribes until being granted to Thomas Sparrow by Lord Calvert around 1652, the homestead was called "Sparrow's Nest" and over the next century became home to other families, who raised crops, built homes and hunting lodges.
It wasn’t until 1887, when engineers realized that the marshy inlet would make an excellent deep-water port, that the Pennsylvania Steel Co. and the Bethlehem Iron Co. built the enormous works that would become Maryland biggest employer.
The plant took the raw materials of iron ore, coal and limestone and smelted them through a series of complex processes into standard-grade sheets, pipe, wire, nails and other finished steel products.
By the early 20th century, Sparrow's Point was a large steel mill, stretching four miles from end to end. The increase of work at the Point reflected the migration of black workers from the south and of white workers from rural areas or mining camps in West Virginia and central
With those new arrivals came the need for immediate housing, and Sparrows Point – the company town – was born. In the earliest days, single men lived in barrack-like conditions,
but families soon followed, living in small 1920s-era bungalows surrounded with the continual sound of trains, pile drivers and blast furnaces. There was a grid of streets named with letters
and numbers, the streetcar line that ran all the way to downtown Baltimore, and red dust from steelmaking that settled everywhere when the wind blew.
You didn't get to vote for the people calling the shots, and if you lost your job, you had to move out, but rent was cheap and the crabbing, fishing and swimming were good.
Stansbury / Chesterwood
Stansbury-Chesterwood was farmed into the early 20th century, when industry and the workforce that followed changed the landscape. With Bethlehem Steel in 1916 came decades of supporting industry including the Patapsco and Back Rivers Railroad, a big, brawny,
gritty and hardworking operation serving Sparrows Point.
Other industries, including trucking and transport companies, remain in the area off Peninsula Expressway near Graves and Flood Roads. But much of the rest of the area was left forecreation. The 1960s construction of the Peninsula draw bridge connected lower Dundalk and
Sparrows Point but still allows larger vessels and sailboats access to the many inlets and coves of Bear Creek.
Emala Lake, actually a 10-acre hole on the old Emala Farm in Stansbury – was created after
the sand pit had been excavated for fill dirt fused in the approaches to the new Bear Creek Bridge (Wise Avenue). Fed by natural springs just off the Creek, Emala Lake was stocked with over 15,000 pounds of bay fish, rock, flounder and crab. In 1969 it was discovered to be polluted by local industry, but fishing is making its return.
Some features of Stansbury and Chesterwood have been re-named in honor of groups and individuals. Peninsula Expressway was christened as Vietnam Veterans Highway, while the entrance road to Chesterwood Park was re-named as John Shank Way, in appreciation of the many years of service provided by the deceased Baltimore County Rec and Parks supervisor.
Much of Stansbury-Chesterwood’s still seems to be in front of it as new residents settle in the area and more land is developed.
The area that grew into Turner Station was once farmland owned by J. M. Turner as early as 1877. The rural character of the area began to change in the 1880s when the Pittsburgh Steel Co. built a steel plant on land known as Sparrows Point. The steel mill was bought out by the Maryland Steel Co., and at thattime Mr. Turner sold a portion of his tract to the Sparrows Point Railroad Company. The railroad company erected a station, naming it for the Turner
property through which the rail passed on its way to Sparrows Point. As the nearby community grew, it took on that name – “Turner Station.”
The Maryland Steel Co. created a subsidiary called the Dundalk Co. for the purpose of overseeing construction of housing for workers near Dundalk. Building had just started when WWI created an astonishing demand for ships constructed of steel. As a result of this
increased demand for labor, many African Americans migrated to the area and created their own self- sustaining community with both housing and local businesses. Schools, churches, grocery stores, fraternal organizations, restaurants, barber and beauty shops, doctors, dentists, gas stations, liquor stores, and employment office and clothing stores sprung up and prospered around the Turner Station stop with names such as the Balnew Cab Co., Allmond's Confectionery, Fanny Major's Community Laundry, the Anthony Theatre and the Adams Cocktail Lounge. TheAdams became the most popular black lounge in Baltimore, and patrons saw entertainment greats there, including Chick Webb, Pearl Bailey and Billy Eckstein.
After World War II, the community began to decline. Between 1960 and 1970, the population decreased by nearly fifty percent, and services decreased as well. At the turn on the 21st century, however, dedicated residents partnering with Baltimore County and private companies have been diligently working to revitalize the community, and encouraging signs of redevelopment have occurred. The Turner Station Conservation Teams organization (with seven distinct teams) was organized with a mission to change the community from one that has suffered from neglect to a vibrant, caring and attractive area, and members are dedicated to the revitalization of Turner Station that pursues development connected to the community's
long history of education and faith, its unique waterfront location, and its unique place in history.
Watersedge was little more than farmland on the outskirts of Logan Airfield until World War II emphasized the importance of the steel industry. Bethlehem Steel Company already had taken over the nearby Sparrows Point steel plant in 1917, when the steel company created the Dundalk Company to provide needed housing for new workers in this rural area.
With the continued growth of Bethlehem Steel came the need for more workers, and more housing. By 1943, Stackhouse Realty built the first homes Louth, Meath and Fairgreen Roads, and by 1947 homes were being sold for about $6,000 – two bedrooms, living room, hall, bath, kitchenette and dinette – and a homeowners association had started.
While the development was first promoted as Royal Homes, the structures became familiar
as the Concrete Homes, in consideration of the poured concrete foundation and walls. While less glamorous, the name spoke well of the sturdiness of the homes that remain today, improved with additions and other features by their caring owners.
Along the way, Watersedge has continued to improve, with boat ramps, parks, playgrounds, and most recently with the 2009 construction of the Watersedge Rec Center. Community members take pride in their neighborhood with events like Project Clean Stream to keep area waterways vibrant.
Baltimore is famous for rowhouses, but did you know there are at least 17 different types?
Here is a handy illustrated guide: