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History of Roland Park: A Brief Overview

Roland Park was developed between 1890 and 1920 by the Roland Park Company. The development was named for the early Baltimore county landowner, Roland Thornberry. The company was incorporated in 1891 by William Edwards, president of a trade publication, The Manufacturer’s Record; Edward H. Bouton, a planner; Charles Grasty, a Baltimore newspaper publisher; and several Midwestern bankers.

historicalmarketThe company, capitalized with money provided by an English business syndicate, the Land Trust Company of England, purchased two large estates. The first was the 264-acre Oakland Estate located approximately seven-tenths of a mile north of Cold Spring Lane on a ridge above Falls Road. Robert G. Harper, a Revolutionary War officer and a Maryland senator between 1811 and 1818, had owned this estate. The second was the 112-acre Woodlawn Estate bordered east and west by Stony Run and Falls Road and north and south by Wyndhurst Avenue and Cold Spring Lane. Local sugar baron Hiram Woods owned the estate and in 1874 sold it to Richard J. Capron, the first president of the Roland Park Company.

The Roland Park Company, with Edward H. Bouton as its general manager, developed Roland Park plat by plat, laying out its street patterns, installing sewer, water and electric lines, and selling property lots. The Woodlawn Estate formed the core of Plat 1. This plat, east of Roland Avenue and north of Cold Spring Lane, was designed by George Kessler, a Kansas City engineer. Kessler had worked briefly for Frederick Law Olmsted on designing New York City’s Central Park, and later designed the boulevard and park system for Kansas City.

The company subsequently employed Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who designed Plat 2 in 1901. Plat 2 is located on the west side of Roland Avenue from Elmhurst Road to Cold Spring Lane. Houses in this area are eclectic, with both contemporary and historic styles, including timbered English Tudor, revived versions of Georgian and Regency styles, and original designs related to the British “Arts and Crafts” movement.

The Italianate octagonal Roland Water Tower stands on Roland Avenue near the boundary of Plat 2. It was built by the City of Baltimore in 1904-05. The original water supply was provided by the Roland Park Water Company through a system of artesian wells and reservoirs. Another, 70-foot-high water tower was located at the intersection of Long and Tower lanes in Plat 2, and included an observation platform. Water was subsequently provided by the city a few years after Roland Park was annexed by Baltimore City in 1918.

In 1898, the Roland Park Company organized the Roland Park Country Club, and began building its club house on 100 acres extending to both sides of Falls Road. It was developed to include a clubhouse, golf course and tennis courts. The golf course was relocated to Baltimore County in the 1960s and the land on the west side of Falls Road was sold to the Rouse Company. The company in turn developed the property into the Cross Keys Village and Shopping Center.

In 1905, the Roland Park Company developed Plat 3 west of Roland Avenue between Deepdene and Elmhurst Roads, and Plat 4 north of University Parkway and south of Cold Spring Lane. A portion of Plat 4 was developed as Plat 5. Plat 6, located in the northwest corner of Roland Park, was developed in 1910.

Bouton, general manager of the Roland Park Company, was instrumental in creating the Lake Roland Elevated Railway in 1893, which made possible a northern route from City Hall up Roland Avenue to Upland Road. The construction of University Parkway in 1905 linked the community to major city arteries. Another innovative amenity built by Bouton was the first planned shopping center in the country. It was built in 1896 in the English Tudor style. Design by Wyatt and Nolting, and located at Upland Road and Roland Avenue, it was originally planned as an apartment and office building with a “community room” for civic functions on the upper level.

 

Shops were installed on the ground floor to serve residents living a considerable distance from downtown retail areas. The upstairs apartments were subsequently redesigned as office space. The popular drugstore and luncheonette, originally owned by Dr. G.W. Truitt, Morgan and Millard (also known as “The Morgue”), became a neighborhood fixture in 1913.

In planning Roland Park, Bouton incorporated land-use restrictions in property deeds to protect and maintain the landscape and architectural integrity of the neighborhood. All residents were required to pay a fixed annual fee to the Roland Park Company for the maintenance of streets and sidewalks and the removal of debris and leaves from lanes and streets. This fee was incorporated into property covenants, and property owners were and still are legally required to pay this basic fee.

Roland Park was the product of extensive planning and innovative ideas, including site design, land use, architectural controls, and common amenities. Its early planners were less than innovative in the social dimensions of development, advocating the deliberate exclusion of economic and racial diversity.

The Roland Park Company incrementally shifted the care of the community to neighborhood-based organizations.

The Roland Park Civic League, established in 1895 and incorporated in 1907, developed from a voluntary fire company formed by residents to protect the community. It is now a civic governing body that addresses matters impacting the interests of residents.

The Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation, a subsidiary of the Civic League, was incorporated in 1909. It received ownership of common property from the Roland Park Company. It enforces covenants, collects maintenance fees, and maintains lanes, paths, streets and common areas.

The Roland Park Community Foundation, estab-lished in 1987, provides funding for the planting and care of trees, shrubs, gardens and open spaces.
Roland Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

These neighborhood organizations symbolize both the historic and contemporary importance of citizen participation to the vitality of the Roland Park community.

— Robert W. Heam, Ph.D.

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Sources:

City of Baltimore, Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation (CHAP), "Roland Park," July 7, 2008, from CHAP web page and available at http://www.rolandpark.org/documents/ CityRPDescription.pdf.

Dorsey, John, “Roland Park: How It Got This Way,” Roland Park News, Vol. 1, Spring, 2001.

Roland Park Community Foundation, Roland Park: A Plan for Adaptation and Preservation in the Community’s Second Century (Baltimore, Md.: Roland Park Community Foundation, Spring 1993).

George B. Simmons, A Book of Pictures in Roland Park (Baltimore, Md.: Norman Munder and Company, June 1911).

Judith Smith, "Roland Park," The Olmstedian, Vol.13, No. 1, Fall 2001.

James F. Waesche, Crowning Gravelly Hill: A History of the Roland Park–Guilford–Homeland District (Baltimore, Md.: Maclay & Associates, 1987).

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Check out the Roland Park "Then and Now" photo gallery.

Return to RP Home Page.

 

See Roland Park plat maps here.