Roland Park as viewed in 1967 and 1947. First is a promotional brochure from 1967 followed by a short history of the Roland Park Civic League written by Federal Judge W. Calvin Chesnut who lived at 111 Ridgewood Road.
111 Ridgewood Road, Roland Park, Baltimore
[Taken from Google Maps]
[1967 Promotional Brochure]
Roland Park, named for Roland Thornberry, an English landowner in Baltimore County, had its first beginnings back in 1890 when William Edmunds decided to develop 100 acres of his property lying between Roland Avenue (then Maryland Avenue), Wyndhurst, Cold Spring Lane, and the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. On June 7, 1892 the first lots were put on sale. Soon, the 264-acre Oakland Estate was acquired together with other tracts which extended Roland Park to its final boundaries. A unique suburban residential area which was destined to serve as a model for numerous other developments, both in this country and abroad, had come into existence.
Over the years, Roland Park has changed in many ways. The horses are gone, the old water tower at Upland and Club Road with its iron stairway winding upward to an observation platform is gone and so is the Lake Roland Elevated Railway with its nine-block long trestle over Guilford Avenue. Undoubtedly, as the automobile came in, a leisurely way of life went out. But with all the changes of the past 75 years, Roland Park has remained a fine residential community.
How is it that Roland Park has retained its residential quality for this long period while other communities have withered, grown into commercialism, or even lapsed into slums?
The credit for Roland Park's durability as a residential community goes back to Edmund H. Bouton who conceived the plan of incorporating land use restrictions within each property deed— the first such residential deed restrictions ever required or enforced in the United States.
A restriction which was most important in the original shaping of Roland Park and subsequent preservation of its character was the requirement for architectural approval of buildings, additions and alterations, and number of residences per lot. In another provision, residents were required to pay an annual fee for maintenance of the streets and sidewalks and for the removal of leaves and debris from the lots, lanes and streets. These requirements have been administered since 1909 by the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation.
The Roland Park Civic League and the Maintenance Corporation together provide the surveillance so necessary for safeguarding the heritage which has given the community its unique character. Recently, as a result of the increase in population and accompanying rise in land values and taxes, attempts have been made by developers and other commercial interests to break down the zoning barrier. The Civic League has taken appropriate action against these and other threats to community standards through its active committees, its legal counsel, meetings with city officials, the presentation of statements and petitions at hearings, and mass action of the residents when needed. Protection of Roland Park from commercial encroachment does not come cheap. The best hope of the developers is to maintain pressure with their superior financial resources until the residents become discouraged and divided. This approach will fail if the residents present a united front in protecting their interests.
The Maintenance Corporation obtains funds from mandatory fees collected from each property owner. Contrariwise, the Civic League is entirely dependent upon the dues paid by its
members and contributions from individuals interested in preserving the integrity of Roland Park. To achieve maximum effectiveness, the Civic League needs the support of all residents of Roland Park. Although not all residents have the time or inclination to actively participate in the work of the Civic League, all residents can support its purposes by becoming dues-paying members.
The officers of the Civic League and Maintenance Corporation maintain liaison with residents through the plat representatives and directors listed on the insert. Residents are urged to contact their plat representatives on community matters. Problems that cannot be handled directly will be brought to the attention of the Board of Directors for action or referred to a committee for study and recommendation. Residents interested in obtaining swimming pool privileges should call the Roland Park office, TU 7-3519. Residents who wish to participate in the work of the Civic League should contact the president and volunteer to serve as an assistant plat representative or on one of the committees which operate in such varied areas as deed restrictions, membership, publicity, traffic, zoning, beautification, youth services, institutions, and public safety.
Drive or walk through Roland Park and view its varied and interesting architecture, the sweeping lawns, trees and shrubbery. The area has a charm all its own. Children of old families who have married and moved away often return to raise their own families in the familiar neighborhood. Do your part to preserve Roland Park by joining with your neighbors as members of the Civic League.
A SHORT HISTORY of the ROLAND PARK CIVIC LEAGUE
Roland Park was made possible by the opening of the Lake Roland Elevated Railway in the 80's. Plat 1 of Roland Park, comprising the territory bounded by Cold Spring Lane on the south, the then Forest Road on the east (parallelling the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad), Wyndhurst Avenue on the north and Roland Avenue on the west, was laid out about 1891. The plat included lots fronting on Roland Avenue and running west back to Long Lane. The enterprise was financed by an English syndicate with some local directors. During the next ten years most of the lots in Plat 1 had been sold by the Roland Park Company and the properties improved by buildings practically all of frame and many of shingle construction. Mr. Edward H. Bouton had been brought from Kansas City to be the president of the development company, and engaged the advisory services of Mr. Olmstead, a nationally known landscape architect, whose services were invaluable in creating what became at the time the most highly developed and attractive suburb in the country. The deeds for the individual lots in Plat 1 were granted by the Company subject to certain restrictions as to character, location, style of building's, and permissible uses of the property. The lots were also subjected to a proportionate maintenance tax and the restrictions were perpetual.
In 1901 the Company decided to expand its development and laid out Plat 2 which comprised the property lying to the west of Plat 1, bounded by Cold Spring Lane on the south, a lane parallel to and about 200 feet westerly of Ridgewood Road on the west, and running northerly to Club Road and including that part of the property of the Baltimore Country Club extending to the Falls Road. The Country Club had been organized in 1898 and a year later began its activities with an attractive club house and 100 acres of ground extending on both sides of the Falls Road, on which by standards then prevailing, a very modern golf course had been built. The Club had been sponsored very largely <by the Roland Park Company and very much accelerated the development of Roland Park. The first houses built in Plat 2 were on Ridgewood Road and a few years later Club Road and Goodwood Gardens were opened and houses, largely of brick or plaster, were built.
In 1905 the Roland Park Company opened a third plat comprising generally the territory to the west of Roland Avenue and north of the Baltimore Country
Club and bounded on the west by the Falls Road. The restrictions in the deeds to Plats 2 and 3 were not made perpetual except as to the maintenance tax, but were limited in duration to 25 years. Along Ridgewood Road these restrictions were in 1925 voluntarily extended by the property owners for a further period of 25 years. It is impossible to over-value the great importance of the restrictions in the deeds in their contribution to the successful development and maintenance of Roland Park as a stable residential neighborhood. The modern zoning laws of Baltimore City now materially contribute to the same result.
It is interesting to remember the physical and geographical features of Roland Park in the early years up to about 1910. Roland Avenue was the principal highway and was only partly hard surfaced. Cold Spring Lane was a narrow road running westerly from Charles Street to Roland Avenue and was largely merely a dirt road. What is now University Parkway and 40th Street from Charles Street to Roland Avenue was a narrow winding muddy or dusty lane known as Merryman's Lane, beginning at the toll gate then situated on Charles Street Avenue, and meandering to Roland Avenue across Stony Run by a narrow iron bridge. This was the period just before the advent of automobiles which began to become numerous by 1910. The approach to Roland Park from the City was by horse conveyances out Merryman's Lane or Cold Spring Lane, but more generally by the trolley car then as now known as the No. 10 Line, which ran from Highlandtown by way of Pratt Street and Howard Street over Stony Run viaduct through Hampden to Roland Avenue, and Roland Avenue' to Roland Park. Major Venable as president of the Park Board, visualized and effectively caused the construction of Charles Street Avenue north of 25th Street as a boulevard, and University Parkway naturally followed on with the active cooperation of the Roland Park Company. The United Railways then constructed its No. 29 car line running to Roland Park and this furnished a more direct and attractive approach from down town Baltimore. What is now Plat 5 was then developed by the Roland Park Company lying to the east of Roland Avenue south of Cold Spring Lane, and bounded on the east by Stony Run and the south by what was then Merryman's Lane, and is now 40th Street.
Early in the development of Plat 1 the need was felt for some local neighborhood association to protect and advance the interests of the new suburban settlement, which in a few years numbered several hundred residents. All of Roland Park was then in Baltimore County and without adequate fire protection, and practically all the houses were of frame construction. The most vital neighborhood need obviously was local fire protection. This shortly lead
to the formation of a volunteer fire company which was located in the predecessor of the present fire engine house on Upland Road adjoining the United Railways car barn. Out of this volunteer fire department developed the Association known as the Civic League which was formed primarily for the purpose of maintaining the fire company through the dues paid by members of the League. The first meeting place of the Civic League was on the second floor of the engine house which also served as the local police station. Later the League generally held its monthly and annual meetings at the Women's Club, corner Roland Avenue and Ridgewood Road. Still later the meetings were sometimes held in the basement of the local branch of the Pratt Library on Roland Avenue and still other meetings have been held at the Baltimore Country Club. The scope of the activities of the Civic League was soon widened to include the more general interests and needs of the neighborhood in respect to its property values and interests. The maintenance tax provided a fund to defray in whole or in part the cost of street lighting, a sewerage plant, and the maintenance and care of the Roland Park roads. Water was furnished by a separate corporation known as the Roland Park Water Company, which drew its supply entirely from artesian wells. The water was metered and the rates were not unreasonable for the excellent quality of the water furnished. One of the pump houses, now abandoned, may still be found on the Baltimore Country Club golf course immediately adjoining the 17th green.
The development of Plat 1 with the large increase in the number of houses and of residents, added materially to the tax assessable values in that particular part of Baltimore County; and the maintenance tax soon proved to be inadequate for the expanding needs of the neighborhood in the matter of street lighting, maintenance of sewerage plant, care of roads and garbage disposal. This situation naturally and justly called for increasing appropriations from county taxes; and this naturally brought the Civic League into contact with the County Commissioners at Tow-son, in its annual request for budgetary appropriations for the upkeep of public conveniences for Roland Park. The County Commissioners recognized their public obligations in this respect and from year to year cooperated with the Civic League in making financial provision for a part of the cost of the necessary public facilities of lighting, maintenance of roads and contribution to the cost of garbage collection. To a considerable extent the disbursement of these county appropriations was entrusted to the supervision or management of the Civic League; and these arrangements were continued with necessarily increasing appropriations in the proportion to the increased tax basis until the city limits were extended in 1918 to include Roland Park, when the obligation in that respect was necessarily assumed by the City.
In the meantime, however, the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation had been organized. Its creation forms perhaps the most interesting feature of the local history of Roland Park, and the Civic League. It came about in this way. The maintenance tax was collected and disbursed by the Roland Park Company and the building restrictions in the deeds were enforced by the latter. After the Roland Park Company had sold off practically all of its lots in Plats 1 and 2, the resultant situation was that its chief business interest in the territory had been accomplished and it was no longer very directly and importantly interested in the maintenance tax and the building restrictions. This is not to suggest that it was unfairly administering its duties under the deeds; but nevertheless a number of individual instances occurred with respect to the disbursement of the maintenance tax and the enforcement or non-enforcement of the building restrictions which caused complaint and objection from property owners. The feeling among the property owners, expressed most articulately in various meetings of the Civic League, was that the property owners ought to have some definite representation in the administration of the proceeds of the maintenance tax and the enforcement of the building restrictions. The Civic League then took the leadership in the movement and held numerous open public meetings at which all residents and property owners of Roland Park, whether active members of the Civic League or not, were invited to participate. Out of the discussion finally came the creation of a committee of about 9 members who were instructed to confer with the Roland Park Company and evolve some practical plan for the very general demand that the property owners should be represented in the administration of the tax and restrictions. I was an active member of this committee. Mr. Bouton, representing the Roland Park Company, was very cooperative in the whole matter.
The final result was the formation of the Maintenance Corporation which took the form of an incorporated company having a nominal stock issue of, I think,'20 snares of the par value of $5 each, three-fourths of which were issued to the Civic League and one-fourth to the Roland Park Company, with further provision that the Roland Park Company should be entitled to annually elect three of the twelve directors of the Maintenance Corporation, the remaining nine to be elected by the Civic League as holder of three-fourths of the stock. Upon the formation of the Maintenance Corporation in 1909 the Roland Park Company executed a very elaborate deed to the Maintenance Corporation conveying to it all the reserved ownership of the Roland Park Company in the roads, streets and lanes of Roland Park, and assigning to the corporation the right to collect and the duty to disburse the maintenance tax and to enforce the building restrictions. In other words the Roland Park Company turned over to the Maintenance Corporation practically all of the lights that it then had in Roland Park, and under the deeds to the individual lots. In practice thereafter the Civic League for many years appointed at each annual meeting proxies to vote the stock of the Maintenance Corporation for the election of nine directors of whom two were to come from each of the several plats, and the remainder from the general territory as determined by the League. In the meantime the Civic League itself had been incorporated. Since 1909 the whole administration of the public interests of Roland Park has been in the hands of the Maintenance Corporation. It directly dealt with the County Commissioners until annexation to the City in 1918, and since then to the extent necessary, has dealt with the City. The Roland Park Civic League is, however, the ultimate authority with regard to policy making regarding the Maintenance Corporation by virtue of its majority stock control, and the Civic League has continued from time to time to function more particularly with regard to matters affecting Roland Park of a general nature which do not involve matters arising out of the maintenance tax or building restrictions.
For many years I acted as counsel for the Maintenance Corporation and for some part of the time was one of the directors; and for many years I was naturally in intimate contact with its activities. And since then from time to time I have been glad to confer with its officers in a purely advisory capacity regarding neighborhood affairs. I have no hesitation in saying that I think the interests of Roland Park have been very efficiently managed and preserved by the Maintenance Corporation which still continues to be a very vital factor in the maintenance and upkeep of the neighborhood. It is important not to underestimate the benefit which still flows to the locality from the collection and disbursement of the maintenance tax. Lawyers who may be interested in the subject will find quite a full discussion of the matter from the legal standpoint in the case in the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1923 entitled Bertha L. Wehr v. The Roland Park Company,, reported in volume 143 of the Maryland Reports, at pages 384 to 398. The opinion of the court deals of course primarily with the legal questions which were involved but a fuller account of the history of the Maintenance Corporation and its activities can be found in the printed record of the trial of the case before Judge Eli Frank. This record is, of course, available in the office of the clerk of the Court of Appeals of Maryland and can also doubtless be found in the Baltimore Bar Library in the Baltimore City Court House. It would prolong this article too greatly to enumerate all or even many of the important matters that have come before the Civic League. It is sufficient to say that they have been many and important in the affairs of the community. It is also very conservative to say that without the functioning of the Civic League, Roland Park would have been and would still now be a much less beautiful and pleasant suburb than it has been and is. It is doubtless true that the effect of annexation to the City and the extension of the zoning laws have materially decreased the number of questions for active attention by the Civic League, and, to some extent, by the Maintenance Corporation, by virtue of the natural extension of the City's administrative agencies. But this is a difference of degree only and does not in any way justify the inference that the Civic League is no longer of importance to Roland Park; quite the contrary is true. It is the only concrete body for the expression of neighborhood public opinion and should continue to function for that purpose, as well as policy making for the Maintenance Corporation.
In the past years interest in the Civic League was fostered and increased largely by an annual dinner meeting held at the Roland Park Country Club which was largely attended by the members. These annual dinners brought together not only a large percentage •of the whole membership of the League, but also included more widely residents and property owners in Roland Park generally. At these meetings there was a review by the current president of the League of its activities during the past years and of its then present problems. Generally also there was some form of pleasant after-dinner entertainment and many distinguished speakers were from time to time guests of the League. It is perhaps regrettable that somewhat changed conditions since the first world war have •resulted in the discontinuance of these annual dinners.
The Civic League has always commanded the loyalty and services of interested residents and property owners as its managing officers. In general the practice has been to elect a president to serve for one or two years only. Many well known residents of Roland Park have successively been chosen president of the League. Former Governor and Senator, the Honor-: able Philips Lee Goldsborough, was one of the earlier presidents of the League when he was at the time a resident of Roland Park.
January 1, 1947
This history of the Roland Park Civic League was prepared many years ago by Judge W. Calvin Chesnut. In our judgement it should be carefully read, by every property owner in Roland Park, and is re-printed by the Civic League for this purpose.
Judge Chesnut tells about the development of Roland Park in a most interesting way, and points out particularly what has been accomplished by the Civic League.
It seems that it is not generally known or understood that the Civic League owns controlling interest in the Roads and Maintenance Corporation and that the Roads and Maintenance Corporation is directly responsible to the Civic League.
As Judge Chesnut quite aptly says, "The Civic League is the only concrete body for the expression of neighborhood public opinion, and should continue to function for that purpose, as well as policy making for the Maintenance Corporation."
Roland Park Civic League, Inc.