This is the narrative text portion of the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association (OCNA) neighborhood. It is taken directly from the form submitted by Kenneth M. Short. For further information about the application, please contact David Wasmund (contact information below).
The Old Catonsville Historic District is bounded on the south by Frederick Road, an east-west thoroughfare that was originally a turnpike from Baltimore to Frederick, and on which the village of Catonsville grew up to the east. The northern boundary of Edmondson Avenue also runs east-west, paralleling Frederick Road, and was laid out with the construction of the electric railway along it. Between these two roads are a series of parallel roads that run south-southeast to north-northwest, including Melvin Avenue, N. Beaumont Avenue, Osborne Avenue, Wyndcrest Avenue, N. Beechwood Avenue, Rosewood Avenue, and Smithwood Avenue. These roads are set slightly off the north-south axis because they parallel the original boundaries of the Caton land tract that became Old Catonsville. Most of these roads are bisected near the center by Summit Avenue, an east-west road that is perpendicular to them, rather than parallel with Edmondson Avenue and Frederick Road. The neighborhood consists generally of rectangular lots, the largest lots being found on Melvin Avenue, N. Beaumont Avenue, N. Beechwood Avenue, and the southern half of Osborne Avenue. Not coincidentally, these were the earliest lots laid out, and contained the earliest dwellings. The district is overwhelmingly residential, with three churches (one with a school), a non-contributing modern public library, and a water tower about the only structures in the district that are not dwellings. The vast majority of these houses are freestanding, single family dwellings, with several duplexes that are similar in size, scale, and materials, though some are after the period of significance. Several dwellings have been converted to apartments and one to an assisted living facility, but the physical changes to the fabric in these instances are few.
Some of the earliest houses in the neighborhood are I-houses, though there are only a few of them. They are typically 2 ½-story, three-bay or five-bay structures with a center entrance and a one-story front porch. The example at 1402 Summit Avenue has a central gabled wall dormer flanked by smaller dormers, while that at 1010 Frederick Road has three dormers on the front, with the center one projecting and supported by brackets. This building had decorative trim that is now covered by the aluminum siding, and has had a large addition attached to the rear and east side, as it is now the Knights of Columbus lodge. Another early house type is best described as Queen Anne. They are more irregular than most dwellings of almost any other period In American architecture, which makes them more difficult to characterize. These instances tend to be 2 ½ stories tall, and often four bays wide, with a wrap-around porch and a corner turret. The porches typically have wood columns, and several examples include a porte cochere. Some houses still have a portion of their decorative wood shingles exposed, but most have been covered with asbestos shingles or aluminum siding. Gable roofs are more common, but hip roofs are also used, with some retaining slate roofing and others with new asphalt shingles. Examples of these Queen Anne dwellings include 100 N. Beaumont Avenue; 11, 101, and 121 N. Beechwood Avenue; 1200 and 1310 Frederick Road; 117 Melvin Avenue; and one in the 1200 block and 1301 Summit Avenue. The dwelling at 1300 Summit Avenue is a large and unique example, and is worthy of individual mention. It faces south and is a 2-½-story, four-bay by three-bay stuccoed structure with a three-story turret. To the west of this turret is the entrance, consisting of paired doors set inside a segmentally-arched opening that has sidelights and transom also set inside this opening, creating, in effect, a Diocletian window. The gable roof has a pair of gabled wall dormers to the west of the turret. There is a wrap-around porch with an attached oval porch that projects from the southwest corner of it.
There are several examples of what has been termed a " homestead ell" house, which has a "T" plan with the body of the “T” facing toward the street, typically with a wrap-around porch covering all three sides. They are 2 ½ story structures, typically four bays by four bays, and most commonly have a gable roof, though 20 N. Beaumont Avenue has a gambrel roof. Wood shingles were the most common siding, sometimes combined with German siding, as at 101 Melvin Avenue, and now sometimes covered with asbestos shingles. The gable end facing the street often was given decorative shingles, such as the staggered butts at 100 Melvin Avenue. Two over two windows are common, as these houses tend to be earlier than most in the district, and side lights and transom are often found around the front door. They tend to have few stylistic details, though they are probably influenced most by Queen Anne houses. The houses at 10 N. Beechwood Avenue and 33 Melvin Avenue are other examples of this type.
“L”-plan houses have a close relationship to the "T"-plan houses, and tend to date from around the same period, but those in the Old Catonsville Historic District have greater variety than the "T"-plan houses. They, too, tend to be 2 ½ stories, with a gable roof, the ell projecting toward the street at one end, with a gable end, and a front porch next to the ell. The houses at 12 and 14 Melvin Avenue were apparently identical originally, but changes to the former have removed or covered some of the details. These houses have jerkin head gables, the latter with slate, German siding, sidelights and transom, and jigsawn brackets on the porch. That at 35 Melvin Avenue has the porch set diagonally in the re-entrant angle of the ell, and the porch is carried across the projecting bay, but is very shallow here. It, too, has jigsawn balusters and brackets, but the house has wood shingles. The porch is also carried across the projecting bay at 8 Osborne Avenue, but is not diagonally set. The other side of this house has bay windows. A wrap-around porch can be found on several other examples, like 101 N. Beaumont Avenue and 117 Birdwood Avenue. At 31 Melvin Avenue there is also a porte cochere. This house has had in-fill constructed in the re-entrant angle of the ell, which may or may not be original, but at least must be an early alteration. Wood shingles and German siding are the most common treatments, with the use of decorative staggered butt shingles in the gable end of 106 Smithwood Avenue.
There are several houses that seem to be transitional, between Queen Anne buildings and the common foursquare (to be discussed later). These include 18 N. Beaumont Avenue and 128 N. Beechwood Avenue. Both are 2 ½ story structures with hip roofs of slate. The former has a two-story corner turret, the latter corner turrets at the second story only of both front corners. Both houses have German siding on the first story and wood shingles on the second. The Beaumont dwelling has a porch across the front only, while the Beechwood building has a wrap-around porch and Queen Anne sash in the Palladian dormer window. In a similar vein, the house at 111 Melvin Avenue seems to be transitional between Queen Anne and the large square houses with cross gables that are discussed below. The latter, them selves, seemed to be an early prototype for the foursquare, and in this period it must have been acceptable to add the still-popular corner turret to such buildings, as was done at 111 Melvin Avenue. There is also a group of large square houses, typically with gabled wall dormers on three or all four sides, though the side dormers are often smaller than those on the front and rear. These houses are similar to the foursquare, but tend to be larger and earlier, and are probably an earlier version with more variety than the typical four square that evolved from it. They typically had a wrap-around porch on one or both sides, and many retain their slate roofs. They are all, of course, 2 ½ stories tall. A few have bay windows on one of the side elevations, though this cannot be considered a typical feature. They could represent a transition from the “T”-plan houses to the square footprint of the foursquare, as a “T” exists with most of these, but it is not as pronounced as with the full “T” plan. Examples of this type can be found at 3 N. Beaumont Avenue; 100 N. Beechwood Avenue; 110 Birdwood Avenue; 7,9, 42, 105, and 106 Melvin Avenue; 2,4, 7, and 12 Osborne Avenue; 124 and 128 Rosewood Avenue; and 18 Wyndcrest Avenue.
The foursquare is one of the most well represented dwelling types in the Old Catonsville Historic District. Close to a cube in form, invariably 2 ½ stories with a hip roof of slate, there are few variations from this basic outline. Typically, there is a porch across the front, and in some cases it wraps partly around one side, but the porch has clearly been reduced as a feature from what was found on earlier Queen Anne dwellings. At least one house has a porte cochere, as well (107 Rosewood). Wood shingles are the most common siding, but other materials include weatherboards on the first story and staggered butt shingles on the second (14 N. Beaumont Avenue), and stucco (9 Osborne Avenue). Many examples now have asbestos shingles or aluminum siding, obscuring the original materials. These houses are typically two bays or three bays wide on the front elevation, with doorways in either the center bay or an end bay. Additional examples of the four square can be found at 1,5, 9,11, 13,15, 104, 112, 113,114, and 115 N. Beaumont Avenue; 105, 112, and 116 Birdwood Avenue; 3,5, 44, 109, 113, and 115 Melvin Avenue; 13,14,15, 17, 111, 112, 115, and 121 Osborne Avenue; 104, 113, and 117 Rosewood Avenue; 121 Smithwood Avenue; 1406 Summit Avenue; and 17, 19, 21, and 24 Wyndcrest Avenue.
There is a group of houses clustered around the intersection of Summit and Rosewood Avenues that are very similar in form and details and seem to be a transitional type from the foursquare to the Colonial Revival. These houses are 2 ½ stories tall and two bays by three bays. Their footprint is slightly rectangular, and they have a gable roof with a large, shed roof dormer. The entrance is set to one side, with sidelights, and is covered by a one-story porch that wraps around one side. There is a three-sided bay window on the second story, above the entrance, on most of the houses. The foundations are rock-faced concrete block, and the siding is either wood shingles or German siding on the first story and wood shingles or aluminum siding on the second story. These examples are located at 100, 101, and 102 Rosewood Avenue and 1404, 1500, and 1502 Summit Avenue. The other housing type that predominates in the district, and is contemporaneous with the foursquare, is the bungalow. These houses are typically 1-½ stories tall, with a two or three bay front. Most have a long, sloping gable roof that also covers a deep front porch, and occasionally the pitch of the roof changes over the porch. They also have a dormer window centered on the front of the upper story, with this feature being the focus of much of the decorative treatment. As a result, the dormers vary more than the form of most of the bungalows. Most examples now have is best is shingles or aluminum siding covering the original fabric, but some retain wood shingles or stucco (12 and 102 N. Beaumont Avenue; 124 Birdwood Avenue). While rubble stone was the material of choice for most of the earlier foundations, many bungalows employ rock-faced concrete block. Good examples of bungalows in the district include 103 Birdwood Avenue; 108-122 (the even numbers only) Melvin Avenue; 109, 115, 116, 118, 120, and 123 Rosewood Avenue; 101, 103, 105, 120, 122, and 126 Smithwood Avenue; and 12,15, and 16 Wyndcrest Avenue.
There are several bungalows that are rather unique and worthy of mention. The bungalow at 123 Smithwood Avenue has a gambrel roof, with the lower pitch being bell cast and sweeping out over the porch. Similarly, that at 8 N. Beaumont Avenue has its gable front set to the street. The bungalow at 121 Rosewood Avenue is unique in that it has a short wall on top of the porch piers, giving greater height to the second story. That at 104 Birdwood Avenue is similar to a camel back shotgun house found in the Deep South, with a one-story front section and two-story rear section.
Finally, there are a group of cottages with at least some affinities to bungalows, though perhaps less than the last group discussed. That at 120 N. Beechwood Avenue, which is brick, is similar to a Cape Cod, while its neighbor and 122 N. Beechwood Avenue is a faithful copy of a traditional southern vernacular cottage such as can be found in Natchez, Mississippi. Many of these have a strong Craftsman influence, such as that at 119 Rosewood Avenue, a 1 ½ story structure with the gable end set to the street and the front porch reduced to just one bay and tacked on to the front. The main decorative feature of the building is the alternating courses of wide and narrow shingles. That at 20 Wyndcrest Avenue is a Craftsman inspired building of rubble stone with a gambrel roof, with the gambrel end set facing the street. The house at 12 N. Beaumont Avenue has a long front porch under the gable roof that ends where the gable end is turned to face the street. This detail can be found at another Craftsman inspired house, at 6 Osborne Avenue, a 2 ½ story structure that is not at all related to the bungalows but is closer to the colonial revival dwellings that were also very popular in Old Catonsville. Many of the dwellings with Craftsman-inspired details are larger buildings, such as 11 Osborne Avenue, which has a stucco first story and a cantilevered second story now covered in aluminum siding. The first story has a projecting portico in the center flanked by a bay window to each side. The most elaborate Craftsman house, however, is that at 117 N. Beaumont Avenue. It has a brick foundation, stucco on the first story, and wood shingles on the second story, with a kick between the first and second stories. There is a projecting gabled bay to one side that contains the front door and small leaded glass sidelights, a pent roof with brackets, and an open porch with brick walls and piers. The opposite corner has a range of casement windows with transoms, all covered by a pent roof, and the gable ends have half-timbering.
The third common mode of dwelling is the Colonial Revival, and in this housing there is more variety than with the bungalows, but still a recognizable pattern to the buildings. They are rectangular structures, mostly of three or five bays width, and most are two stories, though a few are 2 ½ stories. Invariably, the entrance is in the center. Siding varies between shingles, stucco, a few, later instances of brick veneer, and more recent applications of asbestos shingles and aluminum siding. The house at 122 Osborne Avenue has similar siding and a kick between the first and second stories, as is found at 117 N. Beaumont Avenue, but has Colonial details and forms rather than craftsman ones. Gable roofs are most common, though 108 Osborne Avenue has a hip roof, 113 Osborne Avenue a jerkin head gable, and 117 Osborne Avenue a gable on hip. Some slate roofs survive, but most are now asphalt shingles. It is in the details where the variety is most striking, especially in the entrance bay. The houses at 103 Melvin Avenue, 105 N. Beaumont Avenue, 116, 118, and 119 Osborne Avenue, and 10 Wyndcrest Avenue had gabled entrance porticos. The portico on the otherwise Colonial Revival 110 Osborne Avenue shows craftsman influence, with decorative rafter ends. There is a recessed entrance bay and columns and pediment on 3 N. Beechwood Avenue, and 117 Osborne Avenue has a porch across the entire front. Sidelights are common, and some doorways include a transom or fanlight. Porches on one or both sides are common, with one of these often enclosed from the beginning. The house at 103 Melvin Avenue has a dentil cornice, and that at 125 Osborne Avenue has paneled corner pilasters. Six-over-one sash are most common, with some eight-over-one, a few casements, and some new one-over-one sash. Other examples include 10, 106, and 107 N. Beaumont Avenue; 2, 5, and 7 N. Beechwood Avenue; 13 Melvin Avenue; 101, 106, and 123 Osborne Avenue; and 8, 26, and 28 Wyndcrest Avenue.
There are several colonial revival houses and that are worth individual mention, and these may all be architect-designed buildings that have more variety than the stock builders' Colonial that predominates in Old Catonsville. That at 2 N. Beechwood Avenue is a 2-½ story shingled structure that is distinguished by a wrap-around porch on three sides and a projecting center bay on the second story containing a recessed porch with a gambrel roof. The weatherboarded house at 13 Melvin Avenue has a two story pedimented portico in the center bay, and two with end bays on the north end of the first story have an open porch within the mass of the house. The house at 107 N. Beaumont Avenue is in many respects a typical Colonial Revival dwelling, but with a little bit more. It is larger than most, the hip roof is flared on the eaves and has a bold modillion cornice, the central portico has large Tuscan columns and a balustrade on the roof, and the stucco is marbleized to look like ashlar. Peripherally related to the Colonial Revival structures is the house at 1301 Edmondson Avenue, a rendition of Monticello with a projecting central portico supported by four Doric columns. The portico shelters three compass headed openings. The end windows of the five-bay, one-story structure have 12-over-12 sash and the ends of the front block of the house are hexagonal. Instead of brick, however, the walls are stuccoed.
A variant of the colonial revival houses are the Dutch Colonials scattered throughout the neighborhood. Invariably 1 ½ stories and two by three bays, with a gambrel roof broken by large, shed roof dormers, they are equally divided between those with a gambrel end set facing the street and those with the ridge parallel to the street. The latter often had a central entrance, while the former have the doorway set to one end. While most are now covered with asbestos shingles or aluminum siding, there are still examples with wood shingles, weatherboards, and stucco. Some slate roofs survive, while other roofs have asphalt shingles. Like the Colonial Revival houses, the doorway gets most of the decorative attention, with sidelights, occasionally a transom, a gabled portico or a pent roof. Perhaps the most striking Dutch Colonial is at 9 Wyndcrest Avenue, which has a gable roof with a deep flaring eave that covers a side porch, has a brick chimney on the front gable end, and has the entrance bay projecting to the side, with a gabled pent roof set on brackets. Again, six-over-one sash are most common. Examples include 9, 105, 107, and 117 N. Beechwood Avenue; 111 Birdwood Avenue; 114 and 120 Osborne Avenue; 99 Smithwood Avenue; 1200 and 1504 Summit Avenue; and 5, 9, and 11 Wyndcrest Avenue.
Other examples of closely related revival styles are the English Tudor and Cotswold Cottage. There are actually few examples of the former, though as has been noted, some of the Craftsman buildings have some Tudor influence in the use of half-timbering. The best example of Tudor is probably at 3 Wyndcrest Avenue, a two-story, three-bay by three-bay stucco dwelling with a gable roof and a cross gable in the center bay that is supported on brackets. The end bay windows project above the eave line, and the segmentally arched door has leaded glass and a hood on brackets. There are more examples of the Cotswold Cottage. These are typically 1 ½ story buildings of brick, with a gable roof and a projecting bay on the front that has a gable end facing the street. The doorway is usually near the center, and there is often a prominent chimney on the front, near this doorway. Most instances in Old Catonsville do not have stone trim, one exception being that at 103 N. Beaumont Avenue, which is a stucco building with stone trim and brick sills. This house also has a projecting side wall with a doorway in it that gives access to the side and rear yard. The house type can be fairly simple, such as those at 111 N. Beaumont Avenue and 108 and 118 N. Beechwood Avenue, or rather elaborate, such as at 106 N. Beechwood Avenue. The latter uses varying eave heights, a dormer, a gabled bay, and a front chimney to give variety.
While most of the dwellings in Old Catonsville are single-family homes, there are a handful of duplexes scattered throughout the neighborhood. Two such structures are at 100 and 104 Osborne Avenue, and they are likely the earliest examples. They are 2 ½-story, four-bay by four-bay rectangular buildings in which the end bays project and have gable fronts. The two center bays have a gable on hip roof with a gabled dormer, and there is a two-bay, one-story center porch. The siding is wood shingles. There is an enclosed porch on only one side of each building. There is another pair of identical duplexes at 4A/4B and 6A/6B N. Beaumont Avenue. These are two-story, six-bay by three-bay structures of running bond brick and a hip roof with slate. There is a two-bay, one-story porch with a hip roof of slate on the front of each. Nearby, at 7A/7B N. Beaumont Avenue, is a similar duplex of running bond brick, with a hip roof of slate, but it is a four-bay by four-bay structure with a projecting stone entrance bay in the center. Several other brick duplexes in the neighborhood were built at a later date and are therefore not contributing.
There are a number of individual buildings that are unique and worthy of individual attention. One of these is the Art Deco influenced water tower or standpipe on Melvin Avenue, a large, circular building of iron-spot brick with a limestone foundation, buttresses, and cornice that has a zigzag moulding. The building has a domed roof that appears to be of metal with flat seams. At the northwest corner of the district is a one-story stone trolley passenger shelter that has a three-sided center waiting room and lower wings on each side, all with gable roofs. The other three individual structures are churches. The oldest of these, St. Mark’s Catholic Church, is a three-bay by six-bay Gothic Revival structure of random granite ashlar with limestone trim that was built in 1888. The gable roof is slate, and the stained glass windows are mostly modern. There are later porches added to the front and side that appear to be parged with concrete. Near the church, at 26 Melvin Avenue, is a Colonial Revival school building built in 1950. It is an “H”-plan structure of Flemish bond brick, with a hip roof of slate. The windows are nine-over-nine sash in singles and pairs, and the center double doors have a classical surround with fluted pilasters and a segmentally arched pediment with a carved tympanum. South of St. Mark’s is the Catonsville Methodist Church at 6 Melvin Avenue. The Community House faces the street and was built in 1924. It, too, is a Gothic Revival structure of random granite ashlar with limestone trim, and has a gable roof of slate with end parapets. It is 2 ½ stories tall on a raised basement, and nine bays by nine bays, with two projecting bays on the street front of two bays each that have gabled wall dormers. On the rear is a brick addition from 1961. The Catonsville Presbyterian Church is located at 1400 Frederick Road, and is a Flemish bond brick Colonial Revival structure with a gable roof of asphalt shingles and a portico that faces east onto N. Beechwood Avenue that is supported by six columns. The building has compass-headed windows. There is a brick bell tower with wood spire at the southwest corner of the church, and a 1 ½ story brick wing to the south of the tower that has a gambrel roof with dormers.
A large number of dwellings in the district have freestanding garages behind them, and most of these buildings are contributing structures. These buildings are typically finished in a like manner to the houses they are associated with, and though they are often less well maintained, as a result they more commonly retain their original siding and roofing materials. Roof types also typically mirror that of the dwelling. Exceptions to this tend to be where a garage was added later, though many of these structures are still historic. An example can be seen at 12 Osborne Avenue, where the house has German siding on the first story and asbestos shingles on the second story; the garage is constructed of rock-faced concrete block. Original garage doors exist in many instances, but are the one feature most likely to have been changed. One-car garages predominate, but there are numerous two-car garages, as well, and a few of the former have been expanded to house two cars. Most of these changes are of a historic character, though a few are of more recent vintage. An original three-car garage can be seen behind 7 Osborne Avenue.
There is a group of non-contributing structures in the center of the district that were constructed at one time and are virtually identical, being split-levels with partial brick veneer and a single, integral garage. They have gable roofs with asphalt shingles. These buildings are located on the north half of Wyndcrest Avenue and on Glenmore Avenue. There are also a few scattered structures throughout the neighborhood that are single-family dwellings that were constructed in the 1960’s to 1990’s, and several houses that have been drastically altered. Summary Statement of Significance:
The Old Catonsville Historic District is eligible for the National Register under Criteria C, as it embodies the distinctive characteristics of its type and period, illustrating the evolution and development of a community from summer homes to year-round suburban living in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is significant both for its community planning, which did not follow the more traditional, and better studied models, and for its architecture, which represents with good integrity the period of its development.
Resource History and Historic Context:
The village of Catonsville was reportedly founded in the early nineteenth century along the Frederick Turnpike in the midst of farms to the west of the city of Baltimore. The Ellicott brothers had created the turnpike just after the Revolution because they needed a better route to get from their mills at present-day Ellicott City to Baltimore. The Baltimore Iron Works Company had owned much of the land east of the Ellicott’s mills, where Catonsville stands, in the eighteenth century. The company leased land to farmers, tavern keepers, storeowners and artisans. The original partners in the company, Dr. Charles Carroll, Barrister, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Daniel Carroll of Duddington, Daniel Dulaney, and Benjamin Tasker, were dead by 1807, and the land was now in the hands of over 30 of their heirs. A partition of lands was sought, and surveyor Samuel Green divided the 12,000 acres into 153 lots. This sub-division was approved in April 1810, thus opening up land for sale and more intensive development. Charles Carroll of Carrollton received lots 104, 105, 153 and 61, and had Samuel Green divide the first three lots into smaller parcels, all fronting on the turnpike, which Carroll called “The Village of Catonsville,” and which he leased to others for a period of 99 years. The Catonsville land was divided into long, narrow strips paralleling the boundary lines, which were not perpendicular to the turnpike, and these division lines are preserved to this day in the angle of the north-south streets throughout Old Catonsville, which is partly located on lots 104 and 105, though none of the early village structures survive. Carroll finally deeded these lots to his son-in-law and namesake of the village, Richard Caton, in 1822. It was Caton who had actually developed the plan for the village, as Carroll had intended to give him the land from the beginning. However, it would appear that little came of this effort, and the focus of settlement shifted eastward, where Joseph P. Fusting laid out lots in 1829 around the intersection of Ingleside Avenue and Frederick Road.
The region had a large German population that was responsible for, among other things, the formation of Salem Lutheran Church in 1849 and a German congregation formed by the assistant rector at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Adolph Frost, shortly after it was founded in 1844. Both of these churches, which still stand, are located on Ingleside Avenue, and the village eventually grew up along this road and the intersection at the Frederick Turnpike, east of the original village, though the latter was also settled. J. C. Sidney’s Map of the City and County of Baltimore, of 1850, shows several buildings on the north side of the Turnpike, some of them on Caton land, and some of them on lot 103, just west of Caton’s lots, that were owned by the Patterson family and had been purchased in 1836. The Caton land was also improved with a house known as “Castle Thunder,” which has traditionally been described as Caton’s summer home. In 1851 the Chancery Court divided these lands among Caton’s four daughters. After the death of two of them, the surviving daughters divided their siblings’ land in 1865. “Castle Thunder” became the property of Emily MacTavish, the only Caton daughter who continued to live in America. The division of the property, especially after 1865, however, really seems to have opened up the area for development, as more land was sold as a result of the division.
This was a time when the whole region along the Turnpike was growing rapidly. The Baltimore Gazette noted in 1869: The Frederick turnpike . . . has, within a few years past, shown a remarkable improvement, and the indications now are that within a few years more the whole of the vacant ground between the city and a point a mile beyond Catonsville will be occupied by villas. At Catonsville the improvement has been very great, some thirty or forty houses having been erected within the past three years. Most of the improvements thus far have been made north of the turnpike . . . . H. J. Farber, a Baltimore dry goods merchant who had been born near Carlsbad, in Bavaria, in 1829, purchased one of these strips. In 1866 Farber hired Baltimore architect E. G. Lind to design a $2,000 country house that he named “Beaumont.” This house survives today as part of the Knights of Columbus Lodge. By 1877 there were several other country houses along the turnpike, but none of these survive. Thus, in the post-war period Catonsville continued to be a country village, but was also developing into a region of country estates for some of Baltimore’s wealthy merchants and industrialists. This was facilitated first by the establishment of a horse-car line on Frederick Road in 1862, the Baltimore, Catonsville & Ellicott’s Mills Passenger Railway, and then by the construction of the Catonsville Short Line Railroad in 1884. While each of these improved access between Catonsville and Baltimore seven miles away, they only did so for a select few who could afford it. As Kenneth T. Jackson has pointed out, “relative to other forms of travel in the late nineteenth century, railroad commuting was not only expensive but also time consuming.” Thus, outside of the village, Catonsville would remain a summer community for some time.
Two of these country houses were owned by men who had great influence on the development of Old Catonsville. Joseph M. Cone had a country place just west of Melvin Avenue (apparently built in 1885) and John Hubner had a permanent residence at “Beechwood,” just west of the street that takes its name from his dwelling. Cone was born in Germany c. 1836 and came to Baltimore as a young man. He was the largest builder in Baltimore in the post-Civil War era, specializing in large-scale development of blocks of rowhouses in neighborhoods at the edge of the city. He also constructed some large buildings in Baltimore. It was estimated in 1886 that in the past 13 years Cone had constructed some 700 houses in the city, at an average cost of $3,000, and had built another 30 dwellings in Baltimore County. Cone laid out, macadamized, and developed Melvin Avenue, which was named for his son, in conjunction with Frederick Rice, probably in the mid-1880’s. This was apparently the beginning of development west of Winters Lane, and it drew people from the beginning. One of the first building projects on Melvin Avenue was the Methodist Church, a Gothic Revival frame structure that stood at the northeast corner of Melvin Avenue and Frederick Road and faced onto the former. Ground was broken in 1886 and the building, designed by Benjamin Price, was completed the following year. A parsonage was added just a few years later, in 1891, and was located just north of the church sanctuary. Both buildings have disappeared.
Construction of the Methodist Church was followed very closely by the Gothic Revival St. Mark’s Catholic Church, a granite structure with red brick trim and fifteen stained glass windows. It was designed by Thomas C. Kennedy, architect of numerous Catholic churches and schools in Baltimore, and constructed by William Gerwig of Catonsville. The cornerstone was laid in October 1888 and the walls were nearly completed by December, when they were blown down in a storm. The church was completed at a cost of $12,000 and dedicated in December 1889. Periodic changes to the building were a constant, however, including an altar of Italian marble and frescoing added in 1893, and frescoes of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Joseph with the baby Jesus, and the Almighty Father with two angels added in 1905. These last frescoes were painted by Louis Costaggini, son of the late Filippo Costaggini who painted the Baltimore Cathedral and the Capital in Washington D. C. Early on, Cone constructed houses on Melvin Avenue, some of which were sold and others leased for the summer. It was noted in 1886 that Cone was building a house for Dr. Keller of Baltimore, and he completed several other dwellings that year on Melvin Avenue. At the end of the year he had hired William Gerwig to construct two more houses, and in 1889 William E. Nagle was building one for Cone and one on a lot he purchased from Cone. Unfortunately, it is not known just which houses these were on Melvin Avenue, or how long Cone retained them before selling them. The house at 14 Melvin Avenue, for instance, must have been standing when the lot was sold to William Ryan in 1890 for $2,000. It is a 2-½-story frame structure with an ell plan and an ornate porch with decorative balustrades. Similarly, Thomas P. Kavanaugh purchased the property at 101 Melvin Avenue from Frederick Rice in 1891 for $3500, which suggests that it was already improved by the shingled “T” plan house that still stands there. In the same period, Edwin J. Farber leased one of the houses owned by Cone on Melvin Avenue in 1888, and Ferdinand Suchle occupied another in the summer of 1891, not moving to Baltimore City until the following January.
Cone also sold vacant lots that were subsequently improved by the new owners. The house at 35 Melvin Avenue, an ell plan shingled structure is such an example, built by George and Lizzie Wentz c. 1892-93 on two lots that they purchased for only $200. Other houses constructed in this period include the Ida France House at 117 Melvin Avenue, a Queen Anne structure with corner turret and wrap-around porch that dates to c. 1894-95, and the John and Amelia New House at 111 Melvin Avenue, a square structure with cross gables and corner turret that was built c. 1895-96. George L. Muth built a house across from St. Mark’s Church at an early date, and added a carriage house and stable, built by William E. Nagle, in 1893. Two years later he added a tower to his house, but it was struck by lightning that same summer. Muth owned a lot across the street, which he probably sold to John C. Muth in 1898. The latter hired Nagle to build a 14-room dwelling that was 36 by 48 feet and cost about $5,000. Excavation began in November and the building was nearly complete by the following April. John Muth also strove to improve his dwelling, as only nine years after it was finished he hired Schatz Brothers to cover the entire building with shingles. Neither one of the Muth houses survives.
John Hubner was another active developer in Old Catonsville, and he seems to have employed the same strategies as Cone, building and leasing some houses, selling others, and selling vacant lots. Hubner was born in Bavaria in 1840 and emigrated with his parents to Baltimore in 1855. He was involved in numerous businesses in Baltimore, including brick making, before engaging in real estate. He moved to Catonsville in 1870 and served in the House of Delegates and State Senate off and on between c. 1880 and 1910. Hubner acquired a good portion of the western half of Old Catonsville through several transactions in the late nineteenth century, the most important being his acquisition of the property that would become his home, “Beechwood,” in 1877. Beechwood Avenue, on the east side of his estate of the same name, was the first road laid out as part of the subdivision of his property, and was locally known as Hubner Avenue for the first four or five years after its creation c. 1890. In the summer of 1893 it was noted, “shade trees have been planted along it and a gravel sidewalk made. Hedge fences will be used in front of the lots.” Long before this beautification effort, however, Hubner was engaged in building houses. In May 1890 he completed the first two, one built by Maisel & Kirn and the other by William E. Nagle. One of these houses, a square structure with a cross-gable and a wrap-around porch, stood on three acres at 100 N. Beechwood Avenue. It was purchased right after completion by Sigfried and Minnie Mitchell for $6,000, and there they ran a respectable boarding house for summer residents. The other house appears to have been retained by Hubner, so it is not clear where it was located. The creation of a boarding house was one of several strategies employed by homeowners to make productive use of their summer houses, and one of several options that summer residents had to stay in the “country.”
Records of this period are incomplete, but Hubner had two more houses under construction by William Nagle in late 1892 on Beechwood Avenue, and they were completed by March of the following year. He immediately contracted with Nagle to build two more houses on the street, though it is not clear just which houses each of these were. Charles Harris also had Nagle building a house on Beechwood Avenue, though this may have been one of Hubner’s houses, and may have been sold to Harris before it was even completed. It could also be an error in the first name, since a William and Jennie Harris bought a lot in 1894 at 4 N. Beechwood Avenue and built a house there by 1898. They may have built the house before the deed was actually executed. The cost of the property, $1275, is too low to include a large house. At this point, with the character of his development established, Hubner began selling vacant lots for others to build on. The house at 2 N. Beechwood Avenue is probably one of the first of these. The lot was purchased in early 1894, and the building apparently constructed that year. It is a long, frame, Colonial Revival structure with a projecting center bay that has a gambrel roof and a recessed porch in it on the attic story. It also has a broad front porch that projects beyond both ends of the house, but does not wrap them. It provides an interesting contrast to its neighbor at 1310 Frederick Road, which was built in the summer of 1894 by G. Herbert Rice and his wife, Mary Hubner Rice. The building they had constructed, which faces toward Frederick Road (a post-World War II rancher has been constructed in the front yard, obscuring the view) is a Queen Anne with a corner turret and a broad porch that fully wraps the front half of the house.
Hubner clearly was intent on insuring that his development was of a high caliber, because the houses he constructed were substantial. An indication of that is the large three-story Queen Anne with the open corner turret and wrap-around porches on the first and third stories located at 101 N. Beechwood Avenue. This house was standing by 1898, and must have been leased for a short period of time since it was not purchased until September 1899. Fletcher and Mary Speed paid $5,000 for the property. The house at 10 N. Beechwood Avenue also brought $5,000 when Hubner sold it to A. H. Callow in 1895. It is a frame, Homestead Ell. By the end of the century, the east side of Beechwood Avenue, south of Summit Avenue, was filled with substantial homes on large lots.
Summit Avenue was apparently a pre-existing farm lane, and Hubner obviously must have taken advantage of its existence at the same time that he was creating Beechwood Avenue, since houses bordered on it from an early date. One of these is the house at 1402 Summit Avenue, a somewhat retardataire I-house with a central gabled wall dormer. It faces south, originally toward the rear of “Beechwood,” and is clearly shown on the 1898 Bromley Atlas. It was a rental property at this time, but was sold in 1905 to Sigfried and Minnie Mitchell, the owners of a slightly earlier Hubner house at 100 N. Beechwood Avenue. Another early Summit Avenue house is that at 1301, which Lelia K. Soper, a widow, built c. 1893. She bought the vacant lot from Hubner for $500 in that year. The long sloping front gable of her house is reminiscent of several pattern book houses, including designs published by R. W. Shoppell and Palliser & Palliser, but no exact precedent has been found, and it may be a case where the published designs merely influenced a builder.
The sons of H. J. Farber of “Beaumont,” were also involved in development at this time. A road was proposed in 1892 between his “Beaumont” property and the McTavish property to the west, which still held the Caton’s “Castle Thunder.” This was completed the following year, and lots were subsequently platted. At this time Edmondson Avenue, ended to the east, where it intersected Ingleside Avenue. Another road had been constructed from Ingleside Avenue, westward, but this section began south of Edmondson Avenue on Ingleside Avenue, and had been given the name Beaumont Avenue. In 1894 it was proposed to change part of Edmondson Avenue to intersect Beaumont Avenue at Ingleside Avenue, then change the name of the Beaumont Avenue section to Edmondson Avenue for consistency. It was also intended to extend Edmondson Avenue all the way to Ellicott City. Attorney (and founder of the Catonsville Argus) Edwin J. Farber initially protested the name change, but then withdrew his opposition and instead named his new road Beaumont Avenue.
The east side of Beaumont Avenue was platted and built on first. Adolph Farber had a summer house constructed for himself by builder H. A. Nagle along here, and it was completed during the summer of 1894. Later that year William C. Farber hired Nagle to build three houses on these lots, each house costing about $5,000. These were completed in 1895, at the same time that the road was being macadamized. There were tentative plans to build one more house, but construction on Beaumont Avenue stopped for unknown reasons and would not resume for many years. The houses at 14 and 18 N. Beaumont Avenue were probably two of these houses, and were originally very similar, though the turret is now missing from 14 N. Beaumont Avenue. They are apparently two of the houses that appear on the 1898 map. The property at 18 N. Beaumont Avenue may have been a Farber family house, or could have been a rental unit. In any case, the Farber’s retained it until 1920, when they transferred the property to Otto and Johanne Stude. It remains in their family. The house at 100 N. Beaumont Avenue is probably another Farber property.
At this time there was one significant dwelling built in the neighborhood that was not connected with the major developers, Cone, Hubner, or Farber. August H. Brinkmann, president of the Baltimore Corset and Novelty Works, purchased a large lot on Summit Avenue from the McTavish trustees in October 1894 and started construction of a summer house in April of the following year. Brinkmann hired Baltimore contractor Milton C. Davis to construct the three-story, frame, Queen Anne building at a cost of $20,000. The building was ready for the roof by the middle of May 1895, and was reported to be almost complete by the end of June. No architect was listed for the building, though one, and probably one of the numerous architects in Baltimore almost certainly must have designed it. While Cone and Hubner were generally building large houses on large lots in their developments, only a few were of the scale of the country homes along Frederick Road, such as “Beechwood,” “Beaumont,” and “Cherokee.” Brinkmann’s house at 1300 Summit Avenue, however, is probably the largest ever built in Old Catonsville, and was placed on a very broad and deep lot. It is ironic that, at the very time that this portion of Catonsville was being subdivided for smaller country homes, Brinkmann chose this location to build a grand one.
While at this period Old Catonsville was still predominantly a summer community, it was also a suburb of Baltimore, albeit only a periodic one, and needed certain amenities in order to continue to develop. Kenneth T. Jackson has noted: Whether their subdivisions were large or small, real-estate specialists were more active in the city building process than anyone else. The theory that early suburbs just grew . . . is erroneous. Subdividers lobbied with municipal governments to extend city services, they pressured streetcar companies to send tracks into developing sections, and they set the property lines for the individual homes. Each city and most suburbs were created from many small real-estate developments that reflected changing market conditions and local peculiarities. In the case of Catonsville, those involved with the development did not lobby, so much as they took it upon themselves to create the needed amenities.
Fresh water was one amenity needed to make suburban development work. Wealthy owners of large country houses could often make arrangements for themselves, such as Joseph Cone did at his house on Frederick Road. As described by the Catonsville Argus: The tank for supplying the buildings of Mr. Joseph M. Cone’s with water has been placed upon the tower, which has nearly been completed by Mr. Wm. Gerwig, contractor. The tower to the top of the tank is 65 feet high, and is built of very heavy timber. In the tower rooms have been arranged for the man who is to have charge of the water supply. Above the tank has been placed an observatory, which gives quite a commanding view. The capacity of the tank is about 13,000 gallons, and the supply of water is obtained from an artesian well of over 200 feet and several others nearby. The water is forced into the tank by means of a large steam pump.
Most, however, could not avail themselves of these resources, so other means had to be provided in order for development on Melvin Avenue, and elsewhere, to take hold. Joseph Cone was the originator and president of the Catonsville Water Company, which purchased Haus’ milldam c. 1888 and pumped water from it through pipes laid along the turnpike and down present-day Edmondson Avenue (known at the time as Beaumont Avenue). The system included a reservoir at Union dam, about 2 ½ miles from Catonsville, and standpipes that were apparently on Melvin Avenue. In 1894 the company constructed a reservoir with a capacity of 6,000,000 gallons on the west side of Melvin Avenue, in the center of the block, and took down the standpipes. Some residents complained that the reservoir would have a negative impact on their neighborhood, but another opined, “The reservoir, if the present plans are to be carried out, will appear as a beautiful lake surrounded with terrace paths and sodded plats. It will be a beautiful ornament to the avenue.” When completed it was enclosed by an iron fence and had a fountain in the center. In addition to the reservoir, which was constructed by J. P. Morgan of Baltimore, a steel water tank was erected on the east side of Melvin Avenue. In very little time the reservoir began to leak on account of several muskrat holes and had to be re-puddled with clay. This was probably a recurring problem and continual maintenance demand.
Improved transportation was another amenity necessary to promote development. Kenneth Jackson has observed: The electric streetcar was vital in opening up the suburbs for the common man. . . . Sam Bass Warner, Jr., has shown that, beginning in the 1870’s, the introduction of improved street railway lines made possible a continuing outward expansion of the city by ½ to 1 ½ miles per decade. In practical terms, this meant that the outer limits of convenient commuting (by public transit as opposed to steam railroad) stood at about six miles from City Hall in 1900 as compared to two miles in 1850. That was the distance that one could reasonably be expected to traverse in one hour or less.
Since Catonsville was seven miles from downtown Baltimore, it needed a faster way to commute, as the Catonsville Argus stated in 1895: “. . . transportation by horse cars is too slow . . . . It now takes a little over two hours to make a round trip between Baltimore and Catonsville by the horse cars, while by electric cars the run could be made in about half the time. Notwithstanding this drawback Catonsville is being built up rapidly.” The newspaper was reacting in support of a proposal that had been in the works since March 1892, when John Hubner introduced a bill for the incorporation of the Edmondson Avenue, Catonsville & Ellicott City Railway, using any power but steam. The charter passed in October 1892, though it took some time to begin construction. The Catonsville Argus reported, “The electric railway is the outcome of the project of Messrs. George Yakel, Carl Schon, Victor G. Bloede and other gentlemen who owned property in the vicinity of Catonsville and rely on rapid transit as a means for developing it.” The railway company was given the right to lay a double track on Edmondson Avenue, but had to leave a 40 foot roadway, with an additional 15 feet reserved for a sidewalk. Construction began in 1895. Apparently, as a response, the horse-drawn trolley on Frederick Road was electrified the same year, with a double track containing girder rails laid down the center of Frederick Road through the village to Melvin Avenue, and a single track with T. rails along the side of the road from Melvin Avenue to the end of the line.
The construction of the rail lines was described in great detail when the work parties reached Catonsville: . . . the first thing done was the tearing up of the compact bed of the turnpike. A steam plow was used for this purpose. In the operation of this plow a portable steam engine and boiler is used. The engine is placed in the middle of the road, and its power applied to a spool of cable attached to it. One end of the cable is fastened to the plow, which is stationed a hundred feet or so from the spool. Several laborers bear down upon the plow, as it is drawn toward the engine by the revolutions of the spool as it winds up the cable. As the plow moves along, it makes narrow furrows in the solid road-bed. When the road-bed is torn up, and the macadam removed, an ordinary plow such as is used by farmers, is put into operation to plow up the soil beneath the road-bed. This plow is operated by horse-power.
Laborers shovel this soil, a kind of red clay, into carts, in which it is hauled away. The excavating completed, wooden cross-ties are laid at proper distances from each other in the trench, and upon these rails are placed. Flat rails are used for this division of the road. They are joined together by short bolts and nuts, and are then spiked to the cross-ties. Coarse sand is then dumped into the trenches, and cobblestones distributed along the line. A gang of cobblestone pavers is then put to work. The space between the rails and between the two tracks, and a narrow space outside the tracks, are paved with these stones. The whole is then covered over with a thick layer of course sand, which covers up rails and pavement, giving the turnpike surface the appearance of a new, smooth roadway. The road will remain in this condition until the whole line is finished and everything is in readiness to start the electric cars over the new railway. The sand will then be swept from the tracks. Construction of the line provided quite a spectacle for residents of Catonsville during the summer of 1895. The Catonsville Argus noted that “crowds of small children, men and women gathered about the sidewalks and lounged on the grass, watching the progress of the work. The centre of attraction was the large iron plow used to cut up the pike. Eight large colored men were employed to hold this plow in the ground while the engine did the pulling. Frequently the plow struck a large boulder in its course and then all eight men were pitched up into the air. Every time this happened the crowd of onlookers applauded.” The impact was not all positive. In constructing the line the railway company had to cut through one of the terraces in front of the Farber house. Mrs. Farber must not have been too pleased with the trolley, as she began construction of a stone wall along the front of her property in 1896. The railway tried to prevent it, as they felt it was too close to their tracks. The wall was completed later that year, but whether it was moved back or not is not recorded.
The Catonsville Argus noticed a profound change in the neighborhood by the spring of 1897.
With all the advantages that the steam railroad has conferred on the town, it has been of little, if any, advantage to the large property holdings which lie along the Frederick road and Catonsville and city. The horse railway was kept in operation, but it was far too slow to have effect in suburb building. But now, with the advent of electricity, all this is changed. In the past twenty-five years many of the owners of large tracts along the Frederick road and around Catonsville have passed away, and slowly but surely the property has been coming into the market. But so long as the property was not easy of access prices remained low and investors found the development of good property very difficult and slow. The City and Suburban’s electric line has been completed but a year, and already its effect on Catonsville and the nearby section can be seen. Property which has been on the market for a long time has lately been sold, and negotiations for other tracts are in progress. The indications now are that within a few years nearly every acre of land along the Frederick road and Edmondson avenue east of Catonsville will pass into the hands of new owners, and be cut up into building lots of fair size, and within reach of people of moderate means.
While development did not proceed quite as quickly as the newspaper predicted, as will be noted below, the author was not far off the mark. Incentive to development was furthered, too, when the Edmondson Avenue electric railway was finally completed in 1899. Again, the Catonsville Argus recognized its impact in 1904, when they noted that it “. . . has been a boom to property on Edmondson avenue as no less than a score of houses have been erected since its inception, five years ago.” The process that was taking place in Catonsville was not unique. As Kenneth Jackson has noted, “The pattern was as follows. First, streetcar lines were built out to existing villages . . . . These areas subsequently developed into large communities. Second, the tracks actually created residential neighborhoods where none had existed before.”
There were several builders living in Catonsville in this period who were responsible for most of the construction in the area, and most of them were German. William Gerwig, who built St. Mark’s Church, was born in Baltimore in 1835 and worked for Peter F. Haus, a Catonsville contractor, before going into business for him self in 1861. He advertised himself as an architect and builder at least as early as 1882, though it is not known what buildings he may have designed. Before his death in 1905 from Bright’s disease his son, John H. Gerwig, was assisting him in his business. His brother, George Gerwig, was born in 1840 and was a carpenter and builder at one time, as well, and may have been active in Catonsville before moving to Howard County. The Nagle family was also very active in building in Catonsville. James F. Nagle, a contractor and builder, advertised in 1888: “Plans and estimates furnished on application,” and William E. Nagle similarly advertised the following year: “plans & estimates cheerfully furnished.” In 1895 builder H. A. Nagle himself advertised “plans furnished for buildings and bridges at shortest notice.” Andrew Maisel and Jacob Kirn formed a partnership from 1884 to 1890 as builders in Catonsville. Maisel was born in Bavaria in 1838 and came to the United States at age 14, moving to Catonsville several years later where he learned his trade. When his firm dissolved he took in his son, William, who continued to act as a builder and contractor after Andrew Maisel died in 1898. Kirn continued to work in Catonsville, but later moved to Ellicott City, and much of his later business seems to have been in Howard County. H. H Mohr also advertised himself as a carpenter and builder in 1895, and offered “drawings for all work solicited.” He is rarely mentioned in connection with buildings in Catonsville, however, so less is known of him.
Other building trades were represented in Catonsville, including S. W. Owens & Son, plain and ornamental plasterers, and George Schaub, painter and glazer, who were active in 1889. Building materials were available from two firms at this time, O. B. Knight and John S. Wilson & Leonard A. Poehlmann (trading as Wilson & Poehlmann). The latter had a siding from the Catonsville Short Line Railroad that made shipment of large quantities of materials from Baltimore cheap, quick and easy. They could also provide much material themselves after constructing a woodworking mill run by a 30 horsepower gasoline engine in 1896. Carpenters and painters were working a ten-hour day, which led them to complain in 1891 since stonemasons and plasterers were only working a nine-hour day. What became of this situation is unknown, but no one in the building trades in Catonsville could complain about the amount of work. In describing a building boom in 1895, the Catonsville Argus noted: “Contracts let today figured from 15 to 20 per cent below what the same houses would have cost two years ago. Lumber is about 20 per cent cheaper, sash and doors can be bought from 25 to 30 per cent cheaper, and other material has declined in price. Brick alone has recently advanced a little, but not enough to offset the low price of other material.” This boom seems to have continued until 1904, when the Catonsville Argus reported that “building operations in Catonsville are at a standstill and mechanics generally are seeking places of employment in the city. Such a depression in building has not been known in Catonsville for a great many years.” Only one house was under contract that summer. This was probably the result of the Baltimore fire, as businessmen were struggling, both financially and logistically, to rebuild their places of employment. There were brief cessations of building activity reported in Catonsville, in the summer of 1897 and, more seriously, in the spring and summer of 1900, but these seem to qualify as standstills in comparison to the phenomenal growth of other times.
The history of 1201 Summit Avenue, though incomplete, illustrates the difficulty of understanding patterns of development and residency in the early history of Old Catonsville. In 1902 Hubner sold a lot to his daughter, Grace Hubner Enders, wife of Rev. Martin L. Enders, pastor of Salem Lutheran Church. In 1905 there was a building standing in the vicinity, which the Enders rented to Robert A. Krieger of Baltimore for the summer, while the Enders moved in with the Hubner’s. Later that same summer, Enders began construction of a new home next to his residence. Perhaps, renting out their home was a way to raise extra money for the construction of their new dwelling. This building has an “L” plan with a porch across the entire front, but little in the way of stylistic touches. What became of the earlier Enders residence is unknown. Nor is it clear how long the Enders lived in their new home, as when they sold it in 1919, they had moved out to Allegheny County.
Between 1898 and 1910 new construction continued to fill in empty lots on Melvin Avenue, the east side of Beaumont Avenue, and on Beechwood Avenue. With the death of Joseph Cone in 1905, development on Melvin Avenue passed to H. Clay Suter, who had lived on Melvin since the early 1890’s and had built at least one other house that was presumably a summer rental cottage. Suter lived just south of the reservoir, and in 1906 he contracted with builder Jacob Kirn to construct two houses on the east side of Melvin Avenue, opposite the reservoir. At the same time he sold a house on the west side that had been a rental property, perhaps to raise funds for his new development activity. In 1909 Suter hired John H. Gerwig to build a two-story frame house on the east side of Melvin. Much of the development on Melvin Avenue was occurring on the east side at this time. Builder Asa Fargo was busy constructing houses on that side for Harry G. Calvert and Clarence E. Griffin in late 1907 and early 1908. On the west side of Melvin Avenue George L. Golder hired John Hiltz & Sons, builders, to construct a two-story house estimated to cost $7,000 in 1910. The exact location of most of these houses is as yet unknown.
One of the most significant houses on Melvin Avenue was built in this period for Mamie Stiefel, a widow. She originally purchased a lot further north on Melvin in the summer of 1907 and hired architect William H. Ehlers to design her new house. In October she purchased the lot at 13 Melvin Avenue with the intention of building, but in early 1908 she bought a rented bungalow on Melvin, which she planned to move in to. This was probably meant as an interim dwelling while her large, shingled Colonial Revival house was being constructed. No other mention was made of the new house, but it was definitely standing by 1915. Presumably, Ehlers’ earlier design was used, and its configuration may have prompted Stiefel to find a more appropriate lot. Ehlers was a partner in the Washington architectural firm of Ehlers & Wagner, but he lived on Newburg Avenue in Catonsville at this time, until building a new house somewhere on Beaumont Avenue in 1908. He was active in designing houses in the Catonsville area in this period, as will be seen, and also designed the Catonsville High School on Frederick Road in 1909. Stiefel sold her house to Baltimore architect George R. Callis, Jr. in 1918 and he remained there until foreclosed upon in 1937.
There are several notable houses of this period on Beechwood Avenue. Mary H. Rice, daughter of John Hubner, and her husband, G. Herbert Rice, a Baltimore County School Commissioner, sold their house on Frederick Road in early 1899, and it was not until 1904 that they acquired the lot at 11 N. Beechwood Avenue, at what was the northeast corner of Hubner’s “Beechwood” property. However, it is certainly possible that Hubner or Rice built the house as early as late 1898, or 1899, and it was certainly standing when Mary Rice died in 1904. The Rice’s new house was a large Queen Anne with a corner turret, wrap-around porch, and numerous bays on the sides. This was the only house to grace the west side of Beechwood Avenue until Hubner finally sold his home c. 1919, opening that parcel up to development. Other parts of Beechwood Avenue received some fine houses in the first decade of the twentieth century, however. Dr. Godfrey Grempler purchased the lot at the southeast corner of Beechwood and Edmondson (128 N. Beechwood) from Hubner in late 1904 and the following year local builder L. R. Servary was constructing a new house for him. The Grempler house marks a transition between the Queen Anne and foursquare, being a square house with corner turrets on both sides of the second story front.
When William and Maria Blake purchased their lot at 113 N. Beechwood Avenue from Hubner in 1908 their contractor, William Espey, had already nearly completed the house. Unlike some houses, which Hubner started and then sold before completion, the Blake’s had planned their house from the beginning. They built a 1 ½ story Craftsman cottage. Hubner did continue to build houses himself, too, through this period. One of the earliest was probably the house at 121 N. Beechwood Avenue, on the corner opposite Dr. Grempler. This is another Queen Anne with a wrap-around porch and corner turret, and a projecting gable end above a bank of windows in the attic. This house was sold to James and Margaret McDonough in 1907 for $6500, but it could have been built anytime after 1898, when the lot was vacant. Corner lots such as this tended to be popular, and thus built on first. Hubner hired Frederick J. Maisel to build a structure just south of the Blake house in 1906 that was sold to Henry Fauth before it was completed. Fauth was apparently buying it as a full-time retirement home, not a summer cottage, as he was retiring as gardener and manager of B. N. Baker’s “Ingleside” after nearly 50 years.
Sigfried and Minnie Mitchell, who owned the house at 100 N. Beechwood Avenue until 1905, seem to have gone into development in Old Catonsville at this time. They were originally planning to construct a new house next to their residence, but instead sold their house and land to the Brinkmann’s, and changed their plans to building a house on Beechwood, next to F. B. Speed’s house on the corner. Henry Nagle was hired to construct the building, which was apparently finished the following January, but in the meantime the Mitchell’s had moved to 1402 Summit Avenue, which they had purchased from John Hubner. The Mitchell family apparently lived there, and must have sold the new house. One suspects that the arrangement proved beneficial, because in the summer of 1906 Sigfried Mitchell constructed two more houses on Beaumont Avenue, near Summit Avenue. For these he hired contractor George P. Harman of Elkridge. The exact location of these houses, and their character, is as yet unknown, and it is not clear whether Sigfried Mitchell built any more houses in the neighborhood.
One of the most significant buildings in Old Catonsville was constructed in this period at 1301 Edmondson Avenue, partly on land that belonged to the Brinkmann family, and partly on land purchased by them in 1906 from the MacTavish trustees. The Brinkmann’s hired noted Baltimore architects Wyatt & Nolting to design what was called at the time a concrete bungalow. Gladfelder & Chambers constructed the building, but nothing else is known of it. The main block of the house, with a projecting pedimented portico and octagonal ends, seems to be loosely drawn from Monticello. With one large country home in the area, it seems likely that this house was constructed for one of the Brinkmann’s children, most likely Walter Brinkmann, who owned the property from 1921 until 1948. It remains in the Brinkmann family. The major new development in this period occurred on the McTavish land, now opened up by Beaumont Avenue. In addition, Osborne and Wyndcrest Avenues were created on this land, between Frederick Road and Summit Avenue, and lots were platted and sold here and on the west side of Beaumont Avenue. One map calls this area Beaumont Heights, but it seems the name did not take. John Hubner purchased 32 acres of this land south of Summit Avenue, including the house “Castle Thunder,” in 1896, at which time it was noted: “A broad avenue will be cut through the centre of the property, which will be beautified by the planting of handsome shade trees.” Hubner intended to demolish the old house and build houses here, but by 1898 the road had still not been created. Perhaps with so many lots already available in Old Catonsville, and other developments occurring in the neighborhood, some of them being led by Hubner himself, the time was not ripe to open up another development. It could also be that Hubner only purchased a partial interest in the property, since it was reported in January 1907 that Hubner bought “Castle Thunder” and 12 acres, with the intention of demolishing the old house and building a hotel on the site. It may have taken him longer than anticipated to deal with all the heirs.
“Castle Thunder” was already considered a historic site for Catonsville, being one of the oldest buildings in the area and having connections to Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Richard Caton, and General Winfield Scott, who spent much time here visiting his daughter and her husband, Charles Carroll MacTavish. Hubner decided against the hotel, and there was brief consideration of putting the new high school on this site, but Hubner reportedly found a clause in the title preventing the use of the land for public purposes. (Ironically, the site is now occupied by the public library.) Instead, Hubner now decided to put a road through from Frederick Road to Summit Avenue, which was accomplished in the spring. Other roads were contemplated, and eventually one was built. Apparently, Osborne Avenue was laid out first, with Wyndcrest Avenue following shortly afterward. In the summer of 1907 Hubner took the grand tour of Europe, visiting many historic cities, including Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, and Amsterdam. It was reported that Hubner “. . . was greatly interested in scenes in Holland, with its ancient buildings, which are extremely handsome.” Yet, struck by cultural myopathy, Hubner returned from Europe to demolish “Castle Thunder” in the fall. The land was divided into several building lots.
One of these new “Castle Thunder” lots on Frederick Road was purchased by Dr. J. K. Cullen in 1907, and Cullen hired William H. Ehlers to design a new house. Schatz Brothers constructed it for about $4,500, but it apparently does not survive. While Hubner sold some of these lots to individuals, he was responsible for many of the houses on Osborne Avenue. Hubner hired Frederick Maisel, Jr. to build a $5,000 house along Frederick Road first, in 1907, then by the end of March of the following year had four houses done on Osborne, two of which had already sold, and was planning several more. Maisel was completing another near these in the fall of 1908, and there were plans to start three more. All of these houses cost in the range of $5,000 to $7,000. Two new houses were started on the east side of Osborne Avenue in October, one constructed by Maisel and the other by William Espey. Because Hubner was responsible for all of these, and the records are very vague, it is not clear which houses were built by whom, and when. At the same time, Osborne Avenue was macadamized and cement walks were laid on both sides. One of these houses is the Queen Anne at 1200 Frederick Road (formerly 1 Osborne Avenue). This house was certainly standing by 1910, and may have been constructed by Hubner as early as 1907, but he retained possession of it until 1913, when it was sold to Ferdinand and Louise Hahn. Numerous other houses were built by individuals, especially on lots north of Summit Avenue. Lots on the west side of Beaumont Avenue were being offered for sale by the Carroll-MacTavish trustees c. 1908-1910. Architect William Ehlers built his house on the west side of Beaumont in 1908, hiring Schatz Brothers to do the work. Herman Boehm hired John H. Gerwig to construct a 2 ½ story frame house on the west side of Beaumont, near Edmondson Avenue, late in 1908. At the same time, Arthur H. Isaacs, a resident of Elkridge, bought a lot on the west side of Beaumont Avenue from Hubner and hired George Harman, and Elkridge builder, to construct the two-story frame house. Harman was also responsible for building William Winkleman, Jr.’s $4,000 house on Osborne Avenue in 1909. This was one of the first houses in the Old Catonsville district to have foundations of concrete blocks. Peter Dressler & Son, Catonsville masons who were probably responsible for most foundations in the neighborhood, made the concrete blocks themselves, which were set on concrete footings.
James and Alice Haynes purchased the lot at 115 N. Beaumont Avenue in 1909 and apparently began construction of their house immediately. It is a large, early version of a foursquare, with shingled walls and a hip roof covered in slate. The house is apparently still in the family, being owned by the Haynes’ grandson. In the summer of 1909 another unique house was under construction. Arthur and Elizabeth Baer bought the lot at 10 Osborne Avenue from John Hubner in January of that year and hired contractor I. S. Getchell to build their three-story, shingled frame house with the double gable on the front that was probably inspired by the house of the seven gables or other seventeenth century colonial American buildings. The interior was done in red oak, and it was noted that “the plan of the cottage is so different from the prevailing style of architecture that it at once attracts attention and admiration.” There were several other significant houses going up at the same time. Nicholas and Nellie Lang purchased a three one hundred foot lots along the west side of Beaumont Avenue and hired William Ehlers to design their Colonial Revival house at 107 Beaumont. The house is actually not located on these lots, but on two of the three lots that the Langs purchased in 1910 from the trustees. How this happened is not clear, yet there are records that the Langs were building a substantial house in 1909, and the only house shown standing in 1915 on these lots is their large house at 107. This was a 2 ½ story frame house, 44 by 34 feet, with porches, slate roof, shingled walls with “heavy trim,” parquet floors and hardwood trim on the interior. Schatz Brothers constructed the house at a cost of around $8,000. It was equipped with both gas and electric lights, had hot water heat, and had a laundry in the basement. Today, the house has a smooth stucco finish painted a faux marble ashlar. This finish can be found on at least one other house in Catonsville, and is of unknown, but early, date.
Another very important house, architecturally speaking, for Old Catonsville, was constructed in the summer of 1909 at 117 N. Beaumont Avenue. The lot was purchased that year from the trustees of the Caton-MacTavish estate, with restrictions placed on it that the house built must cost at least $2500, must be set back from the road at least 50 feet, and that only one dwelling could be built on the lot. Auguste Gieske was the purchaser. She was the widow of Gustav Gieske, a native of Oldenburg, Germany and a Baltimore tobacco dealer who owned a large country house, “Waldeck,” on Edmondson Avenue (now Sterling Ashton Funeral Home). Gustav Gieske died in 1906, at age 71, and his widow retained their summer home for herself. This new property was for a son, Hardy C. Gieske, who had gone into the family tobacco firm. Walter M. Gieske, another son, designed the house. Walter Gieske was born in Catonsville in 1883 and was educated at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University’s engineering department. He left the latter in his sophomore year and went to work for the Bartlett & Hayward Company in Baltimore, and later the T. H. Symington Company, where he worked as an assistant mechanical engineer. In 1908 he began the practice of architecture on his own, seemingly having had little training for it, as his emphasis had always been engineering. His first known work actually came several years earlier, in 1906, when he designed a house for another brother, Alfred W. Gieske, on Edmondson Avenue, near “Waldeck.”
Perhaps it was this early experience that influenced him to set off into the field of architecture. In any case, though his office was in Baltimore, Walter Gieske designed numerous buildings throughout Catonsville, including the High School and German Orphan Asylum. Hardy Gieske’s house, like others of the period in the neighborhood, had hot water heat, both electricity and gas lighting, and indoor plumbing. As described in 1909, “the foundation will be of brick, laid in cement, and the exterior will be of stucco from the first to the second floor, with shingles, stucco and English half timber from the second-floor line to the roof, which will also be shingled. The interior will be finished in mission design.” Though both Gieskes must have been well acquainted with the builders in Catonsville, they did not choose one of them, instead hiring Andrew Knell. Perhaps the unique mission details were something that the average Catonsville builder could not execute competently. Regardless, the house was completed by the end of the year, but Hardy Gieske spent the winter in North Carolina for health reasons, and the house was rented. Walter Gieske and his wife Clara eventually bought the house from his mother in 1919, and he died there of pneumonia in 1926, at age 42.
At the same time that he was working on his brother’s house, Gieske designed a dwelling for Arthur C. Montell, cashier at the First National Bank in Catonsville, at Beaumont Avenue and Frederick Road, on the site of “Castle Thunder.” It was a 2 ½ story frame building with shingled exterior, slate roof, and porches. Henry A. Nagle was the builder, and as with most building projects, a small, makeshift carpenter shop was moved or erected on the property. These buildings are rarely noticed, except for instances such as this when thieves broke into the shop and stole all the tools of James Floyd, a carpenter working for Nagle. The shop, of course, was removed when the house was completed. The house, unfortunately, disappeared later, as the public library was constructed on this site in 1962. Two sisters, Esther and Eliza Hardy, purchased a lot at 17 N. Beaumont Avenue in the summer of 1909 and hired Schatz Brothers to construct a 2-½-story frame house for $6,000. The building, a large square structure with a hip roof of slate, a gabled wall dormer, and a wrap-around porch, seems to be one of many that was moving toward what has come to be known as the foursquare house. It was not completed until the following spring. From its earliest inception as a subdivision, Old Catonsville houses and lots were often owned by women, some of whom were widowed and a few of whom were single, but many of these women were married. In a few cases, such as some buildings sold by John Hubner, the reason may be that property was transferred to daughters. In many cases, however, it was probably a means of protecting the family from loosing their home if the husband landed in business trouble.
The last section of the MacTavish land to be developed seems to have been Wyndcrest Avenue. John Hubner bought this portion of MacTavish land in 1896 and sold a portion of it along Frederick Road to Catherine Paine in 1899. Hubner usually sold his lots in fee simple, as did most other developers in Old Catonsville, but in this case Hubner created a lease with a $150 a year ground rent. The Catonsville Argus reported that a Mrs. Annie Paine, actually believed to be Catherine Paine’s single daughter, was building a three-story frame house in late 1898 that is probably the large shingled house at 7 Wyndcrest Avenue. The house originally faced south toward Frederick Road, which makes it seem odd now when one views it from the side, and it has had some additions and alterations over time. Occasionally, houses were constructed after the sale of the land but before the deed was executed legally transferring the land. Anna C. Paine eventually acquired the house, and owned it until 1929. The earliest documented instance of development on Wyndcrest Avenue was by Mrs. A. M. Kerr, who owned the summer house “Cherokee,” where Hillcrest Elementary School is now located. In 1905 she was responsible for building three cottages on the new road. Most (and probably all) of the lots on the west side of the street were created by the homeowners living on the east side of Beechwood, as their lots ran all the way to where Wyndcrest was laid out. This was the case with William and Jennie Harris, who lived at 4 N. Beechwood Avenue since c. 1894. They added some additional land in 1906 and in September 1908 began constructing a house. It is assumed that they built the rubble stone, gambrel-roofed bungalow at 20 Wyndcrest Avenue at this time. This building has the gambrel end set facing the street, with a small porch under one front corner of the building. It has very strong similarities to Radford American Homes Design No. 121, illustrated as early as 1903, and to Sears’ Design No. 122, though the latter building was apparently first offered in 1911. The dark rubble stone of the Catonsville example gives the house a stronger Craftsman feel and more character than can be seen in the illustrations. Since the Harris’s retained their Beechwood Avenue house until they died and the Wyndcrest Avenue house until 1946, the latter must have been built for rental purposes, perhaps originally only for summer guests and then later year-round. Another house of note from this period, on the east side of Wyndcrest Avenue, the exact location of which is unknown, was constructed in 1909 by builder I. S. Getchell, apparently as his own residence.
The land which Smithwood and Rosewood Avenues cuts through was part of the “Cherokee” property originally, and was acquired by James Caines in 1888. Caines was apparently using an existing house, possibly a tenant house, which was located behind “Cherokee” as his summer home. This building, called “Attic” in 1898, still stands at 105 Rosewood Avenue but has been much altered over the years. One reason for the changes was undoubtedly that the house originally faced south toward “Cherokee” and the Frederick Road, but it was desirable to change the orientation after Rosewood Avenue was created. Around 1908, after the death of Caines, the property was sold, with the Porter family (whose activity will be seen further, below) apparently acquiring the land on the west side of present-day Smithwood Avenue and John Hubner purchasing the remainder to the east about 1914. Development on Smithwood Avenue began at the end of this period. John H. Gerwig was building a house for Richard Bockmiller in 1908, and the following year contractor H. C. Waldvogel was erecting a two-story frame house on the east side, near Edmondson Avenue, on his own account. In 1910 builder Walter Grady constructed the 2 ½ story, frame, Charles Porter house, and contractor William Espey constructed a two-story house for Charles W. Davis. Unfortunately, the exact location of these buildings is not known at this time.
Building in Catonsville seems to have gone slack in 1910, perhaps because the Ten Hills subdivision opened up to development that year. It may have attracted many homebuilders because it was further east, and thus closer to Baltimore than Catonsville. In any case, a number of houses were under construction there, most of them architect designed. Construction in Old Catonsville rebounded some, but never seems to have equaled it’s earlier pace, judging from the available maps (few Catonsville newspapers survive from this period, unfortunately). The Brinkmann family was likely responsible for the construction of 104 N. Beaumont Avenue c. 1911-12, an early square house with a porch that wraps around one side and an octagonal turret attached to one rear corner. Whether this house was intended for A. Helmuth Brinkmann, or was merely a rental property, is not known. Builder or developer J. Dell Porter, of Catonsville, purchased the lot at 100 Smithwood Avenue in October 1911, and likely constructed the hip-roofed one-story bungalow with front portico shortly afterward. This was a rental property, as when it sold in 1919 the occupants, Cecil and Amanda Teal, held a lease with an option to buy. For unknown reasons they did not purchase it. The house has marked similarities to one illustrated in the Bennett Homes catalogue, the “Monroe,” but that example dates to 1927. It is not known at this time whether there was an earlier precedent, from that or another company, that may have influenced both houses. In 1913 Leonard W. Porter, another builder or developer (and probably a relative of J. Dell Porter), purchased the lot at 120 Smithwood Avenue and probably constructed the large bungalow there the same year. Porter retained this house until 1946, and, one suspects, may have lived here. The lot at 9 Osborne Avenue was purchased in 1913 by George and John Schatz, builders trading as Schatz Brothers, “. . . upon the express condition that there shall not be maintained upon said lot more than one dwelling house and appropriate outbuildings, no stable to be erected and that said dwelling house shall be erected and maintained on the line of the houses heretofore erected on the lots on the west side of Osborne Avenue . . . and cost not less than forty five hundred ($4500.00) dollars.” The following year they sold the parcel to Delma Wilson, wife of Joseph Wilson, presumably having constructed the large, two-story rectangular house with hipped roof, paired bay windows on the front of both stories, and wrap-around porch. The building seems to be a cross between a Colonial Revival and a foursquare. At the same time, William and Lauretta Pierson purchased the lot at 16 Osborne Avenue from John Hubner. Since Hubner was building some houses, one cannot determine whether this house was standing when he sold the property or whether the Pierson’s built it, but the stuccoed Colonial Revival probably had not been finished too long prior to 1913.
Rosewood Avenue existed by 1915, but no buildings were constructed along it. Development apparently started the following year at the intersection of Rosewood and Summit Avenues. There is a group of over half a dozen nearly identical houses at this location, some of them a mirror image in plan of the others. They are slightly rectangular, 2 ½ story frame Colonial Revival dwellings with a porch that wraps around one side and a three-sided bay window above the entrance. These houses have affinities to foursquares, and are unique in the neighborhood, suggesting that the same person must have built them. John Hubner is the obvious candidate, since he purchased the land in 1914 at public auction. All of these houses were standing by 1925, as were most of the houses on Rosewood Avenue. The lot at 1500 Summit Avenue, which contains one of this group of identical dwellings, was purchased from Hubner by Arthur and Elsie Wood in 1916, and was sold by their heirs in 1960. One can only surmise that the house was standing at the time, as no records have as yet been found to indicate this.
In 1913 Schatz Brothers bought the lot at 6 Osborne Avenue from John Hubner, with the same restrictions on it as on the property at 9 Osborne Avenue. Two years later the lot was still vacant, no doubt because the Schatz’s were looking for a homebuilder. They found them in Albert and Sallie Robins, and the lot was sold in May 1918. The house, a vaguely Colonial Revival frame structure with touches of Craftsman influence in the second story central bay window, shows up on the 1919 map. John Hubner began to subdivide his own “Beechwood” estate in 1919. Up to this point, the only other house on the property, along the west side of the road, was that of his daughter and son-in-law, the Rice’s. In May of 1919 Hubner sold the lot at 3 N. Beechwood Avenue to Aubrey and Viola Blacklock. The house was probably constructed that summer, and was definitely standing by 1925. It, too, is a Colonial Revival, and has a projecting pedimented center bay with a recessed entrance in it, making it a little beyond the stock builder’s Colonial of the period. The house remained in the family until at least 1986.
Development on the east side of Beaumont Avenue was tied up in court while the estate of Henry J. Farber was being settled after the death of his widow, Annie. Settlement was finally accomplished in 1918, and the property was offered for sale in pieces beginning then. This enabled, for example, Otto Stude to purchase 18 Beaumont, which the Farber’s had built in 1895. It also resulted in an eclectic streetscape, as there was twenty-five years between building episodes here, and a number of bungalows were built at this time. That at 12 N. Beaumont Avenue is a unique structure, being basically a rectangle, but with a gable front to one side that creates the impression of having an “L” plan. To the other side is the broad porch typical of this house type. William and Isabel Stuart, from Canton, Ohio, purchased the lot in April 1921, but were already making plans for the house before they had title to the property. They hired architect Walter Gieske to design a ten room frame house to cost $15,000, and hired Schatz Brothers to construct it. Contemporaries also called the building a bungalow. William Stuart died shortly after this, and his widow sold the house in 1923. A more traditional bungalow was built around this time at 102 N. Beaumont Avenue. The lot was acquired from the Farber’s in 1918 by Henry C. Bertram, then sold to George Leffert in 1922, so it is not known which owner was responsible for the construction of the house, or exactly when it went up, but it was standing by 1925.
While much of Melvin Avenue had been developed during Joseph Cone’s lifetime, and a number of scattered lots built on shortly afterward, there was a long strip of vacant land on the east side of the road, at Edmondson Avenue, that remained unimproved. Builder M. Filmore Carter purchased it from the estate of the late owner in November 1916, but did not get around to building on it until 1920. He divided the parcel into eleven small lots, both narrower and shallower than the other lots on Melvin Avenue, and constructed virtually identical small bungalows on each one. Each house had a concrete block foundation, at this point a rather unique feature in Old Catonsville. The blocks were furnished by John A. Dressler, a local mason responsible for most of the masonry in the neighborhood. The houses were frame, and each one was to cost $5,500. They were sold as he completed them, and another was then begun. The purchasers came from nearby Relay, Baltimore City, the Eastern Shore, and even Boston.
Meanwhile, builder J. Dell Porter was improving some of the late John Hubner’s lots on Rosewood Avenue with bungalows, but each of these was more unique. It was noted in May 1920 that Porter had just sold one he had completed and had permits to build three more. One of these had been started by May. Each of these buildings was reported to have cost $4500, $1000 less than what Carter was charging, but the streetscape on Rosewood Avenue was decidedly more varied. In April of the following year Porter had two bungalows under construction and was beginning a third. The latter could have been the house at 119 Rosewood Avenue, which Porter purchased the lot for in April 1920, though the deed was not executed until a year later. He sold the finished house to Elbert and Rebecca Chittum in September. This dwelling would barely qualify as a bungalow, being close to the Cape Cod form that would start to become popular later in the decade. Though 1-½ stories, the gable end is turned toward the street and the appended front porch, hardly an integral part of the design, is reduced to covering only the front door. The house derives its distinctiveness from the alternating courses of wide and narrow shingles on the walls. At the same time, Leonard Porter was also building bungalows on Rosewood Avenue.
Osborne Avenue was originally platted to continue straight across Summit Avenue to Edmondson Avenue. The Schatz brothers owned most of this land, but this arrangement did not provide for large enough lots on the west side of the road. They apparently could not expand to the west, since the Brinkmann family controlled that land, so instead, they moved the road to the east, enabling them to get houses on both sides. This was done in 1920, and Schatz Brothers hired Walter Gieske to design three houses for them to build on Osborne Avenue. One of these buildings was a 1-½ story frame structure and another was a two-story frame dwelling, both to cost $4500. One of the first residents of the new street was J. D. Taylor, who was to move there from Asheville, North Carolina. Sales were apparently brisk; at least one more house was constructed in 1920, and in early 1921 there were three houses under construction that had already been sold and two more houses that had been started. Whether Gieske was continuing to design these houses for the Schatz Brothers is not known, but he bought one of them, though not as a dwelling for himself. Most of the lots were filled by 1925, with only a few near Summit Avenue still open. By this time, if not sooner, Schatz Brothers had evolved from merely building houses to full-scale real estate development.
There were already plans for three houses on the vacant lots on the east side of Osborne Avenue, with the southernmost lot still empty. These plans changed for unknown reasons, and instead Schatz Brothers built two similar duplexes on the two southernmost lots. That at 100 Osborne Avenue has had the least alteration. It is a 2-½ story, four bay frame structure that had doorways in the two center bays. One of these doorways has been converted to a window. A one-story porch covers both openings. The end bays project forward slightly and have gable fronts. Schatz Brothers, like John Hubner, Joseph Cone, and others before them, retained some buildings as rental property, and these duplexes were one such instance. The Schatz family sold them in 1973. Their significance, however, lies in the fact that they are the first in a new trend of dwelling that began to emerge in Old Catonsville. There had already been boarding houses in the neighborhood, as was noted earlier, but these were for summer guests of short duration. This was bound to change, however, as the neighborhood gradually changed from one of primarily summer homes to one that was predominantly year-round. The Brinkmann House at 1300 Summit Avenue had already been converted to apartments by 1925, and now multi-family housing was being introduced. Several other duplexes were constructed across the street at a later, but as yet unknown, date, and several were added on other streets in the neighborhood. Their size, scale, and materials are in keeping with the rest of the houses in Old Catonsville, and there were not a lot of them that were constructed.
The eclectic revivals that began to become popular in American suburbs in the 1920’s began to be introduced into Old Catonsville, as well. Colonial Revival houses have already been mentioned, and closely related to these were the Dutch Colonials. There are a variety of examples, most dating from the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as those at 9, 105, and 107 N. Beechwood Avenue. The other popular style was the English Cotswold cottage. Anna Paine built an example of one about 1929 at the south end of her lot, at 3 Wyndcrest Avenue, and subsequently sold her earlier house at 7 Wyndcrest Avenue. The stucco house employs a varied, broken roofline, primarily through the use of dormers, and projecting square bay windows. Five years later Harry and Catherine Leffert bought the lot at 103 N. Beaumont Avenue and built another example. Also of stucco, this house uses some stone for decorative effect, has a prominent chimney in the center of the façade, next to the entrance, and has a projecting side to the front wall with an opening that leads to the rear of the house. Many of these features can be seen on other examples, most of which are built of brick and probably date somewhat later, such as at 104 to 108 N. Beechwood Avenue.
In early 1920 the congregation of Catonsville Presbyterian Church, then located much further east on Frederick Road, hired Baltimore architect and Catonsville resident William Gordon Beecher to design a new building, and purchased the “Beechwood” property of John Hubner on which to construct it. Beecher was a member of the firm of Beecher, Friz, and Gregg, most known for their automobile showroom at Charles Street and Mt. Royal Avenue in Baltimore. Plans were completed in June for a $100,000 Georgian colonial structure to contain Sunday school rooms and a community building with a swimming pool, gymnasium and game rooms. This building was to be 50 by 100 feet, and to have a tower 125 feet high. The project was apparently designed in two phases, with the sanctuary conceived as the second phase. John Hiltz & Sons contracted for the first phase and ground was broken in April 1921. The building was completed by 1925. Several years later the second phase was begun. This apparently required the demolition of a section on the north side of the new building, with the sanctuary connected here and forming an “L.” While the community building has a more domestic appearance, with a gambrel roof, the sanctuary was given a portico front to connote its importance. At the same time, St. Mark’s Catholic Church was making improvements to their sanctuary. They hired architect George R. Callis, Jr., who by this time was living just down the street on Melvin Avenue, to design a new stone entrance vestibule and two side entrance doors, as well as some changes to the interior.
Activity on Melvin Avenue was brisk in this period. Catonsville Methodist church was not immune to the need or desire for grander accommodations, and in 1923 additional land was purchased north of the existing church and parsonage on which to build a Sunday school and community center. Walter Gieske designed this building, a stone Gothic Revival structure. It, too, was completed by 1925. The church was removed by 1930, but was never replaced, and a sanctuary was created within the community building. The parsonage has also disappeared, and the community building has been greatly enlarged by an addition on the rear built in the 1960’s. Another great change to Melvin Avenue came in 1937, with the construction of the water tower to replace the reservoir. This round, domed structure is built of a buff brick with limestone Art Deco trimmings. St. Mark’s Catholic Church added an H-plan Flemish bond brick Colonial Revival school building south of their church in 1950, and there is a smaller brick Colonial Revival structure across the street that dates to around the same period. Also of note is the trolley stop shelter, built of Belgian block in the 1930’s at the northwest corner of the district.
After 1950 several houses were demolished along Frederick Road, most notably “Cherokee,” for the construction of Hillcrest Elementary School. Several have been lost for the public library, and for several ranchers built along the road. The other major change to the neighborhood after 1950 was the creation of the north half of Wyndcrest Avenue, just to the west of the Brinkmann’s first house, and Glenmore Avenue to the north and northeast of that house. These streets were filled with split-level houses probably constructed by Meyerhoff, as they resemble his work elsewhere in Catonsville, and were probably built from the mid-1950’s to the early 1960’s.
Major Bibliographical References:
Baltimore County Land Records.
Bromley, George W. and Walter S. Bromley. Atlas of Baltimore County, Maryland. Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley, 1898, 1915.
Orser, Edward and Joseph Arnold. Catonsville 1880 to 1940: From Village to Suburb. Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Co., 1989.
Parkinson, Ed. H., ed. Keidel’s Colonial History of Catonsville. 1976.
Sanborn Map Company, “Map of Catonsville, Maryland.” 1904, 1910, 1919, 1925, 1930.
Verbal Boundary Description:
The northern boundary of the district runs along Edmondson Avenue. The eastern boundary runs behind the properties on the east side of Melvin Avenue. The southern boundary generally follows Frederick Road, excluding some later, non-contributing properties. The western boundary runs behind the properties on the west side of Beechwood Avenue, north to Summit Avenue, then west to Smithwood Avenue, taking in all the contributing resources on the west side of that road, and following the bed of the streetcar line north of Birdwood Avenue.
Suburban development is spread over a larger portion of Catonsville than this district encompasses; however, the boundaries were chosen to take in all the resources in a manageable area. Edmondson Avenue is a wide, busy thoroughfare that makes a clear break in the neighborhood. There are resources to the north side of Edmondson that would easily accommodate another large historic district. On the east is the African-American community along Winter’s Lane, which has already been identified as a potential National Register district. Frederick Road, like Edmonson Avenue, is another wide, busy, and obvious boundary, and has also had some later, noncontributing structures built along it. These have been excluded from the district. South of Frederick Road is the neighborhood of Summit Park, developed beginning in the 1920’s and another large, potential historic district. The western boundary excludes the new Hillcrest Elementary School, on the site of “Cherokee,” and the modern Summit Nursing Home. In the northwest corner of the district, the boundary follows the bed of the old streetcar line, which was another clear break dividing the neighborhood. There is another potential large historic district to the west, but it only approaches Old Catonsville in this northwestern corner.
Contact for OCNA Historic Register Application is David Wasmund:
- phone: 410.747.6882
- address: 8 Osborne Avenue, Catonsville, MD 21228
General OCNA Email Contact: email@example.com Phone: (410) 747-1977
(Last revision: 1/31/02)(email address update: 8/26/05 LW)