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History of Perry Hall

 

by David Marks

Historian, Perry Hall Improvement Association

 

A Brief History of Perry Hall

 

Hundreds of years ago, northeastern Baltimore County was explored by nomadic Indians who came south from present-day Pennsylvania to hunt for game in the bountiful Chesapeake Bay region. These tribes were dominated by the terrifying Susquehannocks, who intimidated smaller Indian clans and held dominion over the area until Europeans settled Maryland in the Seventeenth Century. The Susquehannocks moved frequently through Perry Hall, using present-day Joppa Road as a trail to the west.

 

Captain John Smith encountered the Susquehannocks in 1608 when he made the first European exploration of the Gunpowder River. Smith's expedition cleared the way for intense industrialization along the Gunpowder River, and by the Eighteenth Century, northeastern Baltimore County was the site of numerous mills, furnaces, and forges. A small settlement emerged near present-day Cowenton and Joppa Roads, home to woodcutter families who lived in log cabins and sod houses.

 

These squalid conditions contrasted vividly with the mansion being constructed in the northern region of Perry Hall. In 1774, wealthy planter Harry Dorsey Gough purchased an 1,000 acre estate called "the Adventure" north of present-day Belair Road. Gough renamed the estate "Perry Hall," after his family's home in Great Britain, and completed construction of the Perry Hall Mansion, which still stands in the northern part of our community. Harry Dorsey Gough, then, could be thought of as the founder of Perry Hall.

 

The Gough family dominated the life of the community until after the Civil War. The Gough plantation was among the largest in Baltimore County, and Harry Dorsey Gough was an early leader in the Maryland General Assembly, as well as a founder of the Methodist Church. It was at Perry Hall Mansion that plans for the American Methodist Church were developed by Gough, Francis Asbury, and other religious leaders. The Gough family later donated land for the construction of the Camp Chapel church and a community school.

 

The Civil War accelerated the end of plantation life in the United States. The Perry Hall estate was sold in 1875 to Eli Slifer of Philadelphia, who divided the property into farms of various sizes and sold the lots to immigrant families, many of whom were from Germany. That is how the tiny village came to be known as "Germantown." These farmers raised "stoop crops" like celery and carrots, and as the Twentieth Century opened, many families opened nurseries and flower shops.

 

Germantown, which rested near the intersection of Chapel and Belair Roads, was a small but self-sufficient farming village. The 1902 telephone directory listed only twenty-six numbers, including five saloon owners, seven storekeepers, four farmers, the justice of the peace, and undertaker, and the community schoolteacher. Mail delivery was done on horseback, and it was the only real way for one village to communicate with another. The community had its share of taverns and inns, and at the end of a long day in the fields, a trip to the local saloon was a nightly tradition for many. Local patrons were often joined by travelers on their way along Belair Road, a major turnpike from the city to the country.

 

With German and Irish immigration, new Catholic and Lutheran churches were built in the community. For most families, entertainment meant gathering together on the front porches of the farmhouses, where families would hold dances and young men would romance the girls from down the street. In time, the name "Germantown" disappeared from local maps, and the plantation moniker "Perry Hall" came to distinguish the growing village.

 

The period after World War Two transformed Perry Hall from rural hamlet into a suburban community. Recognizing the inevitable surge in development, the Perry Hall Improvement Association was established in 1945 to lobby for the necessary infrastructure to support the community. Its most successful endeavor was the Northeast Library Association, formed to acquire a new public library in Perry Hall. That effort culminated in 1963, when the Perry Hall library was dedicated by Baltimore County Executive Spiro T. Agnew, Congressman Clarence Long, and dozens of local leaders.

 

During those early years, the Perry Hall Improvement Association was a social nucleus for the community. It hosted dances, parties, and Bingo nights at the old Perry Hall School, now the Gribbin Center. It also started a Perry Hall tradition, the Halloween parade, which began in 1949 with a procession of church groups and Scouting units down Belair and Ebenezer Roads.

 

Perry Hall was changing, though, and signs of postwar urbanization were everywhere. as thousands of city residents bought homes in Perry Hall, the county built three new schools between 1956 and 1968. In 1961, the community's first shopping center was built at Ebenezer and Belair Roads.

 

Between 1980 and 1990, Perry Hall's population almost doubled, rising from 13,455 to 22,723 residents. The US Census Bureau estimates that over six thousand housing units were constructed over a ten-year period, most in the vast area behind Seven Courts and Gunpowder Elementary School.

 

If growth has brought its share of problems to Perry Hall, development has also created new opportunities and a diversified way of life. The construction of White Marsh Mall and the surrounding Town Center generated thousands of new jobs, bringing state-of-the-art medical, service, and technological industries to an undeveloped region. Perry Hall has now been linked to a regional economy.

 

Despite these changes, Perry Hall retains time-honored traditions and strong pride in local institutions. The school is very much the center of the community, with Perry Hall High's annual Homecoming parade bringing out hundreds of spectators along Ebenezer Road. Strong PTA's represent the bedrock of Perry Hall's successful schools. A new tradition, the community Christmas tree-lighting at Perry Hall Elementary School, has grown every year since 1990, drawing over three hundred spectators annually.

 

In the midst of change and development, the themes of family and local pride run strong in Perry Hall, as they have since Harry Dorsey Gough founded his family estate in 1775 and industrious immigrants cleared the land after the Civil War. Some things never change.

 

Early Exploration and Settlement

 

Two hundred years ago, the community now known as Perry Hall was a much different place. Its character was determined by the singularity of the rolling land, the dense forests which extended out from the Gunpowder River, and the dirt trails and turnpikes which gave this country village its rustic appearance.

 

The land had been explored centuries earlier by Native Americans, many of whom left behind arrowheads and other artifacts which still lie buried beneath Perry Hall's soil. Indian tribes were nomadic, roaming the great Chesapeake peninsula. Joppa Road, in fact, began as an old Indian trail, probably used by the Susquehannock tribe. An old spring near the present-day Cedarside Farms neighborhood was built by the Susquehannocks. This was later used by soldiers during the American Revolution. By the time of European settlement, however, most Indian tribes had abandoned the area.

 

The first European to explore northeastern Baltimore County was Captain John Smith, leader of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. Smith sailed up the Gunpowder River in 1608, stopping when the rocks impeded his exploration. He met two Indian tribes along the way, the Massawomeks and the Susquehannocks, who welcomed the visitor with peace pipes and gifts. It was during this same journey in 1608 that Captain Smith discovered iron ore in Maryland, leading to intense industrialization along rivers like the Gunpowder.

 

European settlement began nearly thirty years later, in 1669, when Henry Howard of Anne Arundel County purchased 200 acres of land near Philadelphia Road and the Gunpowder River. Howard called his purchase "Colenbourne." The second major land acquisition was in 1679, when Major John Welsh of Anne Arundel County established "Three Sisters," a 1,000-acre estate east of present-day Cowenton Avenue. Three other purchases are noteworthy. "Darnall's Camp" and "Darnall's Sylvania" were purchased by John Darnall in 1683 near the present-day Perry Hall public library. Soon after, George Thompson settled 600 acres at the headwaters of Honeygo Run.

 

The most significant purchase, however, came on June 16, 1681, when George Lingdan of Calvert County acquired the 1,000 acres of land now known as "Perry Hall." Lingdan called his property "The Adventure." A subsequent 500-acre addition over the Gunpowder River was called "Adventure's Addition."

 

For the most part, settlers were very poor, illiterate, and lived in squalid quarters. Their log cabins and sod houses were scattered near present-day Joppa Road and Cowenton Avenue. They worked in the furnaces, forges, and mills which dotted the Gunpowder River.

 

In Perry Hall, iron ore was mined at local sites, shipped to furnaces near the Gunpowder River, and converted into pig iron for use at forges and blacksmith shops. Early furnaces transformed the pig iron directly into pots, stove plates, and other items. During wartime, the iron was converted into ammunition and rifles for the fledgling American army. Much of the fuel for the Gunpowder furnaces was supplied by woodcutters who cleared the land west of the river.

 

It is believed that Stephen Onion built a furnace, the Gunpowder Iron Works, on the Great Gunpowder Falls in 1743, since iron bolts have been found in rocks about a half mile east of the present Philadelphia Road bridge. In 1749, the Maryland Gazette reported that the Onion furnace was destroyed by the flooding of the river. The furnace was rebuilt, expanded to seven houses, and sold in 1769. The property was later the site of the Joppa Iron Works, and the adjacent land was purchased by Harry Dorsey Gough, the wealthy proprietor of Perry Hall Mansion. Forge Road, near the Gunpowder River, was probably named for the intense iron industry in this part of Perry Hall.

 

By 1781, a separate company, the Nottingham Iron Company, was operating two forges at Philadelphia Road and the Great Gunpowder Falls. This part of the river was once called "Long Calm," where gentle, broad water welcomed visitors to the area. In one 30-week period during 1856, the Nottingham Iron Company at "Long Calm" produced 1100 tons of iron. Ruins of this active industrial site can still be found.

 

Harry Dorsey Gough: The Founder of Perry Hall

 

More than any other person, Harry Dorsey Gough dominated life in Perry Hall during the early history of the community. He owned most of the land, controlled local commerce, and built the mansion, high atop one of the town's steepest hills, which would give the community its identity. By almost any measure, Harry Dorsey Gough must be thought of as the founder of Perry Hall.

 

Harry Dorsey Gough (pronounced like "rough") was born on January 28th, 1745 in Annapolis. His family was steeped in aristocracy, social status, and wealth. Thomas Gough, his father, was from a wealthy English family, had immigrated to Maryland by 1745, and built a house a mile from Patapsco Ferry. His mother was Sophia Gough, daughter of the wealthy Caleb Dorsey of Hockley, on the Severn River. Harry Dorsey Gough was their only child.
 

 

In 1771, at the age of twenty-six, Gough married Prudence, the daughter of John Carnan and the sister of Charles Ridgely, a future governor. Prudence Carnan was eighteen years old. Between them, the Gough and Ridgely families would dominate county politics and commerce for a half-century.

 

In 1770, Gough began acquiring thousands of acres of land extending for three miles on both sides of present-day Belair Road. By 1775, shortly after the death of Corbin Lee, Gough had purchased "the Adventure," including the mansion which Lee was constructing before his death. Gough renamed his estate "Perry Hall," after his family's castle in Staffordshire, England. He was living in Perry Hall Mansion in 1774 when his horse, Garrick, won thirty pounds for Gough at a race in Joppa. A record of that race identifies the winner as "Harry Dorsey Gough of Perry Hall."

 

In March of 1776, Gough met Francis Asbury, an early leader of the Methodist Church in America. They became good friends, and later that year, the young minister converted Gough and his wife to Methodism. It was a defining moment in Gough's life. The sportsman and gentleman-farmer, who loved entertainment and his country estate, became a devout Methodist, more contemplative and deliberative in his actions. Gough actively supported the young Methodist movement, generously donating his wealth and property for the cause. In 1808, Asbury would write that "Mr. Gough had inherited a large estate from a relation in England, and having the means, he indulged his taste for gardening and the expensive embellishment of his country seat, Perry Hall, which was always open to visitors, especially those who feared God."

 

As the American Revolution approached, Methodists joined with Quakers and Dunkers to oppose the conflict on moral grounds. By this time, Harry Dorsey Gough's allegiance to the faith was unyielding. He refused to sign the Association of Freemen of Maryland, which asserted American independence from Great Britain. By refusing to declare allegiance to the United States of America, Gough became a "nonassociator," joining British loyalists and other pacifists who opposed the war. Although he objected to the American Revolution mainly on religious principles, Gough's family holdings in Great Britain would have compelled him to side with those opposing separation from England.

 

Gough was less consistent on the issue of slavery. Although methodists were active in the abolitionist movement, Gough was one of the largest slave holders in Baltimore County, owning 51 slaves in 1798. Through slavery, Gough was able to establish a business empire virtually unequalled in Baltimore County. According to tax records, his 1783 estate was valued at over 3,000 pounds, making him the wealthiest nonassociator surveyed in Baltimore County. In 1786, he was elected president of the Association of Tradesmen and Manufactures in Baltimore, which was charged with improving Maryland's rural economy.

 

While Gough opposed separation from England, he obviously had a stake in what form of government would take shape after the United States won independence from Great Britain in 1783. For that reason, Gough became active in the Federalist cause, which supported the proposed United States Constitution. The Constitution promised a strong federal government capable of protecting American trade from foreign competition. For merchants like Gough, the Constitution seemed absolutely necessary to guarantee the continued dominance of the upper class.

 

Gough ran as an unsuccessful Federalist candidate to the Constitutional convention in 1788. Years later, when the Antifederalist vote was splintered among several factions, Gough was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, serving from 1790 to 1793.

 

During his later life, Harry Dorsey Gough became active in numerous philanthropic causes. By 1806, he was serving on the board of trustees for St. Peter's School, a home for orphans in Baltimore. Gough had previously served on a commission, chartered by the Maryland General Assembly in 1773, to provide the state with its first Alms House, where poor families could receive shelter and food. Gough's humanitarian efforts were well-known throughout northeastern Baltimore County, where he regularly attended Methodist services and donated the funds to construct Camp Chapel church.

 

Harry Dorsey Gough's early life was marked by privilege and aristocratic embellishment. His later life was dedicated to public service, philanthropy, and the flourishing Methodist church. It seems only appropriate that Francis Asbury, who had converted Gough (and was the first bishop of the American Methodist Church), was at his side as he lay dying at the Perry Hall Mansion in 1808. His wife survived him by fourteen years. The Gough estate was inherited by Harry Dorsey Gough Carroll, their grandson, and remained in the family until 1875. 

  

Perry Hall and the Methodist Church: 1784-1850 

 

Camp Chapel Methodist ChurchPerry Hall's roots are intertwined with those of the American Methodist Church. Since 1766, our community has been known as "the cradle of Methodism," a place of holy significance for Methodists throughout the United States. It was here that the Methodist Church of America was formally organized in 1784, when Christian leaders met at Perry Hall Mansion to design a new nationwide religion.  

 

Perry Hall's Methodist history, however, really began in 1766, when a fiery minister named Robert Strawbridge passed through the village on his way to Towson. Strawbridge was traveling on the old Indian trail now called Joppa Road, probably on his way to visit his good friend Charles Ridgely, later a Maryland governor. Strawbridge found a collection of log cabins and sod houses dotting the dense wilderness between Belair and Philadelphia Roads. Wood cutters and charcoal burners worked here, supplying fuel for the iron and gunpowder furnaces east of Baltimore. Strawbridge set out to convert the tiny wilderness village, holding a camp meeting near present-day Joppa Road and Cowenton Avenues, where good spring water was available. This was the first religious gathering on record in Perry Hall, and it is where Camp Chapel United Methodist Church would later be built in 1813.

 

[ Postcard showing the Christmas Conference of 1784 where Methodism was organized. ]

Postcard showing the Christmas Conference of 1784, where Methodism was organized. Harry Dorsey Gough is seated in the left hand corner. Prudence Gough, wife of Harry Dorsey Gough, is dressed in white and seated in the first row.

Before there was an organized Methodist church in America, camp meetings were being held in Perry Hall and other Maryland communities converted by Strawbridge. Methodists continued to congregate at the original meeting site at Cowenton Avenue and Joppa Road. Years later, "Camp Meeting Chapel" by its parishioners. We now know this as "Camp Chapel," a country church which has served Perry Hall since 1813.

 

Originally, after Ridgely first donated the land, parishioners tried to raise enough money to finance the construction themselves. This was a poor community, however, and the wealthiest citizen of Perry Hall, Harry Dorsey Gough, offered to pay for the building himself. Gough, Charles Ridgely's brother-in-law, was a convert to Methodism, and he insisted that his poorer neighbors instead use their money to build a community school. Thus, the "Camp Meeting Chapel" was born, the product of true Christian labor, goodwill, and faith.

 

Harry Dorsey Gough was one of the earliest leaders of the American Methodist movement. Gough built a small chapel adjacent to his home, Perry Hall Mansion, so that he could hold services for as many as fifty friends and relatives. A frequent preacher at Perry Hall Mansion was Francis Asbury, Harry Dorsey Gough, and other leaders gathered in 1784 to formally organize the American Methodist Church. Asbury, who was ordained the first American Methodist bishop at this conference, later credited the Perry Hall Mansion meeting house as the birthplace for the young religion in America.

 

Although the chapel at Perry Hall Mansion no longer stands, Camp Chapel Church is still a thriving part of Perry Hall's religious community. A new chapel was built in 1872, and it was used continuously until 1965, when a large brick sanctuary was constructed adjacent to the building. In 1983, the chapel was struck by lightning, burning to the ground. When neighbors approached the fire, they discovered an eerie sight: the flames conspicuously avoided the painting of Jesus Christ in the sanctuary. The painting was relatively untouched, and the Bible survived with minor water and fire damage, even as the rest of the structure burned to the ground.

 

The chapel was rebuilt, and the steps leading into the building are the original ones brought from England over 180 years ago. The chapel is used for special Sunday and holiday services.

 

Camp Chapel is not alone. Perry Hall Methodist Church was formally organized in 1866. The original building was on Belair Road at the present-day Folz service station, and the church cemetery still rests behind the garage. Perry Hall Methodist Church has since relocated to a beautiful sanctuary near Klausmeier Road. This church gives northern Belair road its distinctive, residents also attend Asbury United Methodist Church in Cowenton, which is named after Francis Asbury, a Perry Hall visitor of generations past. 

 

Perry Hall in the Early Nineteenth Century

 

When the Nineteenth Century opened, Perry Hall was a community of stark diversity. As travelers approached the region, they immediately saw Perry Hall Mansion, a commanding home perched atop the community's highest hill. The mansion's proprietor was Harry Dorsey Gough, wealthiest landowner in the county, according to 1783 land records. Gough was the region's most prominent citizen, owning 1,000 acres of land in the eastern part of the community.

 

At the edge of the Gough property, along the banks of the Gunpowder River, a small settlement was taking slowly taking shape. This was "the other" Perry Hall, where poor woodcutters supplied fuel for nearby furnaces, forges, and mills. There was a strong Methodist presence, with parishioners gathering at outdoor "camp meetings" near Cowenton avenue and Joppa Road. Records seem to indicate that there was amity between the wealthy Gough family and its more humble neighbors. Gough helped the village build its first permanent church, Camp Chapel, in 1812.

 

Harry Dorsey Gough's kindness was well-known. Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in America, wrote that Gough "indulged his taste for gardening and the expensive embellishment of his country seat, Perry Hall, which was always hospitably open to visitors, particularly those who feared God." Asbury was with Gough when he died in 1808. Gough's body was buried about five hundred feet southeast of the house, near the family's spring. The estate was inherited by Harry Dorsey Gough Carroll, and it remained in the Carroll family until 1875, when it was sold and divided into small farms and lots.

 

It was in the Nineteenth Century that the great influx of immigrants into northeastern Baltimore County began. In 1852, William Meredith bought 900 acres of the Perry Hall estate from the Gough family. He sold the land to German and Irish immigrant families who established smaller farms and nurseries. This was "Germantown," named for the industrious immigrants who cultivated the remains of the Gough estate. The village was centered at the intersection of Forge and Belair Roads. Interestingly, the 1877 atlas of Baltimore County identifies our community only as "Germantown," although that name has since faded from use. Today, Germantown has merged into the greater Perry Hall community, and its founding families are known as Perry Hall's eldest citizens--people like the Butts, Klausmeiers, Dietzs, Ryes, Hubers, and Kahls.

 

We know that slavery certainly existed in Perry Hall. Francis Guy traveled throughout Maryland in the early Nineteenth Century, painting scenes of plantation life throughout the slaver-holding state. One of his paintings, completed in 1805, is titled "Perry Hall Slave Quarters, with Field Hands at Work." The portrait descended in the family of a freed Perry Hall slave, and it is now maintained by the Maryland Historical Society.

 

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, the region now known as Perry Hall had evolved into a country village. Belair Road, once Harry Dorsey Gough's private route into the town of Baltimore, had become a major turnpike, connecting the city with Kingsville, Upper Falls, and points north. At the intersection of Joppa and Belair Roads, the county established a tollgate. Settlement was concentrated, however, in the area between Forge and Chapel Roads. Again, this community was generally known as "Germantown," not "Perry Hall."

 

Baltimore County's 1877 atlas describes a growing town. Camp Chapel was no longer the exclusive church in the area, nor was Methodism the defining religion. St. Joseph's Catholic Church had been organized in 1850, St. Michael's Lutheran Church started in 1859, and a second Methodist congregation, Perry Hall United Methodist Church, had first met in 1860. There were numerous inns, blacksmith shops, and taverns in the area. The village even had a jail, which had been built in 1775 off Perry Hall Road.

 

By the 1870 census, the community had a population of 500, one of the largest in Baltimore County. This masked the fact, though, that its only businesses were blacksmith shops, wheelwright barns, and a general store. Although the county itself had 63,142 residents, they were scattered among large farms with unimproved acreage. The communities of Essex, Arbutus, and Woodlawn were nonexistent, and the entire stretch of York Road contained only 300 residents. In their "History of Baltimore County," Neal A. Brooks and Eric G. Rockel note that the county's "sleepy, quiet atmosphere made every day seem like Sunday."

 

Despite a wave of immigration and a spurt of growth, Perry Hall epitomized the solitude and country beauty of rural Baltimore County. This was the ironic scene as the community braced for the horror and bloodshed of the Civil War.

   

The Civil War and Its Aftermath

 

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Baltimore County had become a microcosm of America--sharply divided over slavery, yet reluctant to sever the Union and plunge into a catastrophic war. The county was polarized by the issue; businesses and leading politicians defended the institution as necessary for the county's economy, while religious leaders undertook a moralistic crusade to banish it forever. Perry Hall was at the center of the struggle.

 

The early Methodist Church was active in the effort to abolish slavery. Although Perry Hall landowners like Harry Dorsey Gough were strong supporters of Methodism throughout the region, they did not share the fervent antislavery passions of their religious leaders.

 

In 1798, eight landowners controlled over three hundred of the slaves in eastern Baltimore County. Harry Dorsey Gough, proprietor of Perry Hall Mansion, owned fifty-one slaves, while Charles Ridgely, another Perry Hall landholder, owned nearly two hundred slaves. Both of these men were prominent Methodists, and each contributed either land or funds for Camp Chapel Church in Perry Hall. Historians believe that Gough and Ridgely treated their slaves decently, which might explain how they were able to reconcile their contradictory Methodist and slave holding beliefs. This underscores Baltimore County's dilemma in the 1860's: people found slavery ideologically repugnant, but economically necessary.

 

Evidence suggests that as the Civil War approached, the number of freed slaves in Baltimore County was increasing, while the institution of slavery was losing its economic viability. The county was industrializing, and in places like Perry Hall, large farms were being replaced by smaller lots tilled by European immigrants, not slaves. With the death of Charles Ridgely and the dispersion of the Gough family, their holdings were divided up, and many have suggested that the later Gough family became active opponents of slavery.

 

Baltimore County was reluctant to settle the issue of slavery, with most voters basically preferring incremental, slow changes. While vocal minorities sympathized with either the South or the North, most residents simply wanted the Union restored. In the Presidential election of 1860, county voters chose John Bell, a Constitutional Unionist whose platform rested on "the Constitution, the Union, and enforcement of the laws." The winner of the election, Republican antislavery candidate Abraham Lincoln, received only 37 votes out of 7,179 cast.

 

Baltimore County generally avoided conflict during the Civil War, although it was the site of numerous troop movements by both sides. Union troops, for example, were stationed at Back and Gunpowder River bridges, while other units protected the railroad lines near Perry Hall in Cowenton.

 

Permeating the entire conflict, however, was a passionless feel to the war, with residents preferring only to end the conflict, not immediately settle the issue of slavery or dismantle the United States. Although Maryland remained in the Union, it routinely fell short of its quota of troops for the federal cause. While President Lincoln wanted 10,000 state militia to take active duty, less than twenty percent of that number reported for service. In an average month in 1864, for example, only 95 men from northeastern Baltimore County were drafted.

 

One of the few troop movements through Perry Hall occurred in 1864, when Major Harry Gilmor led a Confederate unit from Harford County to Towson. Gilmor's troops had disabled the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore railroad line. They ransacked a railroad car near Magnolia and captured a Union battalion led by General William Buel Franklin. The Confederate unit then headed south, encountering little resistance along the way. They traveled down Philadelphia Road, then turned east and moved along Joppa Road. On the way, they passed by Camp Chapel Church, the log cabins near Cowenton Avenue, and the village taking shape near Belair Road. When Gilmor's troops reached Towson, they galloped into town expecting resistance. None was found; the Confederates marched to Ady's Hotel, set their feet up on the tables, and enjoyed a round of ale!

 

The Civil War ended the domination of the county by large landowners and wealthy agricultural interests. Industrialization and immigration changed places like Perry Hall, where the Gough plantation was carved up into smaller farms and lots. "Perry Hall," that antebellum estate of the colonial era, became a thriving center of commerce, activity, and change, although it would retain a small-town identity until well after the Second World War.

 

Immigration and Change: Perry Hall around 1875

 

When Buddy Butt packages his fruit baskets every day, it is in the spirit of a family which has farmed Perry Hall for over four generations. "Pride of Germantown," Buddy Butt's one-man operation, is the linear descendant of one of Perry Hall's oldest family farms. Like his family before him, Buddy Butt packs and sells fruit for neighbors and friends, always in the spirit of one of Perry Hall's oldest and most noteworthy families.

 

"They were hard working folks," he says of his ancestors. "Your life more or less turned out by the way you worked." Butt recalls the routine for a Perry Hall family around the turn of the century: clearing the land, growing fruits and vegetables, selling them at market downtown on the weekends, then returning home with a few extra dollars for a new tool or a wagon. By today's standards, it certainly wasn't a life of luxury. Instead, families measured happiness by the togetherness they felt after the produce was sold and they'd earned enough money to keep going on.

 

The Butt family was one of several to settle Perry Hall in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. They were mainly German, and when the new immigrants settled 900 acres of land near Forge and Belair Roads, they called their village "Germantown." The 1877 atlas of Baltimore County authorized by the Library of Congress shows a thriving settlement along Belair Road, with names like Butt, Rye, Mohr, Kahl, and Soth populating the growing village. Perry Hall was changing. It was no longer a rural wilderness populated by a few scattered English landowners, but was becoming a country hamlet dominated by German and Irish immigrant families.

 

These were people of humble means. They tilled their small farms intensely, raising "stoop crops" that required families to crawl along the ground to weed and harvest. Carrots, beans, leeks, celery, parsley, and onions were grown, then gathered, cleaned, and hauled to the city markets on the weekend. They often set up their stands on Friday evening, returned before dawn on Saturday to sell their vegetables, and did not arrive back in Perry Hall until midnight or early Sunday morning.

 

While not a grain-growing area, many farmers planted a few acres of wheat, rye, oats, and barley. Grain was threshed by Fox's sawmill, which was located north of Walter Avenue on Belair Road. Residents often bartered with the Fox family, trading grain or small vegetables for lumber that was used during the cold winter months.
 

During the winter, families survived on vegetables and fruit which were stored in caves, man-made and natural. Food had been stored here during the year, squirreled away by the farmers for months when harvests were impossible. Ice was cut on the Gunpowder Falls, then stored in underground hollows or icehouses on the farm. When the water was unfrozen, fishermen caught herring and carp on the Gunpowder River. Foxes, rabbits, squirrels, and quails were abundant throughout Perry Hall, and in the years before urbanization, some hunters bagged as many as thirty rabbits and ten quail a day during the winter hunting season.

 

Many sons and daughters married the children of other Perry Hall farmers. They tried to give a few acres of land and a new barn to the newlyweds. Parents often saved up much of their life savings for this gift. They invested a portion of their week's earnings at Germantown Savings and Loan, the community's only bank, and if they had a poor week at the market, their family would have to do with a little less food. The amount deposited in the bank remained the same.

 

It was this spirit of thrift and hard work which guided Perry Hall's first families through difficult times. They led simple lives; there were few stores or taverns in the town, and only a handful of visitors ever stopped along Belair Road to chat with the country residents. Often, only three or four wagons would pass through Perry Hall every day, usually carrying crops to the city market from Bel Air or Kingsville.

 

Many of Perry Hall's first families are still here, although most of the farms have since been divided or developed. Other farms diversified. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, there were several canning houses in Perry Hall, although these did not prove profitable. Another experiment, however, proved wildly successful: the "greenhouse," where flowers were grown inside vast glass buildings and shipped to city residents. Perry Hall was known for many years as "the greenhouse belt," and many of these still operate in the Honeygo area of our community.

 

Other signs of the first families are still with us, embedded in the community. Our major streets bear many of their names, including those of the Klausmeier, Penn, and Soth families. "Pop Dietz's" has sold vegetables along Belair Road for generations, and the Moore Orchards near Philadelphia Road are among the largest in eastern Baltimore County. Then, of course, is Buddy Butt's "Pride of Germantown," that one-man operation which so perfectly captures the essence of Perry Hall past.

 

Perry Hall in the Early Twentieth Century

 

As in all communities during the early Twentieth Century, Perry Hall was visited by traveling salesmen who roamed dusty back roads selling their wares. These hucksters would move up and down Belair Road, selling lightning rods, stoves, fruit trees, umbrellas, and other items to the country folk. One visitor, "Old Mose," carried a backpack full of tin cups, plates, and lunch pails. During the First World War, a frequent traveler was a peddler with a long beard. When some residents thought he was too young for his age, they contacted the authorities, who confirmed their suspicions. He was a young draft dodger.

 

Those travelers discovered a Perry Hall which was very much a frontier place, with large family farms and dense forests, dirt roads and scattered shops. Our community, in fact, would change very little until after the Second World War.

 

The Perry Hall post office was established on August 1st, 1877, when George Penn was appointed postmaster for the village. In those days, the postmaster's home or store served as the post office for the community, which meant that George Penn's general store at Belair Road and Schroeder Avenue processed mail for Perry Hall. The post office changed four times, eventually moving to William Beall's general store near Belair and Chapel Roads. Perry Hall's post office was discontinued in 1906, moved to Fullerton, then reestablished in 1961 when a branch opened in the new Perry Hall Shopping Center on Ebenezer Road. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Genevieve Buettner, who did not want Perry Hall to lose its identity and become a substation of Baltimore, the post office has continued, and today it is the only Perry Hall post office in the United States.

 

Mail delivery was done on horseback, and it was the only real way for one village to communicate with another. Telephone service was slow to come to the area. The 1902 Perry Hall telephone directory listed only twenty-six numbers. Five saloon owners, seven storekeepers, four farmers, the justice of the peace, an undertaker, and the community schoolteacher were among those with telephones.

 

Perry Hall was small but self-sufficient. Three blacksmith shops were located within sight of one another between Kahlston Road and Horn Avenue. Blacksmith shops were essential in the community. They built wagons, made horseshoes, and repaired farm machinery. Pillhofer's shop was located across from the present-day Valu Food supermarket. It was at Pillhofer's that a young German immigrant, Benedict Huber, learned his trade and later opened his own shop at Belair and Chapel Roads. Another blacksmith shop was DeGruchy's. This building still stands, it is now J.R.'s Mechanical Services, across from St. Michael's Lutheran Church.

 

The community had its share of taverns and inns. At the end of a long day in the fields, a trip to the local saloon was a nightly tradition for many. Local patrons were often joined by travelers on their way along Belair Road. In Perry Hall, popular hangouts included the present day Perry Inn and Pub, the Dengler hotel at Klausmeier Road, Magnolia Inn at Kahlston Road, and Waldman's Seven Mile House, a thirteen-room building since demolished for the Olde Forge development near St. Joseph's Church. There was also Bishop's Inn, which was located next to a tollgate at Belair and Joppa Roads. This later became Frank Goettner's butcher shop, and it has since been razed for a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.

[ Photograph of Bishops Inn, now the site of a Kentucky Fried Chickenrestaurant ]

Photograph of Bishops Inn, on Belair Road near
Joppa Road. This is now a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
(Courtesy William Dunn, Perry Hall, Maryland)

Perry Hall's general stores sold groceries, dry goods, yeast, and kerosene oil for lamps and stoves. When they were good, children were given a penny to buy an ice cream cone or some candy at the store. Perhaps the most popular general store in Perry Hall was the little house built in 1883 by Henry Walter at Belair and Chapel Roads. It was affectionately known as "the little house by the side of the road," and was a merchandise store for almost ninety years. From 1900 to 1906, this was the Perry Hall post office. The store was demolished in 1979 when Mercantile Bank and Trust purchased the property and built their Perry Hall branch.

 

Although it was growing slowly, Perry Hall retained a rustic, small-town charm, its families mindful of the affairs of the community. Entertainment meant gathering together on the front porches of the farmhouses, where families would hold dances and young men would romance the girls from down the street. In 1928, though, Perry Hall's quiet character was changed by a nightclub which opened on Belair Road, right next to the general store at Chapel Road. Clarence Hassanger called his ballroom the "Crystal Palace" because of the many large crystal chandeliers hung from the ornate ceiling. The nightclub burned down in 1933.

 

Families regularly attended church, and when someone in the community died, almost all of the local families would come to the funeral. Local undertaker Frederick Lassahn would pack the body with ice, move it to a cemetery, and prepare for a funeral attended by most of Perry Hall.

 

Every New Year's Eve, the bells at St. Michael's Lutheran Church would welcome Perry Hall to the coming year. It was this way in 1901, when our community entered its third century of peaceful living.

 

Perry Hall around 1950: A Suburban Community Develops

 

During the First and Second World Wars, many residents of Perry Hall served their country, some paying the ultimate sacrifice. When Perry Hall Elementary School opened in 1956, a plaque recognizing these soldiers was placed at the base of the school flagpole. Old and weathered, it is the only permanent structure acknowledging these Perry Hall veterans.

 

Perry Hall's contributions to the war effort did not end with this memorial plaque. Like most Americans, residents conserved supplies and grew Victory gardens during the war, and Perry Hall's farms furnished crops for soldiers and other sectors of the economy. Immediately after the war, Perry Hall residents banded together to collect crutches, wheelchairs, and other equipment for veterans returning home. It was one of our finest moments: a spirit of compassion and unity reflective of a small town pulling together during difficult times.

 

Out of this effort came the Perry Hall Improvement Association. No formal organization had ever been needed to unify the Perry Hall community, where families knew each other and problems could easily be solved through the neighborhood grapevine. During the Great Depression, for example, families often bartered their crops. since money was virtually useless. The Second World War, however, brought an end to the Great Depression, a surge in industrial development, and a mass exodus of city residents to the suburbs. It was inevitable that Perry Hall would grow A permanent organization was needed to lobby for the needs of the changing community.

 

The first meeting of the Perry Hall Improvement Association was held on July 31st, 1945, as the Second World War was coming to a close. Forty-nine residents were present. From that original meeting, an organization evolved which has fought for appropriate zoning, development, and community standards for over a half-century.

 

The Perry Hall Improvement Association was able to obtain the community's first street lights, at Joppa, Forge, and Cross Roads and Stirred and Boer Avenues. It prevailed on the State Roads Commission to lower the speed limit through Perry Hall from 50 to 30 miles per hour. It lobbied the school system for extra bus stops for the community's students, who then attended Stemmers Run High School.

 

The organization's most active efforts have been in opposing projects deemed detrimental to the greater Perry Hall community. Shortly after it was founded, for example, the association worked with St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and local home owners to oppose an open-air movie theater on Belair Road. Had this been built, a drive-in theater would now be resting at the location of the present-day Belmont neighborhood. The association also opposed a greyhound race track on Forge Road, a trailer camp on Cliffvale Avenue, and several junk yards throughout Perry Hall.

 

Rather than just being reactive, the Perry Hall Improvement Association has lobbied for new projects to serve the community's growing population. Its most successful endeavor, for example, was the Northeast Library Association, formed to acquire a new public library in Perry Hall. That effort culminated in 1963, when the Perry Hall library was dedicated by Baltimore County Executive Spiro T. Agnew, Congressman Clarence Long, and dozens of local leaders.

 

During those early years, the Perry Hall Improvement Association was a social nucleus for the community It hosted dances, parties, and Bingo nights at the old Perry Hall School, now the Gribbin Center. it also started a Perry Hall tradition, the Halloween parade, which began in 1949 with a procession of church groups and Scouting units down Belair and Ebenezer Roads. Perry Hall activist Buddy Butt always played his trademark accordion.

 

Back in those days, the community was small enough to still have parades down Belair Road. Perry Hall was changing, though, and signs of postwar urbanization were everywhere. William Schaefer built hundreds of brick bungalows in the area between Belair and Ebenezer Roads, while other neighborhoods were popping up off of Baker Lane and Walter Avenue.

 

In 1956, the Perry Hall Medical Group opened their building at Belair Road and Cliffvale Avenue, with offices for doctors and a dentist. Perry Hall's first drug store opened there in the same building. Meanwhile, land was being churned down the road for Perry Hall's first shopping center, which opened in 1961 on Ebenezer Road. Perry Hall Shopping Center, as it was then known, included the community post office, a branch of Maryland National Bank, Read's, Woolworth' s, and one of the first bowling alleys in the community.

 

A visitor to Perry Hall at mid-century would have found a rural village at the threshold of suburbanization. The community was still a collection of farms and forests, but the scattered housing developments and new buildings signaled an impending wave of growth which would change the place forever.

 

Perry Hall in the 1960s and 1970s

 

In the early 1970's, when the Baltimore Sun wanted to profile the typical Maryland suburb, they came to Perry Hall, "a great place for growing up: or old." In a January 1973 article in their Sunday magazine, the newspaper claimed that "Perry Hall has a lot to offer: plenty of open space, grass and trees, fresh air, a real small-town sense of living, and few crowds, drugs, noise and pollution to fight." One resident even called his quiet home town "perfect."

 

 

[ Photograph of intersection of Belair and Joppa Roads, Winter 1966-67 ]
Photograph of intersection of
Belair and Joppa Roads, Winter 1966-67.
(Courtesy William Dunn, Perry Hall, Maryland)

Back then, the community's biggest problem was a crowd of teenagers who loitered around Perry Hall Shopping Center at night. This was one of two shopping centers in the community, with a Pantry Pride, bowling alley, Woolworth's, and later a Rustler Steakhouse. The teenagers complained they had nothing to do, since their conservative parents didn't allow "groove sessions" for kids with long hair. Sometimes, when the police chased the teenagers away from the shopping center, they converged at Berg's dairy or Gino's restaurant. Gino's, a popular drive-in eatery, burned down in the early 1980's, then became a Roy Rogers, a Hardees, and finally a Popeye's restaurant.

 

Other teenagers used the old quarries and fields by Silver Spring Road for motorcycle and bike racing. Where expressways, town houses, and White Marsh Mall now populate the landscape, abandoned mines and endless dirt trails created a natural place for intrepid teenage explorers to use for games or races. This area was so desolate and quiet that Governor William Preston Lane had a summer cottage in White Marsh, escaping the excitement of Annapolis during the years immediately after World War Two.

 

Many teenagers might have considered their hometown boring, but their younger brothers and sisters couldn't keep up with the community's activities. Perry Hall offered one of the best recreation programs in Baltimore County, with more than 3,500 youngsters participating in softball, soccer, roller skating, and other activities. That was quite a turnout, considering Perry Hall's tiny population of 7,000 residents.

 

Perry Hall had less than a fifth of its current population in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Even then, though, the community was having growing pains. Residents complained loudly about Perry Hall's new water tower, built at the intersection of Joppa and Belair Roads. On a foggy day, they claimed it looked like a mushroom cloud or flying saucer hovering over the new junior high school. Other controversial businesses included a topless bar, now demolished, at the Joppa Belair Road intersection, as well as the new car dealership being built across from Perry Hall Presbyterian Church.

 

For all of these growing pains, though, Perry Hall was still relatively undeveloped beyond the Joppa/Belair/Ebenezer Road intersection. Seven Courts Drive was a landing strip for small airplanes, with cow pastures and Berg's dairy farm stretching northward to the Gunpowder River. Ebenezer Road was still a country path, with the new Perry Hall High School, built in 1968, hidden among a dense grove of trees. White Marsh was still a collection of farms and mining quarries. For residents of Parkville and Carney, Perry Hall was almost a rural backwater, a country village at the corner of suburbia.

 

 

[ Photograph of intersection of Belair and Joppa Roads in 1969 ]
Photograph of intersection of
Belair and Joppa Roads in 1969.
(Courtesy William Dunn, Perry Hall, Maryland)

PHIA leaders Matilda Lacey, Genevieve Buettner, and Wade Cresswell were all long-time residents, highly visible and well-known throughout the community. As the 1970's ended, they would turn over the organization to younger activists, most notably Al Redmer, who served seven years as president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association.

 

Commenting on Perry Hall for the 1970 Baltimore Sun article, Matilda Lacey noted that ''people here are separate and apart, but there's a togetherness, too." That simple expression accurately describes the Perry Hall of two decades past: a place of scattered developments, vast empty spaces, yet a spirit of family and togetherness since diminished in a more urban, complex environment.

 

When the Perry Hall Improvement Association celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1970, it could still claim itself as the social nucleus for the community. The PHIA organized an annual Halloween parade for Perry Hall, with spectators lining the path from Belair Road down Ebenezer Road. It frequently organized welcome parties, where new residents were greeted with a smile and an apple pie. In 1976, the Perry Hall Improvement Association helped organize a Bicentennial carnival at Lassahn Field, with a huge ferris wheel, games, and rides positioned right next to Belair Road. This site is now the Cedarside Farms housing development.

Perry Hall Since 1980

 

The 1980's brought radical changes to Perry Hall, with housing developments, shopping centers, and thousands of new families converging on a rural, pastoral area. While longtime residents became alarmed at their community's growth, it was certainly to be expected. Baltimore County was growing at a rate of nearly 100,000 residents every decade, and Perry Hall was merely the frontier of the expanding suburban belt, one of the last undeveloped areas to have city water and sewerage. Few people, however, could have predicted the consequences of such growth since 1980.

 

Between 1980 and 1990, Perry Hall's population almost doubled, rising from 13,455 to 22,723 residents. The US Census Bureau estimates that over six thousand housing units were constructed over a ten-year period, most in the vast area behind Seven Courts and Gunpowder Elementary School. With the sudden growth in population came crowded rooms, clogged schools, and a dwindling supply of open space. By the end of the decade, public pressure had become so great that the Baltimore County Council, its membership the beneficiaries of a voter revolt in 1990, had declared a moratorium on construction until certain adequate facilities were built.

 

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Baltimore County planners had targeted the Perry Hall-White Marsh area for concentrated development since the late 1960's. By focusing growth into two principal regions, in Owings Mills and Perry Hall/White Marsh, they hoped to better control the anticipated exodus of city residents into the county. They set idealistic goals. recommending "planned communities" in the spirit of James Rouse's Columbia. According to the 1985 Perry Hall-White Marsh Plan, new police and fire stations, a library, and sewer improvements would "meet the needs of existing and future residents for the next 15 years."

 

This assumption failed on three counts. First, it was adopted in 1985, four years after the opening of White Marsh Mall and the approval of the largest developments in the area. Second. it failed to consider outside factors which might hinder the construction of adequate facilities: economic recession, limited state assistance, and political resistance from older communities. Third, it treated the two "growth areas" as similar entities. Owings Mills, however, was built almost entirely over farmland, while growth in Perry Hall would be overlayed on top of an existing, 200 year-old community.

 

To many longtime residents, the years since 1980 have meant the destruction of a quiet way of life and the loss of familiar, unique community landmarks. In 1985, for example, Berg's dairy went out of business, ending a Perry Hall tradition of thick milk shakes and romance. That same year, Baltimore County regulators allowed Kentucky Fried Chicken to bulldoze Bishop's Inn, one of the last remaining historic landmarks in Perry Hall. The situation reached its boiling point in 1988, when leaders from the Perry Hall Improvement Association failed to prevent the development of Cedarside Farm, which had been used for decades as a community park. This was the last truly open space along the central Belair Road corridor.

 

The tremendous strain of development on the Perry Hall community has spurred a new exodus: the flight of Baltimore County residents northward along Route 1, to rapidly-growing Harford County, with its lower property taxes and limited urban problems. This exodus was the principal reason for the 1994 Honeygo plan, which will attempt to better manage growth within Perry Hall's last undeveloped region. Single-family homes will be emphasized, as well as lifelong attachments to Baltimore County and the Perry Hall community.

 

If growth has brought its share of problems to Perry Hall, development has also created new opportunities and a diversified way of life. The construction of White Marsh Mall and the surrounding Towne Center generated thousands of new jobs, bringing state-of-the-art medical, service, and technological industries to an undeveloped region. Perry Hall has now been linked to a regional economy. If the community sacrificed a pastoral way of life and much of its unique identity, Perry Hall gained access to new employment, technology, and an expanding business sector. In a physical sense, this growth might be epitomized by the 1993 opening of Route 43, which directly connected Perry Hall and White Marsh to the Baltimore Beltway and Pulaski Highway. Other significant improvements included the construction of Joppa View and Seven Oaks Elementary Schools in 19907 the opening of the White Marsh library in 19887 and the extension of Perry Hall Boulevard in 1990.

 

Despite these changes, Perry Hall retains time-honored traditions and strong pride in local institutions. The school is very much the center of the community, with Perry Hall High's annual Homecoming parade bringing out hundreds of spectators along Ebenezer Road. Strong PTA's represent the bedrock of Perry Hall's successful schools. A new tradition, the community Christmas tree-lighting at Perry Hall Elementary School, has grown every year since 1990, drawing over three hundred spectators annually.

 

In the midst of change and development, the themes of family and local pride run strong in Perry Hall, as they have since Harry Dorsey Gough founded his family estate in 1775 and industrious immigrants cleared the land after the Civil War. Some things never change.

 

Perry Hall: Challenges for the Future

 

As Perry Hall enters the Twenty-First Century, our community has many challenges. The final phase of development in Perry Hall, the 5,000-unit Honeygo project in the far eastern part of our community, will require a greater degree of vigilance than was exercised earlier in our county designated "growth area." At the same time, as growth continues, many Perry Hall families are fleeing Perry Hall because of high property taxes, a lack of open space, and increased urbanization. The older parts of Perry Hall are beginning to resemble the most unsightly parts of the city, while our newer neighborhoods are often a hodgepodge collection of mismatched town houses, shopping centers, and parking lots.

 

In these respects, Perry Hall appears to be a quintessential American suburb at the end of the Twentieth Century. Perry Hall, however, is not a typical suburb. Our half-year journey through Perry Hall history has shown this to be a remarkable place, with a history of overcoming adversity and pulling together as a community.

 

Perry Hall's first families cleared the land, building forges and mills by the mighty Gunpowder River. They were poor families, yet their spirits were tempered by an devout faith in Methodism, a young religion which had its American roots in Perry Hall. Methodism bridged the gap between rich and poor in our tiny village. The Gough family, wealthy proprietors of Perry Hall Mansion, donated land and funds for the construction of a community church and school. While some might regard this as snobbish charity, early residents knew it was a distinctive spirit of warmth and camaraderie, one which would unite the community through the Twentieth Century.

 

Perry Hall has not lost that spirit. Its presence is strongest in our churches and schools. perhaps the most visible elements of our modern community. Many churches are experiencing unprecedented growth, while several congregations are relocating to Perry Hall from other neighborhoods. Perry Hall's schools are generally acknowledged as some of the best in Baltimore County, with strong PTA's, extensive extracurricular activities, and historically the most active recreation programs in the region.

 

All of these institutions demonstrate the twin values of family and civic involvement, although both have been altered somewhat by time: family by the change in working parents, hectic life styles, and skyrocketing divorce rates, and civic involvement by the growth of Perry Hall. Indeed as our community has grown, the basis for involvement has become smaller. While the Perry Hall Improvement Association was the social nucleus for the community in the rural 1950's, smaller PTA's, home owners associations, and recreation programs represent the most central civic organizations in the suburban 1990's.

 

As Perry Hallers, our central challenge for the next century is to integrate these smaller groups, to bring together businesses, families, civic groups, and government in a new spirit of partnership and cooperation. We have all the resources we need to make this a better place to live. For example, local Scouting troops might build new trails in Honeygo Park, an undeveloped parcel of land, by working with Baltimore County planners and the recreation council which uses the property. High school students needing service hours could replant trees and collect debris along Belair Road. Our elementary, middle, and high school teachers might use Perry Hall history to supplement their social studies curriculum, explaining the cultural and religious heritage of our community. All of these activities promote good citizenship, community living, and a lifelong appreciation for Perry Hall. All of them could also be done, without any government funds.
 

 

Although Perry Hall's roots go back to before the Revolutionary War, it has a relatively young, new population. Perry Hall is in a transitional phase, and as our community matures, it will develop the distinctive state of mind which characterizes established neighborhoods like Catonsville, Dundalk, and Rodgers Forge.

 

If Perry Hall was to have a nickname, we might call it "Baltimore County's Crossroads." After all, most of the county's major roads intersect here, from Interstate 95 to US Route 1. Perry Hall has been at the center of county history, witnessing the birth of the Methodist Church, Civil War troop movements along Joppa Road, and the postwar suburban housing boom. Our success in building community here, in Perry Hall, will determine whether Baltimore County moves forward, together, at its own crossroads in history.

 

Names of Perry Hall Places

 

As presently defined, Perry Hall includes that region of northeastern Baltimore County bordered by the Great Gunpowder Falls on the north, Philadelphia Road on the east, White Marsh Run on the south? and the Baltimore Gas and Electric transmission lines on the west. These boundaries have been set by the Perry Hall Improvement Association. Only the far eastern region of Perry Hall is undeveloped, although this will soon become the Honeygo community, with five thousand families moving into a Columbia-style "planned neighborhood."

 

Immediately west of Perry Hall is Carney, named for Thomas and Mary McDermot Carney, who operated a general store in the late Nineteenth Century. This building, known as the Eight Mile House, still stands at the intersection of Joppa and Harford Roads. To the north of Perry Hall, just across the Gunpowder River, are the rural, rolling hills of Glen Arm and Baldwin. East of Perry Hall is Kingsville, named for Abraham King, who settled 290 acres of land near Harford County in the early Nineteenth Century. To our south is White Marsh, which takes its name from the White Marsh Plantation established by Captain Charles Ridgely in 1659. Ridgely is said to have named his settlement after the mists which enshrouded the region in the morning. On older maps, the community appears as one name: "Whitemarsh."

 

Many other places and landmarks are named after nature. Perry Hall's Honeygo area, for example, is named after the stream which extends from the farms at Cross Road to bustling White Marsh Mall. The stream appears in old records as "Horney Gold," "Honeygold," and "Hang Gold," leaving its current name a mystery. Silver Spring Road also owes its name to the marshy environment which once characterized the community.

 

Our other major roads are named after the cities which they helped connect to Baltimore: Philadelphia, Joppa, and Belair Roads. Before it became Belair Road, Perry Hall's stretch of US Route 1 was the Baltimore and Jerusalem Turnpike, and before that, it was simply Perry Hall Road, the private drive of Harry Dorsey Gough. Other thoroughfares were named after industries (Forge Road) or major community centers (Chapel Road).

 

Perry Hall's founding families lent their names to places in our community. Hines and Klausmier Roads, as well as Baker and Ferguson Lanes, were named after families which immigrated to Perry Hall largely during the early Nineteenth Century. Soth Avenue was named after the Soth Farm, which was across from present-day Perry Hall Elementary School on Joppa Road. Halbert Avenue is named after "the Halbert Half Way House," which was demolished when the Perry Hall library was built in 1963. Darnall Road owes its name to the original 1683 land grants, "Darnall's Sylvania" and "Darnall's Camp 1000 Acres." When this area of central Perry Hall was developed, great care was made to distinctively identify the original history of the neighborhood.

 

The Gunpowder River

 

Photo of Gunpowder RiverWalking along the Gunpowder River is like stepping back in time. It makes one imagine a Perry Hall long since past, when Indians roamed the gurgling, churning waters on their way to the mighty Chesapeake Bay. The lofty trees which guard the Gunpowder were casting long shadows when Europeans settled Perry Hall, built a community, and help develop a nation.

 

Today's Gunpowder River might be tamed by man and nature, yet its beauty remains one of Perry Hall's treasures. Since 1959, large acreage on both sides of the Gunpowder River has been acquired for a state park, with numerous trails, historic sites, and places to ponder nature. The Gunpowder River frames northern and eastern Perry Hall, enclosing suburban neighborhoods within a green oasis.

 

The river is actually two main branches. Great Gunpowder Falls includes the watershed nearest to Perry Hall. It begins near Prettyboy Reservoir, in northern Baltimore County, then opens into a huge body of water at Loch Raven Reservoir. Leaving Loch Raven Reservoir, it narrows into a gurgling river as it approaches Kingsville, Perry Hall, and White Marsh. At Days Cove, Great Gunpowder Falls merges with Little Gunpowder Falls, a smaller branch which forms the 30 mile-long border between Baltimore and Harford Counties.

 

Great Gunpowder Falls was designed by nature to accommodate an average flow of about 260 million gallons every day. The river was once wild, especially the four-mile stretch between Belair and Harford Roads. Following Baltimore City's construction of Loch Raven Reservoir in 1881 the river was largely tamed? with the dam holding nearly 500 million gallons of water. Subsequent improvements to the dam raised its capacity to 23.7 billion gallons, transforming the mighty Gunpowder River into a gently-rolling trickle. Most of the Gunpowder's water now flows from local streams. In Perry Hall, these branches include Jenifer Run, Cowen Run, Long Green Branch, Sweathouse Branch, Perry Hall Branch, and Cow Branch.

 

One mystery is the river's name. The stream was probably called Gunpowder because of the saltpetre which James Denton discovered along its banks in 1665. Saltpetre is an ingredient for gunpowder. Legend has it that when local Indians witnessed the power of gunpowder, they bartered with European settlers and planted it along the river, hoping the man-made chemical would grow.

 

It is believed that Captain John Smith sailed up the Gunpowder River in the 17th Century, stopping when the rocks impeded his exploration. He met two Indian tribes along the way the Massawomeks and the Susquehannocks, who welcomed the visitor with peace pipes and gifts. It was during this same journey in 1608 that Captain Smith discovered iron ore in Maryland, leading to intense industrialization along rivers like the Gunpowder.

 

In Perry Hall, iron ore was mined at local sites, shipped to furnaces near the Gunpowder River, and converted into pig iron for use at forges and blacksmith shops. Early furnaces transformed the pig iron directly into pots, stove plates, and other items. During wartime the iron was converted into ammunition and rifles for the fledgling American army. Much of the fuel for the Gunpowder furnaces was supplied by woodcutters who cleared the land west of the river. 

 

 

[ Photograph of Levi Hollingworth's Copper Works, on the Great GunpowderFalls River ]

Photograph of Levi Hollingworth's Copper Works,
on the Great Gunpowder Falls River

 

It is believed that Stephen Onion built a furnace, the Gunpowder Iron Works, on the Great Gunpowder Falls in 1743, since iron bolts have been found in rocks about a half mile east of the present Philadelphia Road bridge. In 1749, the Maryland Gazette reported that the Onion furnace was destroyed by the flooding of the river. The furnace was rebuilt, expanded to seven houses, and sold in 1769. The property was later the site of the Joppa Iron Works, and the adjacent land was purchased by Harry Dorsey Gough, the wealthy proprietor of Perry Hall Mansion. Forge Road, near the Gunpowder River, was probably named for the intense iron industry in this part of Perry Hall.

 

By 1781, a separate company, the Nottingham Iron Company, was operating two forges at Philadelphia Road and the Great Gunpowder Falls. This part of the river was once called "Long Calm," where gentle, broad water welcomed visitors to the area. In one 30-week period during 1856, the Nottingham Iron Company at "Long Calm" produced 1 100 tons of iron. Ruins of this active industrial site can still be found.

 

The 1911 Maryland Geological Survey identifies eight mining sites in the Gunpowder region. All of these have long been abandoned, and although most have either been lost to nature or development, several still rest along banks of the Great Gunpowder Falls. Ore banks were concentrated in eastern Perry Hall, in the rural region between Belair and Philadelphia Roads. The Gerst mine supplied iron ore for the furnace at "Long Calm." Other mining sites were located on the Tremper and Wagenfeuhr properties, along Cowenton Avenue, and at the Cook and Lohman properties near present-day Joppa View Elementary School. An intrepid explorer might still be able to find ruins of these old mines, now long abandoned.

 

Gunpowder Copper Works gained a national reputation. This gristmill, which still stands near Harford Road and the Great Gunpowder Falls, was operated by Levi Hollingsworth from 1811 to 1838. During the War of 1812, Gunpowder Copper Works supplied the United States Navy with copper sheathing for ships. Following the war, the plant refined copper from Frederick County mines for the dome of the US Capitol, which had been destroyed by the British. Hollingsworth's dome lasted until the expansion of the Capitol in the 1860's.

 

Today, the Gunpowder watershed is primarily known for its winding trails, abundant trout, and good rapids for inner tubing. Visitors can learn more about the region at the park's new headquarters: the restored Jerusalem Mill in Kingsville, which opened recently. They can also join the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, an organization which promotes this Perry Hall treasure.

  

Roads and Turnpikes

 

It's hard to imagine Belair Road in its youth, when horse-pulled carriages and wagons bumped along the narrow country road to the northern wilderness. Beneath the steady drumming of wagon wheels, travelers could hear the whistling of grass blowing, the plowing of country fields, and the distant gurgling of the Gunpowder River. Transportation wasn't just movement between two points; it was an adventure, a test of slow endurance, and with the quiet beauty of the country trek came the real possibility of getting stranded in the wilderness.

 

The oldest of these trails is Joppa Road, an Indian path which stretched from present-day Perry Hall to Towson. It was being used as late as 1697, when Charles Hewitt testified to the county court that he saw bands of Indians near his Forge Road home. The Indians traveled west on what is now Forge, Joppa, and Old Court Roads, on their way to hunting grounds north of the village of Baltimore. They had been forced by Europeans from their hunting grounds on the Chesapeake Bay and along the Gunpowder River.

 

Today, this path would begin at Perry Hall's Old Forge Road, then cross to Joppa Road, and finish at Old Court Road in the Towson area. No route connects the entire trail today, rather, its pieces make up these three major roads. Throughout history, the trail has been alternately known as Court Road and Garrison Road, since the Baltimore County Rangers used it as a "garrison road" for patrolling the area. Because the path eventually linked Towson and Perry Hall with Joppa, our county seat until 1768, we now know this trail as Joppa Road.

 

Belair Road began as the private drive of Harry Dorsey Gough, proprietor of Perry Hall Mansion, into the town of Baltimore. The road was transformed in the Nineteenth Century, however, into a major thoroughfare for traffic traveling between Baltimore and the Jerusalem Mill in Kingsville. In 1810, convicts were used to develop Belair Road, as well as Liberty and Philadelphia Roads, and they were housed in a jail off present-day Bucks Schoolhouse Road. When improvements were finished to the road, it became known as the Baltimore and Jerusalem Turnpike.

 

Like modern-day highways, turnpikes had tollgates situated at strategic points to collect fares from travelers. A long pole swung horizontally from a post across the roadway. Tollgates were privately-run, with gatekeepers given free use of the gatehouse, a small plot of land, and a good salary for the day, sometimes as high as $300 annually. Perry Hall's only tollgate was at Joppa and Belair Roads, where the animal hospital now stands. The toll in 1903 was five cents for horses, ten cents for a horse and buggy, and twenty cents for a wagon and horses. Stagecoaches frequently stopped at Bishops Inn, a stone house which was demolished for the Kentucky Fried Chicken ten years ago. Barns and an icehouse were right across from the inn, and it was here that weary travelers rested for the night. High toll rates sparked an anti-turnpike rebellion in the 1860's. Flooding in 1868 forced turnpike companies to raise their rates, sometimes as high as 60%. William Lambdin of Perry Hall claimed that a ten-mile trip to Baltimore cost a farmer $26 every year, a "heavy tax" which hurt his competition with western business. Protests often became violent, and the military was almost called out to enforce toll collection on Harford Turnpike.

 

By the turn of the century, private turnpikes were being replaced by streetcars and more extensive county roads. Baltimore County sold its share of the Belair Turnpike for $2,000, less than twenty years before, it had been valued at $12,000. By 1915, the newly-created State Roads Commission had acquired the turnpikes and abolished toll gates. This was primarily because of Governor Austin L. Crothers, who had made "good roads" a central part of his campaign in 1908. Crothers pressured the General Assembly to create a State Roads Commission and appropriate $5 million for new highway construction. The county allocated its portion of the state money for the proposed Washington-to-New York road system, now known as US Route 1. While Perry Hall residents lobbied for Belair Road to share this designation, people in Carney and Parkville wanted Harford Road to become part of Route 1.

 

The fight was intense. A 1909 article in the Union News declared that "the Belair and Harford Road people [have] put on War Paint!" Over 200 Fullerton and Perry Hall residents gathered at St. Joseph's Church to support the Belair Road designation, while Harford Road residents held an opposition rally at Hamilton Hall. Ultimately, of course, Belair Road became part of Route 1, even though Harford Road had a greater population than Belair Road (4,690 people to only 2,240).

 

Bus service begin in Perry Hall in 1915, when the McMahon Brothers started a bus route from Overlea to Bel Air. Smaller buses, often called "jitney buses," were operated for a number of years. Today, the Mass Transit Administration operates lines to Perry Hall and White Marsh. Interstate 95, the John F. Kennedy Highway, was completed in the 1960's, while a smaller spur to the Baltimore Beltway, Route 43, was finished in 1993. Belair Road remains Perry Hall's "main street," with the State Highway Administration completing major widening from 1995 to 1998.

 

Perry Hall's Schools: The Heart of the Community

 

Perry Hall Elementary SchoolEvery December, hundreds of families gather in front of Perry Hall Elementary School for a special occasion. With the flick of a switch, that cold December evening is suddenly transformed by a spectacular burst of color and light. The Perry Hall Christmas tree is lit for another season, proclaiming holiday cheer to all friends and visitors along Belair Road.

 

That simple event symbolizes the central quality of Perry Hall's schools. "I always hoped that the tree lighting would bring us together, and the school's the perfect place," former Perry Hall Improvement Association President Dorothy McMann has said. More than anything else, the school is the center of our community--the place where students learn, ambitious PTA's meet, award-winning teams practice, and little league baseball teams play. Perry Hall is fortunate to have some of the best schools in Baltimore County. It's a tradition that began in 1723, the first time that the state funded public education.

 

That year, the Maryland General Assembly authorized funds for each county to buy 100 acres of land, construct a school, and hire a teacher. The headmaster received only twenty pounds a year--about $50 annual salary by today's standards. Baltimore County's school was built in Loreley, near the forges on the Great Gunpowder River. This location is now known as Allender Road.

 

Scholars Plains Free School, as it was known, taught students from Perry Hall until about 1784. English, arithmetic, and surveying were standard courses. With limited state funding, the school was unable to afford the costs of teaching a growing, yet very poor, group of children. The school closed in 1784, and for over sixty years, children were either taught by their parents or by local churches like Camp Chapel or St. Joseph's.

 

In 1857, the Scholars Plains land was sold. The money received was used to build two new schools, one for whites and another for black children. Although the original buildings were replaced, both schools operated separately until 1960.

 

The first school within Perry Hall's boundaries was built at Belair Road and Horn Avenue, near the present-day Friendly's restaurant. It was a small log cabin built in 1874 to serve the children of those European immigrants settling the community. After this burned down, Harry Dorsey Gough Carroll, one of the last of his family to occupy Perry Hall Mansion, donated an acre of land for a new school. Here, at the intersection of Forge and Belair Roads, the community built a three-room brick school. This site was used for almost sixty years. It is now the location of Schimunek's funeral home.

 

In 1925, the Baltimore County School Board decided to construct a new community school on David Dannenfelser's property near the intersection of Belair and Joppa Roads. Perry Hall School opened three years later, and more than any other structure, it served as the nucleus of the community for most of the Twentieth Century.

 

Buddy Butt, president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association in the years after the Second World War, remembers community Christmas shows where the association sold homemade fruitcakes. The entire town, then made up of only a few hundred families, gathered to sing Christmas carols and welcome Santa Claus to Perry Hall. Dances, receptions, and other special events were held here, even as the building largely became vacant when the county built new schools in the 1950's and 1960's.

 

In 1956, classes mostly shifted to the new Perry Hall Elementary School, but the building served as an annex due to overcrowding from 1956 through the late 1970s. The building was sold in the mid-1980s to Associated Catholic Charities, which established a center for children and young adults with disabilities. Today, this is the Gribbin Center, located next to the fire station on Belair Road.

 

 

[ Photograph of the Perry Hall Senior High mascot ]

Photograph of the Perry Hall Senior High mascot.

 

The 24-room Perry Hall Elementary School opened in 1956. At that time, older students attended classes in Kenwood. Seven years later, Perry Hall Senior High School opened, although it was then located in the current middle school. Perry Hall Senior High School opened at its current site in 1967, and the old building became Perry Hall Junior High School. For many years, Perry Hall was one of the few communities where its three public schools were located on the same street, as children became older, they simply moved down Ebenezer Road.

 

The three original public schools have a lot of history and lore. Perry Hall High School, for example, was built on property donated by Jacob Seddon in 1850. The Seddon family lived in the East Joppa Road house which now includes the Honeygo Child Development Center. They maintained a burial plot at the high school site. Today, the Seddon cemetery rests in the field immediately behind the tennis courts and main parking lot.

 

In 1963, the Perry Hall Improvement Association held a community carnival at the high school to raise funds for books at the newly-built Perry Hall library. The show was postponed, however, when President Kennedy was shot that very day.

 

In 1987, Perry Hall got its first taste of Hollywood. The John Waters movie "Hairspray" was filmed at Perry Hall High School, and the library and coat-of-arms appear in several scenes.

 

Perry Hall now has five elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school within its boundaries. Chapel Hill Elementary School was built in 1962, Gunpowder Elementary School opened in 1970, and Seven Oaks and Joppa View Elementary Schools were first used in the 1990 school year. There are also several private institutions, the largest of which is Perry Hall Christian School. At all of these places, strong PTA's are the bedrock of a successful learning environment.

 

The "community school" is making a comeback throughout the country. Leaders recognize that teachers, students, parents, businesses, and civic groups should be integrated within the learning process. Perry Hall, of course, has had that all along.
 

Churches and Cemeteries in Perry Hall

  

 

Photo of Camp Chapel United Methodist Church

Camp Chapel United Methodist Church is the oldest house of worship in Perry Hall.
During the War of 1812, parishioners gathered at this site.

Perry Hall's religious ancestry is Methodist. It was at Perry Hall Mansion that plans for the Methodist Church of America were developed by Francis Asbury, Harry Dorsey Gough, and a handful of early Methodist leaders. These pioneers helped start Camp Chapel Church, which provided religious instruction for the woodcutter families near the Gunpowder River. Camp Chapel was followed by Perry Hall United Methodist Church in 1866.

 

Methodism was the defining religion in Perry Hall until about 1850, when dozens of German and Irish families settled northeastern Baltimore County. These immigrants brought with them the older religions of Europe, mainly Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. Between 1850 and 1870, three new churches were built in Perry Hall.

 

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church began in 1850. First services were held in the Krastel farmhouse near Fullerton. The Krastel family donated a tract of land for the church near their home on Buck's Schoolhouse Road. When this became too small, the growing parish bought fourteen acres on Belair Road for a permanent site, paying only $200 for a tract of land on Perry Hall's western border. The church was finished in 1870. It was used continuously until 1971, when the current building was completed. Bells from the original parish are displayed in back of the main hall.
 

 

[ Photograph of the statue at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church ]

Photograph of the statue
at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church.

German immigrants adopted a charter for their new Lutheran parish on March 7th, 1859. They called their congregation Germantown Lutheran Church, although we now know it as the St. Michael's Lutheran Church. The original constitution is still in the church records. Three years later, a stone church was built on an acre of land donated by Michael Groeller. The present sanctuary, built in 1966, is the third building to occupy the grounds.

 

Perry Hall Presbyterian Church, organized in 1856, was an outreach effort for Hamilton Presbyterian Church in northeast Baltimore. Parishioners gathered in the living room of the Manse on Belair Road. By Easter Sunday, 1957, a three-car garage next to the Manse had been renovated into Fellowship Hall. This was used for services until 1966, when the present sanctuary was dedicated.

 

Perry Hall's first Baptist congregation was organized in 1957, when Overlea Baptist Church "seeded" a new parish in northern Perry Hall. Ground was broken in 1960 for Perry Hall Baptist Church. The congregation is now completely independent of Overlea Baptist Church, and it is the sponsor of the Perry Hall Christian School.

 

These are Perry Hall's largest organized churches. They weave a rich religious tapestry for the citizens of Perry Hall. Local churches are united under the Perry Hall Ministerium, an umbrella group advancing a greater role for religion in the life of the community.

 

Perry Hall has other holy places. There are about half a dozen cemeteries scattered throughout Perry Hall, and those are the ones we know about: many of our earliest settlers left no headstones or burial markers.

 

There are two small cemeteries off Ferguson Road. One of these is the Chambers family burial ground, where one of the original trustees of Camp Chapel Church, Daniel Chambers, is buried. Another is Rocky Rest, the burial ground for the Spamer family, which has been well maintained by members of the family for several decades. This is located near Hickory Falls Way, on top of one of the highest hills in Perry Hall.

 

Another cemetery is on the grounds of Perry Hall High School. Jacob Seddon deeded an acre of land in 1850 for a cemetery, and the site was eventually sold to Baltimore County's Board of Education for the community's new high school. The cemetery no longer has any headstones, and it is located immediately behind the tennis courts and main parking lot of the school.

 

One of the few public cemeteries in Perry Hall is behind Folz's service station on Belair Road. It was here that Perry Hall United Methodist Church stood until 1960. Although the sanctuary has since moved, the original cemetery remains.

 

Notable Homes in Perry Hall

 

Photo of the William Bishop HouseThe oldest standing home in our community is Perry Hall Mansion, which rests on a secluded five-acre property near the Gunpowder River. Built in 1773, the mansion is now one of the last remaining colonial homes in Maryland. From here, Harry Dorsey Gough supervised his vast 1,000-acre estate, "Perry Hall," which stretched across most of the northern part of our community. The spacious, sixteen-room mansion was partially burned by fire in 1824, but was soon restored, remaining in the Gough family until 1875. It was then purchased by Eli Slifer of Philadelphia. Slifer divided the property into farms of various sizes, selling the estate to immigrant families, many of whom were of German descent. The mansion still stands, nestled in a grove of trees in the rural reaches of Perry Hall.

 

Writing of his visit to Perry Hall Mansion in 1806, Reverend Henry Smith described it as the largest house he had ever seen, with spacious gardens covering four acres. The mansion expresses different phases of Harry Dorsey Gough's life. Gough was fond of good food and entertainment in his younger days. He built a wine cellar below the mansion which was so large that ox carts were driven right into the area to unload the huge wine casks they carried. Next to the wine cellar, also in the basement, was the original kitchen for the mansion, which was almost as big as most drawing rooms.

 

On the first floor of the mansion is the great hall, a magnificent ballroom with crystal chandeliers and an expansive ceiling. Near the library and the drawing room, a spiral staircase extends into the second floor, which has five spacious bedrooms with long windows. All told, there are sixteen rooms in the house, with four servants quarters in the attic. The house is built of stone covered with white cement.

 

This extravagance reflects Harry Dorsey Gough's early life. After he and his wife were converted to Methodism, however, Gough devoted his funds to religious work, building a small chapel adjacent to the mansion. Although this has since been destroyed, Gough was instrumental in the development of Camp Chapel Church, which still stands on East Joppa Road.

 

Another old house is the Spamer residence. It is not known who built the small stone residence on Ferguson Road, but Daniel Chambers purchased the property in 1827. The ten-room house was bought by Elmer J. Spamer in 1881. Five generations of the Spamer family have since lived here, although the house has been enlarged to three stories and sixteen rooms.

 

There are two stone houses along East Joppa Road, near Honeygo Run, which date back to at least the early Nineteenth Century. The Moore family residence was built in 1852 by John Moore. It is now surrounded by the family's orchards, on the east side of Chapel Hill Elementary School. Another old structure is the Jacob Seddon house, presently occupied by the Honeygo Child Development Center. No one knows how old this structure is, but its architecture dates back to before the Civil War.

 

[ Photograph of The Jacob Seddon house on East Joppa Road. ]

Photograph of the Jacob Seddon house on East Joppa Road.
It is one of the oldest houses in Perry Hall.

Two other homes are worth noting, although both have long since been demolished. Bishop's Inn was a stage coach stop, a bakery, a butcher shop, and a hotel. When this ivy covered, stone house was demolished eleven years ago for a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, it took the bulldozers several days to uproot and destroy the ancient structure. Another notable home, since demolished for the Perry Hall library, was Halbert Mansion, owned by that family for almost a century.

 

The old house that stood at 9200 Belair Road was said to be older than Perry Hall Mansion. This was the center of Linden Farm, which stretched across Darnall's Sylvania, a land grant covering much of the Belair Road corridor. The farm was named for a huge Linden tree originally brought from England by John Darnall. Both the house and the tree were demolished many years ago. This property later became Lassahn Field, where soccer games and carnivals were held, then was sold in 1986 to the Strutt Group for development of the Cedarside Farms housing development.

 

It was shortly after the Second World War when most homes in Perry Hall were built, part of the suburban housing boom. The neighborhood immediately south of Belair Road, near Penn and Carlisle Avenues, was developed by William Schaefer, who built brick bungalows and named many of the streets after prominent families in the community.

 

During the 1950's and 1960's, most homes were detached ranchers, and it was only in 1969 that our first apartment complex, Chapel Manor, was constructed. Since the mid-1970's, most development in the community has been town home or single-family housing, including the huge Seven Courts/Oakhurst neighborhood, which did not even exist before 1970.

 

The Baltimore Embroidery Company

 

 

[ Photograph of the Baltimore Embroidery Company ]
 

Photograph of the Baltimore Embroidery Company.

The next time you watch Michael Jordan dunk another one for the Chicago Bulls, look very closely at the emblem on his uniform. It might be made in Perry Hall.

 

Sports emblems are just one of the many designs stitched by the Baltimore Embroidery Company, one of Perry Hall's oldest: and perhaps quietest: industries. This narrow brick building, which produces everything from athletic logos to Scouting and Olympic patches, has churned out world-class goods for over eighty years.

 

In the late Nineteenth Century, a young girl named Lina Barth was living in Heimishub St. Gallen, Switzerland, a small village renowned for its lace-making industry. Here, Lina Barth and her two brothers, Alfred and John, became employed in a local embroidery factory, learning the skill of lace-making at an early age. When their mother died in 1892, the father brought his family to America, where they settled in Fairbury, Illinois. Lina Barth eventually married John Tanner, a stone mason from Austria, and the couple moved to Richmond. They settled in Perry Hall in 1911, where the couple bought a farm at the corner of Belair and Joppa Roads.

 

It was in 1914 that Lina Tanner applied her knowledge of lace-making to the family business. With her brothers and husband, Lina Tanner opened the Baltimore Embroidery Company, building a small brick factory on Belair Road.

 

The company has manufactured a variety of items throughout its eight decades of operation. It began exclusively as a lace factory, but then national demand compelled the opening of an embroidery business. The first products manufactured were embroidered towel sets? with the embroider stitched directly on linen and Turkish towels. The company also embroidered scarves, pillow cases, and bed spreads. Later, the Baltimore Embroidery Company developed insignia, from the navy emblem on uniforms to colorful dragons on shirts and dresses. This became particularly popular in the 1960's, with orders received from as far away as California.

 

Embroidery work is done by a huge machine with 1,021 needles in the front, then a corresponding number of shuttles in the back. The material to be embroidered is spanned the entire length of the machine between the shuttles and the needles. At one end of the machine is the pattern from which the design is threaded onto the material. Until recently, a trained stitcher was needed to delicately follow this pattern with a pantograph. Now, however, this is done automatically. In many companies, the operation is computerized, with the machinery costing at least $250,000 to purchase and $90,000 to install. At the Baltimore Embroidery Company, though, the same gears that stitched fabric in 1914 are designing emblems in 1996. The two mammoth machines, in fact, date from 1904 and 1929, with their legs planted firmly in eight feet of concrete below the building.

 

The Baltimore Embroidery Factory still stands, now located next to the 7-11 convenience store on Belair Road. Six members of the Tanner family still operate the factory, which is busier than ever.

 

So pay attention the next time an Olympic athlete pulls an insignia-covered jacket over his body, or when the Chicago Bulls symbol pops up in the middle of an intense basketball game. Those are Perry Hall creations. And remember that despite change all around us, family and good old-fashioned enterprise can still make a difference.

 

The Maryland State Fish and Game Protection Association

 

It's one of Perry Hall's hidden treasures, a collection of woods, ponds, and winding trails tucked inconspicuously along one of the busiest thoroughfares in our community. When the Maryland State Fish and Game Protective Association opened at its present site in 1963, White Marsh was nothing but quarries and old mines, Belair Road was a country lane, and deer roamed the great expanse in between. Today, this refuge is one of the last undeveloped areas in Perry Hall, although many residents drive by it on Honeygo Boulevard without ever realizing its hidden beauty.

 

The Maryland State Fish and Game Protective Association is a twenty-six acre wildlife refuge in eastern Perry Hall adjacent to Honeygo Boulevard and north of Silver Spring Road. It borders Honeygo Park, which will be developed by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks into a nature and community center for Perry Hall. The Association ceded three of its original twenty-nine acres to the county for Honeygo Park.

 

I was fortunate to take a tour of this property on a cold Sunday morning one February. Al Thompson, a member of the Association Board of Directors, pointed out the extensive trails, ice covered lakes, and wildlife tracks made through the snow-covered hills. Except for the low, faint hum of Silver Spring Road, the only sounds were those of Honeygo Run gurgling in the distance, doves taking flight, and geese returning from their winter retreat.

 

This was exactly how the founders of the Association wanted it. The club traces its history to a meeting on May 8th, 1874, when a group of Maryland businessmen gathered at Lehman's Hall in Baltimore to form the "Maryland Association for the Protection and Preservation of Fish and Game." The club thinned out, but twenty-one years later, it was resuscitated by another group of sportsmen and community leaders. The first meeting of the revived club was held at Baltimore's Carrollton Hotel on March 5th, 1895. Subsequent events were organized at the Maryland Academy of Science. The Maryland State Game and Fish Protective Association now claims itself as the oldest conservation club in the United States. It predates the modern environmental movement, which began with President Theodore Roosevelt, by nearly a generation.

 

The Association moved to its present location in 1963, when the Samuel Pistoria family, former owners of Turf Valley Country Club, donated twenty-nine acres of land they owned in the remote Perry Hall area. Shortly thereafter, two ponds were were constructed by the Campbell Company, which operated quarries and construction in White Marsh. The ponds were stocked with fish and used for the recreation of the club's members and local youth groups.

 

On August 25th, 1963, ground was broken by Col. William H. Triplett on a permanent hall and caretakers residence. Before this, the members used a 16 x 16 army tent. In the three decades since, the club has developed an extensive archery range and full camping facilities, which are used by members, their guests, and local Scouting and conservation groups. The main hall has been used for bull and oyster roasts, wedding receptions, and special events like the club's 100th anniversary in 1995. There are also seasonal fund-raisers and picnics, including a Super Bowl/Wild Game Feast, a fishing rodeo, an Easter egg hunt, and a family crab picnic.

 

The property is home to the Vignt Neuf Archery Club, which was formed in the 1950's and boasts one of the most active archery programs in the United States. The club holds seven tournament shoots every year, with a fourteen-target outdoor range, an eighteen-lane heated indoor range, and a three-target broad head range. The archery course is open to experts and beginners. The Association hall is home to the White Marsh squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.

 

An oasis in the middle of suburbia, the Maryland State Game and Fish Protective Association reminds residents of a wilder, freer past. As development continues, it is important to have this final link to the. way Perry Hall used to be. It is also critical for residents to take part in the many activities which this-hidden treasure makes possible.

 

Annotated Bibliography: The History of Perry Hall

 

The following books contain useful information about the history of Perry Hall, Maryland. Should you wish to research additional information about Perry Hall, the Gunpowder River Valley, or northeastern Baltimore County, these sources contain useful contacts for exploring our community's past. (links to catalog open in new window)

 

 

Brooks, Neal and Eric Rockel. History of Baltimore County. Towson: Friends of the Towson Library, Inc., 1979.

 

 

Bruggere, Robert. Maryland: A Middle Temperament. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

 

 

Lacey, Matilda, ed. Perry Hall: So Called Since 1775. Perry Hall: The Perry Hall Improvement Association, Inc., 1970. Available from the Perry Hall Improvement Association.

 

 

Marks, David S. Crossroads: The History of Perry Hall, Maryland. Perry Hall: The Perry Hall Improvement Association, Inc., 1997. Available from the Perry Hall Improvement Association.

 

 

McGrain, John W. From Pig Iron to Cotton Duck: A History of Manufacturing Villages in Baltimore County. Towson: Baltimore County Public Library, 1985.

 

 

Villages of Northeast Baltimore County. Baltimore: Baltimore: Northeast Baltimore County Historical Committee.

 

 

 


Last revised: April 23, 2014