Neighbors See Historic Status As Deterrent To Growth

January 08, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

The image, improbable as it once seemed, refuses to go away.

There, in the newspaper before her, Beth Nowell saw her street, her block, her house -- with Crystal City, Va., superimposed over the neighborhood.

Neither the artist's handiwork nor the headline in the Baltimore Sun more than five years ago left much to the imagination.

FOR THE RECORD - A photo caption Tuesday incorrectly stated that a group of Linthicum Heights residents would like to see C. Milton Linthicum's home placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Linthicum's home is one of several in the community already included in the register.

"Linthicum Heights -- another Crystal City?" the headline read.

"I flipped, I just about flipped, like a lot of people," says Nowell, a longtime Linthicum Heights resident.

"People just saw that and said, 'Whoa!' " adds Nowell, who is also executive director of the Ann Arundell Historical Society. "They didn't want to live in another Crystal City. I didn't want to live in any Crystal City."

Still, after the initial shock of seeing the little town the railroad built envisioned as everybody's best example of development gone berserk, laughing off the story seemed easy enough.

Today, it's not so funny.

With nearby Baltimore-Washington International constantly growing bigger and louder and runaway development devouring countless acres in surrounding areas, Nowell and some of her neighbors fear they could be next to fall to the development blitz.

Now, some old-timers are doing what they can to document the railroad suburb's rich past inhopes that doing so will convince others the neighborhood is worth saving.

Led by Larry R. Paul, who is putting the finishing touches on a history of Linthicum Heights, and a few of his neighbors, a small group of Linthicum Heights residents would like to see parts of their neighborhood listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The residents say many houses in the neighborhood should be recognized in the register for their architectural and historical significance and that the neighborhood should be noted as a fine example of a railroad suburb.

Weary of the city and pollution, many displaced Baltimore residents, including wealthy railroad owners, moved into houses next to Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad beginning in the early 1900s.

Train travel reigned there, as residents walked from their houses to the station to commute to work and entertainment in Baltimore and Washington, and houses hard by the tracks fetched the biggest price. (A Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis railway line also sat within a few blocks of most homes.)

Several Linthicum Heights homes already have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the group of residents, who readily acknowledge their efforts remain preliminary, would like to see the designation applied to more of theneighborhood.

The group has been meeting regularly at the home ofC. Milton Linthicum, a physician who traces his ancestry to one of the community's founding families. The residents have pored over maps and studied the town's history and hope to prepare their case for thehistoric designation.

Some residents mistakenly believe placementon the register carries restrictions on land-use or forbids alterations to homes, Nowell said.

To the contrary, the historic designation carries no such restrictions. Placement on the register does, however, increase the likelihood of winning federal preservation grants and protects buildings from being destroyed for federal projects, suchas highways.

Before being placed on the national register, properties would have to be designated historic by the Maryland Historical Trust, Nowell said.

"The smaller towns are just getting swallowed up everywhere," she said. "It's time to save some of the small towns from becoming another Crystal City or another Odenton."

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