Tiny, diverse Idlewylde sticks to its old values

Jacques Kelly

April 02, 1991|By Jacques Kelly

Woe unto any visitor who confuses Idlewylde with either Anneslie or Stoneleigh or Rodgers Forge.

Idlewylde is an unpretentious, hard-to-find Baltimore County community that is south of Towson and straddles a Herring Run hillside between York Road and Loch Raven Boulevard.

"We laugh when some society page bride lists that she lives in Stoneleigh when we all know she lives right here in Idlewylde," said Maria Carpenter, a longtime resident and observer of local happenings. She lives in a large old home at Sherwood and Arran roads.

"It's unusual to find a Baltimore County community with such a people diversity. Engineers, road workers, gas station workers, salesmen, lawyers, a business manager for a school -- the working man and the physician -- they all live here. You socialize with the ones you like," she said.

"On occasion, we are called Lower Stoneleigh. We are not treated with the same level of respect as Stoneleigh residents, but I wouldn't live anywhere else if I could," said Patti Dixon, who lives in the 1300 block of Regester Ave.

"We pay our bills here on time. I've heard that's not true in Stoneleigh. Paperboys can't collect in that neighborhood," said Yolanda Norgard, who moved to Sharon Road in 1941.

It takes a trained eye to tell where Anneslie ends and Idlewylde begins. So too Stoneleigh, the adjoining neighborhood of 1920s imitation English cottages, high tax assessments and a private swimming club.

But Idlewylde has years on its neighboring communities. It qualifies as one of the county's oldest subdivisions. By 1915, Baltimore real estate promoter Harry E. Gilbert had laid out Idlewylde's streets on paper plats, but it would taken another 40 years or so to build all of its houses.

The neighborhood has its own hall, a community meeting place built by local labor on Sherwood Road.

Idlewylde is distinctly removed from York Road. In the days when automobiles were scarce, there was a jerkwater streetcar line that shuttled passengers to and from the cottages, bungalows LTC and houses of Idlewylde. The trolley connected with the No. 8 line at York Road.

The community has two main streets -- Regester Avenue and Sherwood Road, whose name changes to the Alameda when its crosses the city line. It also has its share of tiny winding roads, such as St. Albans, named for an old estate of that name.

Idlewylde was once owned by Joshua Regester, a Baltimore bell founder responsible for the resonant gong atop City Hall. Regester, who died in 1906, now rests in Green Mount Cemetery. His summer home, Beulah Land, survives on Crestwood Road.

"It was strictly country when we moved here from Overlea," Norgard said. "There was a house here and a house there. During World War II, with gas rationing, people didn't travel too far. Everything revolved around the little [Idlewylde United] Methodist church. We rolled bandages there.

"On a summer night, if you wanted ice cream, you could go down a path, cross the stream -- there was no bridge -- and wind up at Murray's, at Loch Raven and Taylor. It was all on foot."

The community predated exclusionary zoning restrictions. As a result, there are some businesses here you would not expect in an otherwise residential section. Regester Avenue has a vacant Genstar cement mixing plant on a hillside and Glauber's chocolate factory. In a week when the demand is heavy, Glauber's confects some 400 pounds of bonbons in an old frame house. The candy supplies a small network of outlets.

"We're the oldest family-owned chocolate candy business in the country. . . . The neighborhood's been good at fitting us in. We all evolved together," said Peter Glauber, who represents the fourth generation of Glaubers to make candy. His grandparents moved the business here in 1936.

Another Idlewylde institution is the Maxalea Nursery, founded in 1929 by James McWilliams. A sign at Regester Avenue and Sherwood Road directs confused gardeners to the establishment, which has an amazing inventory of shrubs and trees.

Maxalea's 10 acres rise and fall over the hilly terrain. McWilliams, who was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, began his career here as a homebuilder who did some landscaping as a sideline. Mac, as he was called, was famed for his skill in growing azaleas. Locals literally went "over to see Mac's azaleas." The expression was contracted into Maxalea. There are nine McWilliams at Maxalea, which remains at its original Idlewylde site.

The McWilliams family believes the deep, rich deposits of acid oak leaves on the side of the Herring Run Valley make their shrubs thrive.

Residents also sing the praises of Bill's Idlewylde Hardware Store, an old-fashioned place on Sherwood Road that sells more personal service than varnish or fly paper.

"It's surprising how many people still push hand mowers around here. And we keep all the blades sharp," said Bill Collier, as he examined a mangled lawn mower blade.

And, come winter, Bill's is the place to go to for sleds. He sells four varieties of Speedway, made of wood with steel runners.

"We've got two golf courses and a lot of hills. And kids," he said.

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