Founder Fears Future May Swallow Up Trail

Development Imperils Historic Linthicum Sites

April 23, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

As a boy, Todd Stephens used to walk a few doors up Medora Road to visit the 80-year-old woman pretty regularly.

For hours on end, he would listen as Marguerite Meyers spoke, trying to imagine the placesin her stories as they were. Then he set out walking a 10-mile journey to see the places for himself.

Tucked amid the suburban neighborhoods, he found the sprawling former farmlands where turkeys once roamed, the plantations and the manor houses, complete with niceties like a marble horse on a lawn.

He thought of the children who gathered around a big pot-bellied stoveinside the two-story Patapsco Academy where they started school in first grade and attended until they quit.

He imagined nights in the18th-century manor house Sunnyfields, a gathering place over the years for Methodists, secret Southern sympathizers during the Civil War and men who knew it was one of the few places in town to get a good stiff drink during Prohibition.

Todd Stephens found endless fascination in these remnants of another time. Before long, he would spend more than 500 hours interviewing old-timers like the late Marguerite Meyers before committing the stories to paper.

At 14, Stephens had created the Linthicum Area Historical Trail and spent two years researching and writing a booklet to accompany the 10-mile journey throughsome of the county's finest historical gems.

Now, 10 years later,Stephens, who completed the history as an Eagle Scout project, worries that apathy and runaway development threaten not only the trail, but some of the 11 historic sites it features.

"I'm afraid that in a few years, a lot of this will just be bulldozed over," Stephens says. "I'm not trying to make everybody a Ph.D. in local history or anything, but people should see these places before they're built over. Alot of people just don't seem to care if we forget where we came from."

Stephens, who will graduate from the University of Maryland with a degree in pharmacy next year, says he likely will move from thearea. He hopes a community association or the county historical society will preserve the pathway and work to revive interest.

As for the 11 historical sites along the Linthicum trail, Stephens has watched with dismay as development has encroached on them over the past decade.

Sunnyfields on Hammonds Lane, the oldest and last of the colonial manors in North County, is now home to a subdivision that has appropriated the name.

A handful of new houses seem jarring sittingon the land where locust trees once grew next to Locust Grove on Homewood Road, a fine brick federal-style home built in 1828.

Benson-Hammond House on Hammonds Ferry Road, in the shadows of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where the trail begins and ends, now shares its lawn with Aviation Boulevard.

In the trail's heyday, scouts who earned merit badges by hiking the trail joined families for afternoon trips through the past.

But few have made the trek in thepast five years, as roads along the trail, many lacking sidewalks, have grown more congested.

Stephens refuses to abandon hope, though. He hopes to update and edit the booklet and longs for the day when others will follow the path he walked a decade ago and countless dayssince.

"I'd hate to come back and find all this paved over," Stephens says.

For more information on walking the trail or helping topreserve it, call Tod Stephens at 859-5552.

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