Mount Airy Gives Thanks To Railroad For Its Growth

Settlers Built Homesteads On Parr's Ridge In 1830s

May 05, 1991

Mount Airy's growth was twined around that of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the method settlers used to head west -- Cumberland and beyond -- in its early years.

In the 1830s, settlers built homesteads on Parr's Ridge, which runs diagonally from the southwest to the northeast quadrants of Carroll County.

The ridge divides the county into two major drainage basins:

*Streams to the north and west drain into the Monocacy River and eventually the Potomac River.

* Streams to the south and east flow into the Patapsco or Gunpowder rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

B & O engines used to struggle mightily to pull trains up and over the ridge.

The story of how the town derived its name is related to the railroad and one of its tough workers.

As legend has it, an Irish brakeman, whose ears were freezing from the cold winds that cross Parr'sRidge, remarked:

"The weather around here is rather airish."

In the 1840s, settlers built a church and school for the education of their children.

Settlers built the Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1846, and school was conducted in the basement for 20 years.

Today, visitors to Mount Airy can still see the beautiful stone church and cemetery, now known as Pine Grove Chapel, on the east side in the 800 block South Main Street.

During the Civil War, Mount Airy residents' sympathies tended toward the South while most of Maryland generally had Union sympathies.

The Mount Airy train station -- in the center of town -- was guarded by Northern troops from New Jersey.

Therailroad station, for many years in disrepair after passenger trainsstopped running the tracks, has been restored by a town councilman, who retained the original structure and building's historic integrity.

The building, near the north end of downtown, now houses doctors' offices.

In 1895, railroad engineers built a tunnel through Parr's Ridge to make the journey east and west an easier one.

The tunnel, regarded as a great feat of engineering, is still one of the longest tunnels east of the Rockies.

Mount Airy today is primarily a "20th-century town," in the words of one local historian.

A fire inFebruary 1903 destroyed more than half the town, forcing local residents to again build from the ground up.

Still, Mount Airy retains an old-time small-town flavor.

Government

With a 1991 population of 3,993 (2,420 in Carroll County; rest in Frederick County), MountAiry is the second-largest municipality in Carroll.

Its fiscal 1990-1991 (budget year starts July 1) property tax rate is 60 cents per$100 of assessed valuation, which is in addition to the county property tax; homes are assessed at 40 percent (as of July 1) of market value.

The owner of a typical $134,000 home (assessed at $53,600) pays $322 annually in town property taxes, plus $1,260 in county property taxes (on the Carroll County side).

The South Carroll municipality has a contract with Fogles Refuse of Woodbine for trash pick-up, the cost of which is included in the town property taxes.

Incorporated in 1894, Mount Airy is governed by a non-partisan mayor and fivecouncil members serving staggered four-year terms. Each council member, who heads one town department, is paid $25 per attended meeting plus compensation for committee chair; the mayor gets $2,500 annually (as of July 1).

Elections are the first Monday in May of even-numbered years.

The council meets at 8 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Town Hall, Park and Main streets, 21771, telephone 795-6012, 829-1424 or 831-5768.

* Mayor Gerald R. Johnson: since 1990, term ends 1994

* Council President R. Delaine Hobbs: since 1966, term ends 1994

* Council Secretary Oliver H. Davis Jr.: since 1986, termends 1994

* Councilman Marcum N. Nance: appointed 1989, term ends1992

* Councilman David W. Pyatt: since 1988, term ends 1992

*Councilman William "Billy" Wagner: since 1988, term ends 1992

* Town Clerk Betty G. Ifert

* Town Attorney Charles O. Fisher Sr.

Tourist attractions

* Blue Ridge Mountains: Located at the juncture of four county lines, Mount Airy is known for its splendid view -- to the west -- of these mountains. On clear days, visitors are afforded spectacular vistas of the valley and countryside that spread out before the mountains. Few views like this exist in Carroll County -- or anywhere else.

* Calvary United Methodist Church: 405 S. Main St. Also noted for its aesthetic appeal and architecture.

* Dennison's Variety Store: 2 S. Main St. near the railroad station. The quintessential small-town hobby-and-variety store, where children and adults can wander through the aisles dreaming of things they can buy and take home to play with for fun.

* Main Street: Visitors can stroll through the downtown area and gaze at the turn-of-the-century Victorian or Queen Anne-style homes that some families are restoring to their original condition.

* St. James Episcopal Church: 300 N. Main St. To be noted for its aesthetic appeal and architecture.

Special events

* Oct. 5-6: Mount Airy Fall Festival in the downtown business district will include entertainment, craft booths, childrens' gamesand area business exhibits. Activities begin at 8 a.m. with the annual fun run and continue with the parade at 10 a.m. Saturday.

* Mid-December: Santa Claus Lane, a miniature Christmas village in the Mount Airy Municipal Parking Lot is sponsored annually by the Lions Club. Children will meet Santa Claus and will be able to call Mrs. Claus at the North Pole.

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