Davidsonville At Crossroads

Historic Distinction Sought By Community In Southern Anne Arundel

August 23, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

More than a century after Thomas Davidson built his home, one can still find the heart of the community that bears his name.

At the intersection of routes 214 and 424, the center of Davidsonville stands in a distinct cluster of stores, homes, churches -- many built before the Civil War.

Historians call it a "crossroads community," and a group of Davidsonville residents wants to see it granted historic distinction.

This week, a free-lance historian hired bya subcommittee of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association plans to submit to the state an application nominating the crossroads and the 15 buildings there to the National Register of Historic Places.

FOR THE RECORD - In a caption on Page 6 of Friday's Anne Arundel County Sun, a building in Davidsonville was identified incorrectly. The building shown was the All Hallow's Episcopal Chapel.

Historian Peter Kurtze of Baltimore said the intersection is "one of the best preserved of the rural crossroads communities in Anne Arundel County.

"Other similar villages have vanished in the course of development," he said.

Donna Ware, county historic sites planner, cited Friendship, Bristol, Owensville and Davidsonville -- all in southern Anne Arundel County -- as crossroads communities whose centers have retained their identity.

She said the original Glen Burnie and Odenton crossroads have since the 19th century lost much of their distinct character as the communities grew.

The proposed Davidsonvillehistoric district consists of a combination general store and real estate office, three churches and 11 houses along Route 214, known also as Central Avenue, and Route 424, known also as Davidsonville Road and Birdsville Road.

Thomas Davidson, who owned about 300 acres that at one time made up most of the village, built his home in the northeast corner of the intersection between 1835 and 1840.

A few years later, he gave the land upon which the Davidsonville Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1844, just down the road from his home on Route 214.

American Indians are believed to have lived in Davidsonville more than 10,000 years ago. The town's recorded history dates from 1665, the year Lord Baltimore granted 250 acres north of the village to merchant Robert Franklin and shipwright Richard Beard.

Likeall of southern Anne Arundel County, Davidsonville was strictly a farming community until the 1960s, when the first home subdivisions were built. The community in recent years has been a magnet for people moving from more congested areas around Washington to homes in Davidsonville, many of which are surrounded by rollingfarm land.

The Davidsonville Historic Survey Team -- a branch of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association -- has been researching Davidsonville's history fornine years.

In June, the group received a $1,000 grant from the Annarundel County Trust for Preservation to complete the historic district application.

The historic district designation would not guarantee the preservation of the buildings, but it would allow owners toapply for federal and state tax breaks low-interest loans to restoretheir properties. The National Register listing would not impose restrictions on how buildings are painted or renovated.

Kurtze said none of the buildings along the crossroads holds great architectural importance by itself, but he said "like any other district, I would say the architectural significance is greater than the sum of its parts." The cluster of buildings "represents different periods," said Kurtze. "It documents the development of a community over time."

Kurtze said the application -- including descriptions of the buildings anda statement of the historical significance of the village -- would be reviewed by the Maryland Historical Trust and by the governor's consulting committee on the National Register, then handed to the National Register office for approval.

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