Hoping to preserve the rich history of their neighborhood, residentsof Lawyer's Hill urged the county's Historic District Commission last week to designate the area as a historic district.
The seven-member commission supports the idea of making the Elkridge neighborhood a historic area. It plans to tour Lawyer's Hill in January to determine the proposed district's boundaries.
"We've waited some time for this. We're behind it," said Jean Hannon, commission chairwoman.
"At the moment it's the only way the county has of preserving historic sites, through a district. We have no legislation," she said.
The designation means that exterior homeimprovements in the neighborhood would have to conform to the area'sarchitectural and historical standards.
After the commission makes its recommendation, the county planning and zoning boards will heartestimony on the plan.
If the application is approved by the zoning board, Lawyer's Hill will become the county's second historic area. Main Street in Ellicott City was the first.
The county also is working on a proposal to list Lawyer's Hill on the National Register of Historic Places.
The effort to have Lawyer's Hill designated a historic district started last summer when residents, worried about future development in the area, submitted a petition to the county planning office.
Tucked between the noise and traffic of I-95 and Route 1, the neighborhood is a close-knit community, known for its rambling, old manor homes.
Lawyer's Hill was founded in 1840 when a prominent Baltimore judge, George Washington Dobbin, built a summer home,"The Lawn," above the Patapsco River.
Soon after, two more wealthy Baltimore lawyers, Thomas Donaldson and John H. B. Latrobe, built summer "cottages" there, and the area became known as Lawyer's Hill.
The original owners divided their land and gave it to their children, who built their own estates on "the Hill."
"The neighborhood contains almost every style of popular architecture from the 19th century," said county historic planner Alice Ann Wetzel.
Lawyer's Hill is also home to the Elkridge Assembly Rooms, a building that is probably the oldest community hall in the county, Wetzel said.
Built in1870 and known among residents as "the hall," it was the site of poetry readings, dances and neighborhood-produced plays. Residents stillmeet there for potluck suppers and the annual July 4 picnic.