Northwood all in bloom

Jacques Kelly

April 24, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

You could trip over the publicity signs and evidence of the Original Northwood's spring tour due this Sunday.

Every sidewalk in the green and gorgeous neighborhood just beyond Memorial Stadium seems to be filled with painters' ladders, bags of wood mulch and flats of annual plants.

Residents of this hilly oasis off Loch Raven Boulevard take their homes and gardens seriously.

And it shows. Original Northwood -- now in its early 60s -- has never looked so fit.

Credit must go to the ladies who founded the Northwood Garden Club on Feb. 1, 1932, at the home of Mrs. Louis Bast, 1231 Roundhill Road.

In the six decades since, generations of neighbors have planted, pruned, cut, fertilized, seeded, mulched and watered.

This little Eden on Argonne Drive is today one of the city's most lovingly tended locales. The community is between Loch Raven Boulevard and The Alameda, north of Loch Raven Veterans Hospital.

"They put the houses into the landscape. The landscape wasn't changed to fit the houses," said Kay Lietzau, a resident of the 1100 block of Argonne Drive.

To prove her point, she points out how her 1931 Tudor-style home was terraced into the side of the hill, but was built with storm water drains. During a heavy thundershower, water rushing down the hill is carried under her house and through to the alley.

In the 1930s, Original Northwood was just a few houses built on streets that didn't lead anywhere. Scarcely a year before, the Roland Park Company opened the community to the public.

Sales were agonizingly slow, especially during the Great Depression. Fewer than 15 homes a year went up between 1931 and 1936.

But what charming ones did, often built of reddish Falls Road field stone and topped with Cardiff slate roofs and wrought iron weather vanes.

April is definitely the month for this neighborhood. Under a green canopy of mature oak, tulip poplar and elm trees are flowering bushes and shrubs.

The word "original" gets placed in front of Northwood because this is indeed the first and oldest Northwood neighborhood.

After World War II, other developers used the term Northwood for just about any rowhouse built along the booming Loch Raven Boulevard corridor.

Residents of the first section began using the term Original Northwood to distinguish their area.

The designation wasn't really necessary. This community remains as distinctive and as special as ever. Even the garages have thick slate roofs.

A walk through this exceedingly picturesque neighborhood could wind the best hiker. It's all up and down, with some homes elevated a full two flights of stairs from the curb.

John A. Ahlers, an under-appreciated Baltimore architect, conceived the whole neighborhood, laid out its streets and planned many of its homes for the Roland Park Company.

He also designed the old Northwood Shopping Center, a pair of art deco commercial buildings that once stood on Havenwood Road. The neighborhood's original shopping plaza was razed for the present larger and more ordinary strip.

The 1992 Original Northwood Annual Garden Walk will be held Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. The first stop is 4009 Roundtop Road, with seven other gardens open on Roundhill, Deepwood, Westview, Northview and Southview roads. Admission is free.

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